3-Core Benefits of Mindfulness on Your Health and Wellbeing
Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment—and accepting it without judgment. Mindfulness is now being examined scientifically and is a key element in stress reduction and overall happiness.
The Benefits of Mindfulness?
Mindfulness has roots in Buddhism, and most religions include some prayer or meditation technique that helps us sort through our thoughts by moving away from your usual preoccupations toward an appreciation of the moment and a broader perspective on life. The practice of mindfulness can bring improvements in physical and psychological symptoms as well as positive changes in health, attitudes, and behaviors.
1. Mindfulness Improves Well-Being
Mindfulness increases your capacity to achieve a happy life. Being mindful makes it easier to:
- Relish the pleasures in life as they occur.
- It helps you become fully engaged in activities.
- It creates a higher capacity to deal with adverse events.
There are many benefits to focusing on the “here and now.”
- They are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or regrets over the past.
- They are less preoccupied with concerns about success and self-esteem.
- They are better able to form deep connections with others.
2. Mindfulness Improves Physical Health
If greater well-being isn’t enough of an incentive, scientists have discovered that mindfulness techniques help improve physical health in many ways. Mindfulness can:
- Help relieve stress
- Treats heart disease
- Lowers blood pressure
- Reduces chronic pain
- Improves sleep
- Alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties.
3. Mindfulness Improves Mental Health
Psychotherapists have turned to mindfulness meditation as an essential element in the treatment of several problems, including depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, couples’ conflicts, anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
How Does Mindfulness Work?
Some experts believe that mindfulness works by helping people accept their experiences, including painful emotions. Mindfulness reduces our tendency to react to painful emotions with aversion and avoidance.
Mindfulness meditation is increasingly combined with psychotherapy and is a frequent component of modern cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy share a common goal of helping people gain perspective on irrational, non-adaptive, and self-defeating thoughts.
There are many to practice mindfulness, and the shared goal of all approaches to mindfulness is to reach a state of alert, focused relaxation by deliberately paying attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment. This process enables the mind to refocus on the present moment. All mindfulness techniques are a form of meditation.
- Basic mindfulness meditation – Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing or on a word or “mantra” that you repeat silently. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment and return to your focus on breath or mantra.
- Body sensations – Notice subtle body sensations such as an itch or tingling without judgment and let them pass. Notice each part of your body in succession from head to toe.
- Sensory – Notice sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches. Name them “sight,” “sound,” “smell,” “taste,” or “touch” without judgment and let them go.
- Emotions – Allow emotions to be present without judgment. Practice a steady and relaxed naming of emotions: “joy,” “anger,” “frustration.” Accept the presence of feelings without judgment and let them go.
- Urge surfing – Cope with cravings (for addictive substances or behaviors) and allow them to pass. Notice how your body feels as the desire enters. Replace the wish for the urge to go away with the specific knowledge that it will subside.
Mindfulness can be developed through mindfulness meditation, a systematic method of focusing your attention. You can learn to meditate on your own, following instructions in books or on tape and cab benefit from the support of an instructor or group to answer questions and to stay motivated.
Core Elements of Mindfulness
Go with the flow.
- Establish concentration, observe the flow of inner thoughts, emotions, and tune into bodily sensations without judging them as good or bad.
- Notice external sensations such as sounds, sights, and touch that make up your moment-to-moment experience. Try not to tune into a particular idea, emotion, or sensation, or to get caught in thinking about the past or the future.
- Instead, observe what comes and goes in your mind and discover the mental habits that produce a feeling of well-being or suffering.
- By practicing accepting your experience during meditation, it becomes easier to accept whatever comes your way during the rest of your day.
- Mindfulness involves accepting whatever arises in your awareness at each moment. It consists in being kind and forgiving toward yourself.
- If your mind wanders into planning, daydreaming, or criticism, notice where your attention has gone and gently redirect your attention to sensations in the present.
Stay with it.
- If you miss your intended meditation session, start again.
- Mindfulness may not always seem relaxing, however, over time mindfulness gives you access to greater happiness, more self-awareness, and comfort with a broader range of your experiences.
- The impact of mindfulness meditation is dose-related — the more you do it, the more impact it has.
- Most people find that it takes at least 20 minutes for the mind to begin to settle, so this is a reasonable way to start.
- If you’re ready for a more serious commitment, 45-minutes of meditation at least six days a week has been proven to have significant benefits.