Mindfulness-based stress reduction : How to eat a raisin

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(Photo: Envato Elements)
Stress is unavoidable and we experience it throughout our lives. Whether at school, work, or interacting in a social setting, we are surrounded by things that can cause stress. We may be able to take action to reduce the amount of stress in our lives, but it is nearly impossible to completely avoid it. We do, however, have the ability to control the manner in which stress affects us. There are many techniques and exercises that help process and regulate stress, but there is one in particular that has become increasing popular in recent years.اضافة اعلان

Mindfulness-based stress reduction

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a practice created by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the 1970s. Kabat-Zinn found value in Eastern practices such as Buddhism and applied a scientific approach to them. The chief principle of this practice, initially designed to help hospital patients who were suffering from a variety of ailments by means of reducing stress, is mindfulness, which, in essence, is maintaining a present awareness of our current thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. One of the great benefits of MBSR that it can be easily tailored to suit individual needs.

Rules to MBSR

Even though exercises and practitioners may vary, there are two main fundamentals to MBSR. One is having the proper perspective on the practice. The point of MBSR is to be a challenge and not a chore. By engaging in MBSR, you need to view it as something you want to do, not need to do. Second, there should be an emphasis on the individual effort. This means that motivation and discipline must come from the individual.

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The various practices or forms of MBSR should be done constantly and consistently, which may make it seem like a chore, hence the reason these rules are integral to achieving a desirable outcome.

How to eat a raisin

Being mindful means being presently aware of oneself and one’s environment. There are many exercises that can help with that. One exercise developed by Kabat-Zinn is mindful eating and, in his example, he used a raisin.

All MBSR exercises follow two techniques that can be seen in this example. You start by taking a raisin and placing it in the palm of your hand. Try to take notice of its weight and see if your hand can feel the weight of it. While the raisin is still in your palm, observe its details closely, including its color, shape, and texture. Next, hold the raisin between your thumb and index. Roll it around between your fingers and feel the texture of the raisin. Once you are done feeling the texture, bring the raisin up to your ear and squeeze it slightly. Take mental note of any sounds or feelings that come as a result of squeezing it. Then bring the raisin to your nose and smell it. See if you notice any smell or fragrance. While doing so, notice any changes in your hunger or body, such as increased salivation or noises coming from your stomach. During this time be aware of any thoughts you may have and acknowledge them.

Now, begin to slowly raise the raisin to your mouth and take note of how your hand knows exactly where to go, as well as any more changes in your body. Gently place the raisin in your mouth but do not chew it. Observe the texture of it in your mouth and explore it with your tongue. Once you are ready, take bite once or twice and notice the taste of the raisins. As you continue to chew, notice how the texture of the raisin changes with each bite. After you have chewed enough, you will begin to notice the urge to swallow. Once you feel ready to , swallow the raisin and see if you can feel the raisin traveling down your throat and even entering your stomach.

The first technique is known as focus mindfulness. Focus mindfulness puts the emphasis on internal aspects, such as thoughts or changes in the body. When relating it to the mindful eating of the raisin, focus mindfulness is seen in the later steps when you take notice of certain thoughts or changes, such as increased salivation.

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The second technique is known as awareness mindfulness, and is the opposite of focus mindfulness. Awareness mindfulness puts the emphasis on observations of external sources. Using the previous example, awareness mindfulness is seen in the earlier steps when you observe the physical characteristics of the raisin using your senses.

Using these two techniques in conjunction with each other allows you to shift your normally ego-centric perspective. In doing so, it can help you not only recognize and accept other people’s perspectives, but also your own.

When we face problems or challenges, we tend to focus on negative aspects of the situation. By practicing mindfulness, you can analyze the perspectives of the situation more rationally and maybe even find a resolution.

Other MBSR exercises

MBSR is a skill that takes some time to become proficient at, but once done it becomes easier. One of its great advantages is the versatility of its application. Breathing is a subconscious activity done on daily basis, yet we rarely notice it. By practicing mindfulness and awareness of your breathing it can help reduce stress. You start by taking slow and conscious deep breaths until you feel relaxed. You then visualize all your thoughts and allow your mind to wander without judging or analyzing any thoughts. When you feel ready, pick a single thought from the stream of wandering and focus on it. As you do so, notice any feelings or sensations that may arise while focusing on this thought and allow other thoughts to continue to play in the background. Once you have sat with these feelings for some time, simply leave the thought and allow it to get lost in the stream of other thoughts.

For those who may have a more difficult time concentrating, a body scan is another great technique. Simply start by lying flat on your back with your eyes closed. Then start from your head and mentally visualize every aspect of your body. If you notice any part of your body that is sore or tense, focus your breathing until it relaxes. Some find that a healing visualization may help. An example of this is picturing the sore spot as an ice cube and how, with every breath, the ice melts until the tension or soreness is gone.

What are the benefits?

MBSR was originally created as a method to reduce stress, but as it grew in popularity, so too did its application. MBSR may be an effective non-pharmacological treatment in certain diseases when used alongside existing treatment.

Studies have shown a great benefit in many mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, grief, and even post-traumatic stress disorder. Most interesting is the role MBSR has in physical conditions, such as pain, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer treatment.

However, you do not need to have a condition in order to benefit from MBSR. Any exercise that can effectively reduce stress can have a positive impact on your mental health and overall wellness.

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