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Mindful Practices Enhance Mental Wellbeing

March 10th, 2021

Mindful Practices Enhance Mental Wellbeing

A personal testimony to the transformative powers of turning inward.

by. Alejandra Segovia, RISE Intern


“Meditation will not carry you to another world, but it will reveal the most profound and awesome dimensions of the world in which you already live. Calmly contemplating these dimensions and bringing them into the service of compassion and kindness is the right way to make rapid gains in meditation as well as in life.”

– Zen Master Hsing Yun

Meditation has increasingly become more popularized in our society as prevalent research has touted its many benefits. My perspective on meditation has evolved since I first learned about the practice.

The first time I heard about meditation was in a psychology class. I remember thinking to myself how "woo-woo" or unconventional it all sounded to me. Nonetheless, the day after my class, I went home, sat on my bedroom floor in a crossed-legged pose, closed my eyes, and tried to "clear my mind," whatever that meant.

Not surprisingly, I did not find it peaceful on that first try. I found myself doing more overthinking than 'letting go' of my thoughts. I gave up quickly and moved on with my life.

Fast forward a couple of years, I started to practice a lot of introspection focused on the roots of my recent anxiety. I began to note where it came from, and I realized that I had developed social anxiety at the start of my college career. My fears stemmed from my doubts about my competency in pursuing higher education. I was afraid to be judged by my new teachers and my new classmates. My anxiety skyrocketed and interfered with a lot of my college experience.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are among the most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses. Approximately 18% of adults in the US population are diagnosed annually with an anxiety disorder. Fortunately, as I took more psychology courses, meditation kept popping up as a way to practice more mindfulness in one's life and as an effective way to cope with anxiety.

To illustrate this point, a randomized controlled study conducted by researchers explored the effects of mindfulness meditation on individuals with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It concluded that mindfulness-based programs were positively associated with significant reductions in participant's anxiety.

The more I learned about meditation, the more I felt compelled to give it another try, even though I remained a little skeptical. I gave meditation a second chance and began a consistent practice of 5-10 minutes of my day. Of course, like most things, it took a lot of time and patience with myself, but to my surprise, I did eventually notice a vast improvement in my mental health. The science-backed research was right all along. Meditation became my new, preferred way of coping with my social anxiety.

Not only can meditation help adults cope with mental illness, but there is also research pointing to the possibility that meditation may decrease the neurological risk for the development of anxiety in preadolescents. Though this is newer research, I think it shows that there are still many unrecognized benefits of meditation to discover.

It is important to point out that the individuals in the study mentioned above, practiced meditation under a professional's care. However, meditation can be highly beneficial even without medical supervision. Several individuals have shared anecdotal stories of the positive effects of meditation on their wellbeing and mental health with me. You can check out some of these personal stories on our Facebook and Instagram (@RISEslo) pages, which will be shared over the next few weeks.

Interested in trying meditation? The following applications can help you get started:

Headspace

Calm

Waking Up

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vI8Kh3-epg&list=PLgdxvG3Ulbidz8n_l3rZdcAADnDJ6NFHO (LINK to a YouTube Playlist with Free Meditations by Calm)

References:

Bormann, J. E., Thorp, S. R., Wetherell, J. L., Golshan, S., & Lang, A. J. (2013). Meditation-based mantram intervention for veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder: A randomized trial. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 5(3), 259–267. https://doi-org.ezproxy.lib.calpoly.edu/10.1037/a0...

“Facts & Statistics.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA, adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

Hoge, Elizabeth A., et al. Randomized controlled trial of mindfulness meditation for generalized anxiety disorder: Effects on anxiety and stress reactivity. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc., 13 Mar. 2013, www.psychiatrist.com/JCP/article/Pages/randomized-...

Shanok, N. A., Reive, C., Mize, K. D., & Jones, N. A. (2020). Mindfulness meditation intervention alters neurophysiological symptoms of anxiety and depression in preadolescents. Journal of Psychophysiology, 34(3), 159–170. https://doi-org.ezproxy.lib.calpoly.edu/10.1027/02...

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