There is little question that stress
has dangerous physical implications. Over and over, stress has been
proven responsible for emotional and physical disorders including
depression and anxiety, heart attack, stroke, immune system
deficiencies, hypertension, ulcers, arthritis... even the common cold.
Stress typically begins not in the body, but in the mind. Simply put, we become stressed when we make decisions or engage in certain behavior, then feel dissatisfied with the results. This dissatisfaction may feel like overwhelm, dread, frustration, or insecurity. It may produce racing thoughts which result in sleepless nights, forgetfulness, paranoia, or thoughts of suicide. Dissatisfaction may manifest physically as tightness in the jaw, increased or decreased appetite, trouble sleeping, irritable bowels, or dozens of other symptoms. We learn to live with these symptoms, as if they are normal.
Mindfulness is compassionate and intentional observing feelings, thoughts, and physical sensations. It's using awareness as a tool to gain insight, notice conditioned ways of thinking, and heal the whole being. A great first step toward living mindfully is acknowledging that while some stress is beneficial, chronic dissatisfaction produced by stress is not normal and unnecessary.
People who meditate regularly over time create beneficial structural changes in the brain, including expanded white matter, thicker corpus callosum, less dense amygdala, and new neural pathways. Meditation and mindfulness can also result in decreased cortisol production (the stress hormone). People who meditate regularly over time may also reduce blood pressure, sleep better, recover from illness more quickly, make better decisions, better manage chronic pain, say "no" more, lash out less frequently, and feel generally happier.
There are countless ways to de-stress and find mental clarity. If meditation is one you would like to try, the team at Chrysalis Meditation Center would be so happy to introduce you to it. If you are already a meditator and would like to deepen your practice by sitting with a group, this is also a wonderful opportunity.