Humans generally think of themselves as highly evolved creatures, but when it comes to stress, our fear response is as primitive as the tiny beasts that fled predators 500 million years ago. Though lifesaving, this fight-or-flight system is also triggered by modern concerns such as political Facebook posts or being stuck in traffic. Over time, psychological stress can build into an internal time bomb.
While some suggest humans have outgrown their stress system, studies show there are ways to teach that old brain new tricks, helping to calm the angst that comes with contemporary living.
Imagine sitting on a park bench waiting for a friend. You’re checking messages on your phone when a noise catches your attention. You look up and suddenly realize it’s a beautiful autumn day. The sun is warm on your skin and a gentle breeze tempers the heat.
From a nearby tree, birds call while a few golden leaves flutter, break loose, and slowly drift to the ground. On the grass, a parade of tiny black ants drags a bread crumb. Traffic passes in the distance. Quiet voices chat and laugh.
The scene is a simple example of mindfulness, and your brain loves it, especially during … » More …
Tracy Skaer, a pharmacotherapy professor at Washington State University Spokane, knows that our fast-moving, constantly-changing world can stress us out. That includes the smartphones that many of us carry around constantly. A trained mindfulness practitioner, Skaer suggests using those same smartphones to give our minds a break from the stresses of daily life.
Skaer recommends some of the following smartphone apps to help with mindfulness exercises: