How a Mindfulness Practice Can Help with Sleep, Focus, Chronic Pain & More


If you have trouble focusing, mindfulness can be helpful -- and it can also reportedly help with a slew of other things, including sleep and chronic pain.

Mindfulness, which is defined as "focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations" -- can include breathing exercises and meditation.

"If we're not paying attention to the present moment when we're trying to get something done, that's a problem, whether the goal is to read a book or talk to a partner," professor of psychology at the University of Miami Amishi Jha tells CNN. "Whatever it is, it's going to require you to actually be in the moment to do it." Adding, "It's the antidote to mind wandering. It's paying attention to our present moment experience without editorializing or reacting to it."

In addition to improving your focus, CNN spoke to health experts who share the practice may also help with other health-related areas of your life.

Chronic Pain

Eric Garland, a professor and associate dean at The University of Utah College of Social Work, says, "Practice of mindfulness seems to help people cope with chronic pain, and reduce their overreliance on opioids. Mindfulness breathing can immediately reduce pain." He found that people's pain was reduced by 23 percent when they used mindfulness and that just 15 minutes of mindful breathing caused a temporary reduction in people's pain.

Better Sleep

A UCLA study found that a body scan sleep meditation -- which involves following recorded instructions where someone takes notice of the sensations in each part of the body, beginning at the top of their head and moving toward their feet -- improved sleep quality among older adults with sleep disturbances. Check out this body scan sleep meditation video.

The Physical Effects of Stress on the Body

Too much stress can take a drastic toll on your body, including raising your blood pressure and possibly affecting your immune system. Spiritual teacher Matthew Ferry, who specializes in meditation and breathwork to ease anxiety and stress, shared a guided meditation technique with The Doctors that can help reduce your stress and anxiety levels in under a minute and it may also help to reduce the toll stress can have on your health.

Lower Anxiety Levels

The last year has been filled with anxiety, and you might still be experiencing it, but practicing more mindfulness could be the answer. Susan Johnson, a professor of psychological science of The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, says something as simple as sitting down and taking slow deep breaths in moments of extreme anxiety can have a major impact. "It's kind of like a glass of muddy water. You let it sit, and the mud settles, and you see things a little more clearly, she tells CNN. Check out a deep breathing tip from The Doctors that can help calm you down when you're feeling anxious and this meditation tip to help with your pandemic anxiety.

More: Considering Meditation or Mindfulness to Reduce Anxiety? All Your Questions and Concerns Answered

More: Can Mindfulness Meditation Help You Avoid a Cold?

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