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Find calm with this minute-long meditation.

Press the Reset Button on Your Nervous System

We know a lot about stress and how it affects us, both in mind and body. So why do we ignore this understanding, enabling it to negatively impact our energy levels, our mood, and our physical wellbeing? When we can so easily press the reset button with a bit of mindfulness meditation, why aren’t we doing it more often?

Let’s refresh ourselves to help these insights work themselves into deeper levels of our understanding. Here’s what we know about stress and the nervous system:

When we are stressed, the sympathetic nervous system engages the “fight or flight” response, which mobilizes the body for action by:

1. Increasing the heart and respiration rate

2. Releasing cortisol into the blood stream

3. Increasing blood pressure

4. Slowing down metabolism so that the body can use that energy to find safety

The nervous system is not very discerning. It has the same reaction whether the stressor is an overbooked schedule or a near car accident. Physiologically, the response is the same, so even small stressors can have a big impact on our wellbeing overtime.

A little stress can keep us focused, but over time, chronic stress can lead to heart disease, cause memory loss, and compromise our immune system, making us more susceptible to a range of illnesses from the common cold to more serious immune dysfunction. The problem is exacerbated with negative responses to stressors like poor eating and drinking habits, smoking, and lack of exercise. We often forget that we have a choice in how we react. Rather than making healthy choices, we let negative responses to stress become habits. Like any bad habit, our stress reactions take time to unravel. However, with the help of mindfulness, we might untangle our habits a little bit sooner, making it the very habit we adopt.

Mindfulness meditation is nothing more than a good habit that has a positive, cumulative effect on our heath. We can not only learn new tasks, but we can cultivate more positive emotions by making mindfulness a habit.

Here’s what we know about mindfulness:

The latest research shows that mindfulness meditation techniques enhance immune function, reduce anxiety, control heart disease, help with weight loss and pain management, and prevent depression relapse.

Even more encouraging is the research coming out of the Department of Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin. They’ve looked at emotions in the lab, proving that the adult brain has much more “plasticity” (the ability to grow new neural pathways) than previous believed. So, we can learn new tasks, engage in more conscious actions, and cultivate more positive emotions by making mindfulness a habit.

Using mindfulness to press the reset button on the nervous system is something we can do anytime we feel anxiety rising and there is nothing we can actively do about the situation. Forming a new habit of mindfulness takes time, but with a little patience and compassion, we can adopt it sooner than we think. 

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