Mindfulness is the practice of being fully and completely aware of the present moment, not being distracted or stuck by dwelling on past hurts or worrying about what might happen in the future.
Mindfulness keeps you grounded in the here and now. You might think you need to have achieved a state of blissful detachment to be mindful or spend hours meditating in silence, sitting cross-legged on a cushion, but that’s NOT true.
Anyone can practice mindfulness, anywhere, at any time. It only takes a commitment to detach from the “monkey mind” of stress and worry and give your complete and focused attention to what is happening in the present moment.
It only takes a moment to focus on your breathing and every aspect of what you’re doing, whether it’s preparing a meal for your family, walking in the park, or commuting on the train. The capacity to calm the mind is also a fundamental element of meditation, although when you meditate your focus is turned inward, while mindfulness includes your outward experiences as well.
We’re only just starting to appreciate all the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. Studies have shown that with regular practice, mindfulness can have many long-lasting positive effects on your mental and physical health. Here are some the more compelling reasons why you should seriously consider incorporating mindfulness into your life.
- Decreased Stress — Scientists consider mindfulness a key element in fighting stress. As well as decreasing the stress hormone cortisol, practicing mindfulness has an immediate impact on lowering blood pressure and your heart rate. One study showed it can cut heart attack risk by 50% in five years.
- Pain management — Mindfulness can help you deal with aches and pains, especially for people who have a painful chronic disease such as arthritis.
- Increased immune function — Increasing your immune system’s level of beneficial function means you can fight off common illnesses like the flu more easily, and recover faster from illness or surgery.
- Mindfulness has been shown to increase the neural connections in the brain, improving your brain function, memory, and decision-making capacity.
- Mindfulness and meditation boost and extend your attention span and your capacity to focus and concentrate.
- It increases your resilience and your capacity to deal with stress.
- It improves problem-solving and mental performance in stressful situations such as during exams. One study showed that students who meditated before an exam performed better than students who didn’t.
- It slows down the progression of age-related cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Practicing mindfulness and meditation has been proven to dramatically reduce anxiety and depression (including postpartum depression), and enhance the effectiveness of psychological therapies.
- Mindfulness can have a powerful positive effect, helping to change a negative mindset and effectively reprogramming your inner self-talk to be more positive and nurturing.
- It reduces feelings of loneliness.
- It improves your mood.
- It increases your capacity for empathy.
- People who practice mindfulness develop improved resilience.
- It enhances creativity.
With all of those physical, emotional and mental benefits, it’s almost a no-brainer to start incorporating mindfulness and the practice of cultivating mindfulness into your daily life.
Check out the first post in our Mindfulness series HERE.