Mindfulness is an ancient practice that involves focussing our awareness on the here and now, with research indicating it has many benefits.
Mindfulness is quite the buzzword nowadays (and one that many people are tired of hearing about!). But, when practiced regularly, mindfulness really can improve our overall sense of wellbeing — and the research backs this up. There’s a reason that this ancient Buddhist practice has endured for over 2,500 years!
With benefits being seen after just a few minutes’ practice daily for eight weeks, it really is worth giving mindfulness a go. Here are some of the outcomes you may enjoy:
Savour the Moment
Mindfulness involves putting your thoughts aside in order to notice what’s going on in your body and the world around you — all without judgment. This allows you to truly live in the moment, something most people struggle to do on a daily basis.
Each day, try to spend some time focusing your attention purely on the sights, sounds, or scents around you. You may finally begin to notice all that you have been missing.
Increase Positive Feelings
By staying in the here and now, you will be calmer and less stressed. People who aren’t ruminating on the past, or worrying about the future, tend to be happier and more focused on the present.
And, there are many other ways in which mindfulness contributes to a more positive mood, as you will find out below.
Make Structural Changes to the Brain
Advances in neuroscience mean that we can now see physical changes in the brain as a result of mindfulness practice. It actually alters the circuitry of the brain, to protect against mental health issues and mood disorders.
For example, it reduces activation of the amygdala — the part of the brain that contributes to stress, anxiety, and the fight-or-flight response. As a result, many people living with anxiety find mindfulness helps them control their symptoms.
Protect Mental Health
The cognitive changes associated with mindfulness may explain why it shows benefits for people with:
– Depression (including for those with recurrent depression)
– Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
– Stress and burnout
– Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Foster Compassion for Yourself and Others
Mindfulness can enable you to feel more compassionate toward yourself and others, possibly because it changes a part of the brain called the insula. The insula is associated with empathy.
Loving-kindness meditations involve generating feelings of happiness, safety, and wellness. This is especially helpful for people with depression, anxiety, and trauma-related issues, who are often quite hard on themselves.
Trauma and PTSD affect the brain in numerous ways, causing structural changes. Mindfulness may actually be able to reverse some of these changes to reduce trauma symptoms.
Also, people who have experienced trauma often feel depressed and anxious. As we have seen, mindfulness is an effective treatment for many people with these conditions.
Stop Stress Eating
Practicing mindfulness during meals, and listening to your body’s hunger cues, is a simple way to cut down on junk food, excess calories, and emotional eating.
Becoming mindful of the effects of your dietary choices on your body and mind can also help you to choose nourishing foods for mental health and physical wellbeing.
Enjoy Better Sleep
Naturally, when we stress less, make better dietary choices, and feel happier, we’re going to sleep more soundly. And it goes full circle — better sleep leads to less stress and anxiety, healthier food choices, and more positive moods.
Manage Chronic Pain
Amazingly, the benefits of mindfulness don’t just stop at the mind. They extend to physical wellbeing too. People living with chronic pain actually experience a reduction in pain sensations and an improved outlook after regular mindfulness practice.
Of course, mindfulness doesn’t get rid of pain, but it allows people to notice, accept, and tolerate it so they can live their lives more fully.
Boost Immune Function
With less stress, better sleep, and enhanced positivity, you may just stave off colds and flu more effectively than before.
This is thanks to the effects of mindfulness on the immune system. Over time, mindfulness practice reduces the production of cortisol (a stress hormone), which is known to suppress immune function.
Mindfulness — A Fantastic Practice
Clearly, mindfulness provides many physical and mental health benefits. However, it is not a cure for everything, and it does not work for everyone.
That said, the benefits can be so profound that it is worth trying mindfulness for a few weeks. Stick to short sessions (five to ten minutes a day) and use an app for guidance or work with a professional.
Interested in trying therapy with mindfulness techniques? Contact me for queries or bookings.