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Stress is a natural part of life, and many experts agree that some stress is healthy – and necessary. However, too much stress can create a pattern of negative thinking that affects every part of your daily life. Mindfulness is the state of being “in the present”; it’s being aware of your current surroundings. Fortunately, mindfulness can cure negative thinking in a few very distinct ways.
Per Katie Krimer, a psychotherapist and social worker in New York City, anxiety and negative thinking stems from your resistance to “let go” of uncomfortable experiences. All too often, you aren’t even aware that this resistance exists. Mindfulness and its ability to help you experience life in the moment can help you become more aware of your sense of self. This alone can have a tremendous impact as it can help you recognize when you are thinking negatively and harboring the discomfort caused by past (or potential future) experiences.
Once you know how to pinpoint negative thinking, it will be come much simpler to react to it. For example, with regular meditation, you will naturally learn to recognize when your mind is drifting toward negative thoughts. The more quickly you can recognize this, the more quickly you can work to find your inner sense of wellbeing, deal with the negative thoughts, and move forward without allowing them to affect your entire day.
When you are exposed to negative stimuli, whether it’s environmental or in your mind, your body undergoes certain changes. Your heart rate and respirations increase, and there is even science to suggest that the production of feel-good hormones like dopamine and serotonin slows. With regular mindfulness exercises, you can essentially train your body to regulate itself in times of stress – such as when you experience negative thoughts. The calmer your body, the calmer your mind.
Jessica Bane-Robert is the assistant director of the Writing Center and Writing Program at Clark University, and she also teaches a Mindful Choices class there. She claims that regular mindfulness exercises can lead to neuroplasticity, which is a term used to describe physical changes in the brain that occur when practicing the same behaviors over and over. Just as repetitive negative thinking can have a negative impact on your wellbeing, mindfulness exercises can improve your wellbeing when you participate in them regularly.
Last, but most certainly not least, mindfulness can even change the way you perceive certain events so that you can prevent negative thoughts in the first place. For example, instead of stewing over someone who cut you off in traffic 15 minutes ago, and allowing it to ruin your day, mindfulness can teach you to allow those feelings to occur, then let them go peacefully. When you can proactively prevent negative thoughts, your entire life will change. You’ll feel better both physically and mentally.
It may seem far-fetched that mindfulness exercises like meditation or yoga could change your life, but when you understand the impact of negative thinking on your mind and body, then work to reverse it, the results are clear. Doctors and researchers like Katie Krimer and Jessica Bane-Robert continue to prove it every day.