5 Research-Backed Ways To Connect with Well-Being

Written by Lauren Helm, Ph.D.

Feeling off-balance or disconnected from your well-being? There are many ways to reconnect -- here are just 5 research-backed practices that may help you cultivate a state of wellness.

Connect with the Moment through Mindfulness

Connect with mindfulness and rewire your brain! Mindfulness is the practice of attending to the present moment with curiosity, non-judgment, and compassion. How does mindfulness help? Dr. Daniel Siegel explains how regularly connecting with mindfulness practice can have a lasting impact on brains and thus, our well-being. In his article about the science behind mindfulness, he says, “studies show that the ways we intentionally shape our internal focus of attention in mindfulness practice induces a state of brain activation during the practice. With repetition, an intentionally created state can become an enduring trait of the individual as reflected in long-term changes in brain function and structure. This is a fundamental property of neuroplasticity—how the brain changes in response to experience.” Growing evidence points to the wide-ranging benefits of mindfulness practice. Check out this list of research articles compiled by the American Mindfulness Research Association (AMRA) for more information about the science behind mindfulness.

Ready to practice? 

Check out these websites for free, downloadable mindfulness exercises:

§  UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center

§  UCSD Center for Mindfulness

§  MindfulSchools.org

§  MindfulSelfCompassion.org

Connect with Your Breath

Heart rate variability is the natural variation in the heart rate that occurs when we breathe in and out, and has been linked to psychological and physical well-being. Heart rate variability biofeedback trains you to breathe at a rate that that creates physiological “coherence,” or resonance, which may maximize heart rate variability, and result in enhanced well-being. Research generally finds that breathing at a rate of 6 breaths per minute maximizes heart rate variability (Lehrer & Gevirtz, 2014Lehrer & Vaschillo, 2008).

Ready to practice? 

HRV biofeedback therapists and personal biofeedback devices may help you to become more aware of your physiology and help you to regularly practice this type of beneficial breathing. Rise Psychology offers biofeedback therapy with Dr. Lauren Helm, who is certified biofeedback. Local, certified biofeedback therapists may also be found by searching the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance directory. There are also wearable devices such as the newly developed Spire, or devices that you can use with your computer to practice at home, such as the devices created by HeartMath.com. A biofeedback therapist or device will help guide you in taking steady, smooth, regular belly breaths in and out (usually lasting approximately 5 seconds for inhalation, and 5 seconds for exhalation for a rate of 6 breaths per minute). Daily practice of resonant frequency slow-breathing may lead to improvements in heart rate variability, along with enhanced emotional and physical resilience.

Connect with Physical Activity

Regular exercise has been shown to enhance mood, and often can help those with depression or anxiety. Even just 5 minutes of exercise can provide an immediate boost in your mood. If exercise isn’t usually your thing, try to start out small and slowly build your way up so that you aren’t turned off from continuing to engage in physical activity. It may help to identify what type of physical activity feels most enjoyable and agreeable to you. Some individuals may be drawn to aerobics, others to strength training, and others to gentle stretching. 

Ready to practice? 

Whatever type of physical movement or activity you decide to engage in, try to find something that works for you (i.e. is the least aversive, and most enjoyable). Even a brief walk outside in the sun may help! You can also think about what type of setting is most supportive for you and conducive to exercise. For some, a solo-jog may be what is needed. For others, joining a gym or signing up for a yoga class may help keep them accountable and allow them to connect with others. Get in touch with what is most likely to set you up for success and try it out!

Connect with Gratitude

Gratitude can powerfully affect our well-being. Gratitude “recasting,” or finding ways to look at difficult situations in a different light that fosters gratitude, can help you get through difficult times and improve your well-being. Says Dr. Robert Emmons in his article about how gratitude works, “…telling people simply to buck up, count their blessings, and remember how much they still have to be grateful for can certainly do much harm. Processing a life experience through a grateful lens does not mean denying negativity. It is not a form of superficial happiology. Instead, it means realizing the power you have to transform an obstacle into an opportunity. It means reframing a loss into a potential gain, recasting negativity into positive channels for gratitude.”

Ready to practice? 

Try out gratitude journaling: Start out by making a list of at least 5 things that you are grateful for in your life right now. You can practice this on a daily basis. For an added challenge designed to stretch yourself: Work your way up to writing 5 pages of different things that you are grateful for. For a summary of more information about gratitude and ways to connect with it, read this article.

Connect with Altruism: Contributing to Others

Practice random acts of kindness to increase your own well-being: a study found that spending as little as $5 on someone else can increase your happiness. Altruistic acts may not enhance your well-being if you are performing them because you feel like you ought to or have to. Reflect on the intent that is driving why you are engaging in pro-social behaviors, and also pay attention to how you are participating in the moment.

Ready to practice?

Read this article to learn more about ways to make giving feel good. Practice random acts of kindness. Or share your appreciation or a genuine “thank you” with a colleague, friend, or loved one. There are many ways to contribute to others, and engaging in altruism may not only help you to reconnect with your sense of well-being, it may possibly even improve the life of another.

For more resources regarding gratitude and altruism, check out UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.


If you'd like to speak with Dr. Lauren Helm, a licensed clinical psychologist at Rise Psychology, for help with restoring your psychological well-being, please click here.

 Follow Rise Psychology on Facebook or Twitter (@risepsychology)


Reposted from Center from Stress and Anxiety Management blog: http://www.anxietytherapysandiego.com/blog/2015/5/11/five-research-backed-ways-to-reconnect-with-your-well-being#commentsWrapper