HED011 Stress Reduction Through Mindfulness

 

Stress Reduction Through Mindfulness

Implementing the Change (Contd.)

  1. Change lifestyle behavior to reflect the decision to change mentioned in Mini Change Paper Part I.

The behavior I decided to implement in my life for the past 2.5 months or so was to perform at least 25 minutes of physical mindfulness exercises (e.g. yoga practices, breathing techniques, mindfulness walks, etc.) in order to reduce additional strain on my body and mind due to stress.

  1. Chart daily progress toward goal.

The first factor I wanted to chart was my emotional and mental responses to the new mindfulness practices. In this following graph, I charted my self-scored levels of anxiety and depressive mood (with 1 being very high levels of those emotions and 10 being very low levels of those emotions) since I started the change. I only charted Mondays through Thursdays during October for the sake of fitting the chart onto this page as well as to see how well the mindfulness exercises worked in the early stages of the project. These weekdays were also the only days in which I had classes and thus, was subjected to more stress due to school. However, I had my 80 minute yoga classes on Monday and Wednesday, so I wanted to see if my overall mood was better on those days.

 

According to the above chart, both my anxiety and depressive mood levels had a gradual trend towards lower scores during the month of October. I would expect that if I could extend the graph to November and these last two weeks of December, the trend would continue as my recordings for both emotional factors have averaged around 4. This downward trend in anxiety and depressive mood scores shows a correlation between meditative practices and negative emotional responses. Another benefit that I learned through this process regarding negative emotions is that being more mindful of my emotions during the day has made me less judgmental about how I am feeling; instead of feeling guilty about feeling such emotions and for not making more progress in improving mood like I would have before enacting this behavioral change, I am more forgiving of myself and more understanding as well, as I recognize that change is gradual and takes time. As of right now (middle of December), my mood scores have been mainly in the 3 to 5 range, which is a big improvement from the 7 and 8’s I started with!

The second factor I wanted to chart was my physical responses to the new mindfulness practices. In the above graph, I charted my ability to hold a squat with my arms raised, a yoga pose known as “chair pose” or Utkatasana, comfortably in minutes since I started this change. I used the same dates as the chart for mood evaluation. According to this chart above, there is a clear upward trend in my ability to hold a squat with my arms raised based on time. I was actually very surprised at how much and how fast I improved in this physical aspect; I think I can attribute it to my previous endeavors in athletics that have been dormant sin

ce I stopped participating in team sports such as cross country and track. At the end of November, I was able to hold this position for about 3.5 minutes comfortably, and now in the middle of December, I am veering towards 4.5 minutes!

  1. Evaluate how effective one was in reaching the goal.

I think that I was successful in enacting the changes I aimed for and thus, reaching my goal. I was able to do mindfulness exercises everyday for at least 25 minutes, which I am very proud of, as I didn’t actually think I could do it in the beginning. What I think helped the most with me achieving my goal of everyday exercises was the planning I did beforehand; I had set up my Google Calendar with specific times each day to dedicate to mindfulness exercises with ample free time afterward just in case I wanted to extend my practice—which I actually did quite often, because once I get into the zone, I am find these exercises more enjoyable. As a result, my mood has been more stable and positive compared to when I first started this mini change, and my physical strength has also improved through frequent yoga practices and poses.

Some of the challenges I faced in regards to making this change and reaching my goal included less time to study and general physical fatigue even without exercising. However, I do think that the advantages of changing this behavior definitely outweigh the challenges I faced during the process. One of the positive benefits from adding mindfulness exercises to my daily routine that I wasn’t expecting but am really glad about is that it has helped me become more patient with both myself and others. The technique within the set of mindfulness tactics I learned was a meditation technique that is helpful in emotional control regarding negative feelings towards loved ones. This type of meditation involves visualizing the person in question as someone enlightened that is stuck in an eggshell that they are trying to get out of by doing those actions you find difficult or problematic; then, I would visualize myself helping peel away the shell so that the person can become their best self without performing the negative actions. This builds compassion for the other person as I realized they are trying to become a better person just like I am; I can also use this method on myself when I am frustrated with my own behaviors and the consequences they bring. Another aspect of mindfulness is the notion of feeling emotions without judgment. This as been particularly helpful for me in that it has allowed me to be able to be more objective of myself when I’m having a hard time instead of putting myself down for simply feeling bad. These exercises have reminded me that feeling negative emotions doesn’t make me a bad person and that I do have the ability to move on from them with time. Knowing that strong spikes in anxiety and depression are temporary also allows me to be more productive and attentive as I spend less time wallowing in my misery, so my problems with studying and accepting the fact that my body cannot be at top form at all times were not too stressful!

In conclusion, I am very glad that I decided to make this change and am actually very much looking forward to continuing it for as long as I can. I had mentioned that I already had some activities in my arsenal to cope with negative feelings (e.g. journaling, drawing, etc.), but incorporating mindfulness exercises in my everyday life has been the most effective for the longest amount of time so far. And even if it wasn’t, it is still something that I would always keep in mind as an option in improving physical, emotional, and mental strength.

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