Shining a light on the powerful link between the mind and body, a new study suggests that cardiac arrest survivors who learn to focus their thoughts on the here and now during recovery are less likely to become depressed or anxious.
The finding centers on a mental health practice known as “mindfulness,” which amounts to a sort of stop-and-smell-the-roses approach to life.
What is mindfulness?
“Mindfulness can be defined as non-judgmental awareness of the present moment” through techniques such as meditation or yoga, study lead author Alex Presciutti says.
That essentially means leaving behind regrets about the past or fears about the future, in favor of a moment-by-moment focus.
For example, that could involve paying closer attention to the flavor, texture or smell of meals. “Or, when taking a walk outdoors, attending to the sights, sounds and smells in your environment,” Presciutti notes.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
Even the American Heart Association (AHA) thinks mindfulness may have cardiovascular benefits, as noted in a scientific statement issued earlier this year that highlighted its potential as a protective tool for reducing stress and bolstering well-being among heart patients.
That could be important, Presciutti says, given that “we know that depression and other mental health struggles are quite common even in long-term cardiac arrest survivors.”
His own prior research revealed that 1 in 5 long-term cardiac arrest survivors experienced elevated depression symptoms, 1 in 4 developed