Have we found the silver bullet for stress and illness?

A staggering number of diseases are being linked to stress. Scientists now tell us that stress can actually cause a heart attack, increase pain, intensify insomnia, and activate many other ills.

Since stress seems inescapable — and is even associated with positive events like marriage or the birth of a child — how can we possibly protect ourselves from its nasty side effects? Mindfulness may be the answer.

Researchers have discovered that mindfulness can help with recovery from physical problems like asthma, and colitis, as well as emotional troubles like depression and anxiety.

In fact, a recent study showed improvements in physical and mental symptoms for patients with high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, cancers, Parkinson’s disease, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, chronic pain, anxiety, obesity and binge-eating disorders.

So, what exactly is mindfulness? The founder of the modern mindfulness movement, Jon Kabat-Zinn, defines mindfulness as, “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” This can be done in numerous ways — by focusing one’s attention on thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, sights, sounds, tastes, and more.

As a therapist, I enjoy teaching mindfulness to my clients as an effective means of coping with physical and emotional pain and suffering.

Mindfulness is effective for chronic, long-lasting problems as well as shorter-term illnesses. Studies even show a link between mindfulness and the prevention of disease in healthy adults and children.

If you would like to learn more about what mindfulness is and how to practice it, please attend a free, introductory lecture Sunday, Sept. 13, from 5 to 6 p.m., at my office, 826 Second St., Encinitas.

For more information, please visit Therapy4YourWellbeing.Weebly.com.

Jean T. Rothman is a licensed Marriage and Family therapist serving Encinitas, Carlsbad and Oceanside. Her other specialities include women and depression, couples’ counseling, adult ADHD and mindfulness.

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