Mindfulness can help manage stress and may have effects on brain chemistry

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah News) - The University of Utah recently announced the launch of their new Center on Mindfulness and Integrative Health, aiming to build a new model of health care where medical and behavioral health experts work together. But what exactly is mindfulness, and how can it affect your health?


Clay Cook is one of many people who was unaware of what exactly mindfulness is.  


“I didn't have a way to stop it, I didn't have a way to stop those thoughts that'd come up,” says Cook, a pilot who recently took a class in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.


“It's a way to kind of hold a thing in your life that might be a challenge, and hold it without reacting to it and letting it rule your life,” says Cook.


Dr. Eric Garland from the University of Utah explains that “Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to your experience in the present moment. Becoming aware of your thoughts, feelings, perceptions.”


Experts say there are many different ways to practice mindfulness, ranging from things like meditation and yoga, to simple breathing exercises, to simply being aware of your surroundings and experience.


Garland’s research has focused on the effects mindfulness can have on things like addiction and chronic pain. His research has found that following mindfulness practices and training, people are able to better physiologically respond to challenges and stressors. This is because mindfulness activates the part of your brain that helps your body and mind to rest and recover.


“When we are in a stressed physiological state, the mind tends to become hyper-focused on negative things//leading to chronic stress related health problems,” says Garland.


Professor Trinh Mai, who is also a qualified Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction teacher, leads a class at the University of Utah teaching about mindfulness.


“The body, the mind, the heart, are amazing for healing itself if we're able to tap into that...I started having some muscular issues, and some health issues with my nervous system, and I took a course in mindfulness based stress reduction, and that made a huge difference in reducing my symptoms,” says Mai.

Experts and Cook agree that it’s never too late to start the practice.


“I'm 61 years old, and I kinda thought by 61 I would have it all figured out, and I don't...Iit just helps keep things in perspective,” says Cook.


Note that mindfulness should not replace any treatment prescribed by your physician. If you’re interested in learning more about Mindfulness you can visit http://medicine.utah.edu/gme/wellness/  and www.mindfulnessutah.com for more information.

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