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This must be hard swallow. The aim of mindfulness isn’t to make you more calm and  relaxed !

Trying to relax just creates more tension. Mindfulness goes far deeper than that. Mindfulness, a 
mindful awareness, is about becoming aware and accepting of your moment by - moment experience. So if you’re tense, mindfulness means becoming aware of that tension. Which part of your body feels tense? What’s its shape, colour, texture? What’s your reaction to the tension, your thoughts?

Mindfulness is about bringing curiosity to your experience. Then you can begin breathing into the tense part of your body, bringing kindness and acknowledging your experience – again, not trying to change or get rid of the tension. And that’s it. Rest assured, doing this often leads to relaxation, but relaxation isn’t the aim.

Yet, Mindfulnes is being endorsed and recommended as a frontline treatment for relapsing depression by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (National Institute of Clinical Excellence (2004). Depression: Management of Depression in Primary and Secondary Care. National Clinical Practice Guidelines, Number 23. London, HMSO. Updated 2009).

A University of Utah study found that mindfulness training can not only help us better control our emotions and moods, but it can also help us sleep better at night. “People who reported higher levels of mindfulness described better control over their emotions and behaviors during the day. In addition, higher mindfulness was 
associated with lower activation at bedtime, which could have benefits for sleep quality and future ability to manage stress," study researcher Holly Rau said in a statement.

Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says that mindfulness meditation makes perfect sense for treating anxiety. “People with anxiety have a problem dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power,” she explains. “They can’t distinguish between a problem-solving thought and a nagging worry that has no benefit.”

“If you have unproductive worries,” says Dr. Hoge, you can train yourself to experience those thoughts completely differently. “You might think ‘I’m late, I might lose my job if I don’t get there on time, and it will be a disaster!’ Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, ‘Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just that—a thought, and not a part of my core self,’” says Dr. Hoge.

One of her recent studies (which was included in the JAMA Internal Medicine review) found that a mindfulness-based stress reduction program helped quell anxiety symptoms in people with generalized anxiety disorder, a condition marked by hard-to-control worries, poor sleep, and irritability. People in the control group—who also improved, but not as much as those in the meditation group—were taught general stress management techniques. All the participants received similar amounts of time, attention, and group interaction.

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