Why You Should Consider Yoga and Meditation published | 13 May It is estimated that one in five adults will experience a mental illness in any given year with anxiety disorders as the leading cause. Mental illness is recognized when an individual shows ongoing signs and symptoms of stress that affect their ability to function. Mental illness may impact a person’s mood, behavior, and capacity to think or concentrate. While those suffering from mental illness may feel alone, lost, or incapacitated, research has shown that along with diet and exercise, mindfulness practices such as yoga and meditation can offer amazing benefits that may help some to reduce and/or manage symptoms of mental illness. Benefits of Yoga Yoga is one of the oldest body-and-mind practices in the world dating back nearly 5,000 years. Through the use of body positions and postures, breathing techniques, and mindful meditation, yoga provides several benefits to help manage your mental illness. Here are three. Improves Heart Rate Variability Heart Rate variability is based on how your heart rate varies when you inhale and exhale. A higher variability is an indicator of physical and mental resilience. Studies show that practicing yoga for as little as six weeks shows an improved heart rate variability as well as a lower resting heart rate; two indicators of a strong stress-response. Cultivates Positive Thinking Mental illness is often identified by chronic or frequent bouts of sadness, emptiness, and irritability that impacts a person’s ability to function. Studies have shown that the physical and mindfulness of yoga actually changes the long-term effects of how your brain responds to depression, in some ways acting as a natural antidepressant. Creates Better Understanding of Self The mindfulness and mental development promoted by yoga helps a person realize “shadow” qualities they did not know they possessed. Whether those qualities are empathy toward others, confidence, the ability to overcome obstacles, or greater control over mind and body, yoga can open profound possibility. Benefits of Meditation Meditation is the practice of achieving mental clarity and emotional calm through mindfulness and awareness techniques. The goal of meditation is to bring a person into the “now” while putting aside the stressors brought on by overthinking the past and future. Here are three ways meditation can benefit mental illness. Improves Sleep Insomnia is a leading cause of mental illness causing a disruption in your circadian rhythm and sleep patterns. Meditation helps to reduce insomnia and improve sleep quality by focusing your mind on the now rather than the past which cannot be changed and the future which is unpredictable. This awareness helps to place perspective on your surroundings and ease your mind of daily stress leading to a sounder sleep. Reduces the Chemical Cytokines Cytokines are inflammatory chemicals that your body releases in response to stress. They can have a negative impact on your mood and emotions. In fact, one scientific-based study on meditation showed significant measurable signs of positive thinking and optimism. Can Control Pain How you perceive pain has a direct connection to your state of mind. For people who experience mental illness, their perception of pain can be elevated while experiencing stressful conditions. Meditation has been shown to increase brain activity in areas that control pain. In fact, meditation is used to manage chronic pain for people with terminal illnesses such as cancer. Yoga and meditation whether practiced independently or symbiotically have been shown to improve the negative effects of mental illness by creating mental and physical awareness, improving sleep, and directly impacting your body’s chemical imbalances to create a positive mental state of being. So, if you’re looking for a mindful way to manage mental illness, ten minutes of yoga or meditation is a great start. About the Author: Laurie is a writer based on the east coast who enjoys spending her days writing on health and wellness topics. In her free time, she loves doing anything that gets her outdoors breathing fresh air.