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Being Present and Taking Care of Our Health

Being present is a powerful antidote to stress.

Stress is far more than a state of mind; it is literally the catalyst to a whole range of significant physiological responses in our body. When we live in the moment more and more of the time, the body responds with some very powerful positive changes related to our general health. A myriad of research on a very wide range of populations and situations reveals an important relationship between being mindful and some very dramatic positive health benefits.

How being present impacts the very way we take care of ourselves.

One particularly interesting area of research has to do with how being present impacts the very way we take care of ourselves. At the most basic level, being more present has been correlated with engaging more regularly in more consistently positive health behaviors. Things like getting regular check-ups, using seat belts, limiting the misuse of food, alcohol and tobacco and even being more physically active have all been linked to practicing mindfulness (Jacobs, Wollny, Sim & Horsch, 2016, Rogers, Ferrari, Mosely, Lang, & Brennan, 2017). Additional studies paint a picture of the relationship between becoming more present and improved cardiovascular health through a lower incidence of smoking, more physical activity, and a healthier body mass index (Loucks, Britton, Howe, Eaton, & Buka, 2015).

When we are present, in the moment, we are more likely to attend to ourselves.

Not surprisingly, it seems that as we become more aware of not only our surroundings but our own actions, we are more likely to make conscious choices in our own best health interests. Being more often “right here, right now” means that we are more likely to notice what we are eating and select what is best for us rather than eating “on autopilot.” It means a greater likelihood of realizing the seat belt is there and opting to buckle it. We drink or do not with a greater sense of what we are doing and why. In short, when we are present, in the moment, we are more likely to attend to ourselves… and when we do, research suggests, we tend to take better care of ourselves.

And as we do, some key foundations of good health are supported! Specifically, being more present has been correlated with such dramatic positive physical benefits as higher brain functioning, increased immune functioning, lowered blood pressure, lowered heart rate and reduced anxiety levels. All this from simply learning to be more in the moment!

~ Dr. Mary Jen Meerdink Ph.D