Mindfulness and meditation have been around for centuries. But back then, most people considered mental health and well-being as taboo topics, making it hard for them to accept the practice of mindfulness.
Fast forward to the new era, where people are more open to non-traditional practices to improve their quality of life. Now, mindfulness has gained its much-awaited popularity, making it the new buzzword.
It is now being practiced all across the globe by different kinds of people—stressed-out single moms, burned-out college students, and overworked attorneys.
It has helped plenty of individuals face their fast and stressful lives. It aided in their journey towards achieving overall healthy well-being—physical, mental, emotional, and psychological aspects included.
So, if you have been finding yourself succumbing to the hustle and bustle of life, then it might be time to start being mindful and finding time to yourself to slow down.
Before diving into mindful meditations, you should first know what it is and the benefits of mindfulness.
What Is Mindfulness?
In psychology, mindfulness refers to the state of awareness or being aware. It is a form of meditation that teaches you to be extra conscious of your thoughts—good or bad—and feel no judgment for it.
Moreover, it helps you to focus on the “now,” away from your past ruminations and future worries.
It is the ability to be fully present, to know what’s happening around you, what you are doing, and the space you are occupying without being overwhelmed by all of it.
Mindfulness has always been an innate practice, something that you can do by yourself. But over the years, experts had developed different kinds of techniques such as:
- Body scan meditation
- Movement meditation like yoga, tai chi, and qi gong
- Walking meditation
- Breathing space meditation
- Expanding awareness
- Environmental meditation – usually done near lakes or in the mountains
These are different kinds of meditations, but all of them roughly have the same agenda and goal—a quiet time without distractions to clear the mind and achieve inner peace.
Benefits of Mindfulness
Contrary to popular belief, mindfulness meditations not only cultivate your mental health. It also brings several benefits to your physical aspect, as well as positive changes to your behavior and attitude. Here are just some of the most notable benefits of mindfulness:
1. Combats Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety are normal parts of everybody’s life. Anyone is bound to experience one or the other and simply move on after that. However, people are all built differently. Not everyone can tolerate much stress and anxiousness and leave unscathed.
Stress and anxiety become a problem and a disease when it starts to interfere in your daily life, preventing you from functioning normally.
This is where mindfulness becomes useful. The practice helps you focus and ground yourself in the present moment. It prevents your mind from spiraling out of control and into the depths of the looming anxiety and stress.
It does not make the anxiety magically go away. Instead, mindfulness teaches you to accept these feelings and respond to it with calmness. It forces you to identify and process your emotions, and ultimately, realize that you have nothing to worry about.
Mindfulness exercises also help with other mental health problems, such as:
- Substance abuse
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Eating disorder
- Panic disorder
2. Improves Concentration and Focus
One of the key goals of mindfulness meditation is to establish a strong focus of attention. With so many things happening in your life, the ability to focus on the essential things is a must.
Being mindful helps you sort and process all the information and happenings around you, without being overwhelmed. It teaches you to focus on important things and let go of those that are not.
Moreover, it helps your actual brain to suppress distracting sensations and information. This allows you to focus your attention only on the present and vital information.
3. Boosts Brain Function
Studies have proven the hugely positive effect of mindfulness on the brain’s function. Observing through an MRI scan, some of the brain’s portions actually increased or decreased in size (in a good way) in response to regular mindfulness activities.
Some of its notable findings include:
- Improves creativity – research shows that doing mindful practices improve the brain’s creativity, planning skills, problem-solving abilities, and emotion processing. The part of the brain responsible for all these—the prefrontal cortex—increases in size, which means that there is increased activity.
- Memory and learning – the hippocampus increases in thickness after a bout of mindfulness exercise. This is the part of the brain accountable for its cognitive function.
- Preserves an aging brain – studies found an increased grey matter volume loss in the brain of non-meditator seniors, as opposed to those who have practiced meditation for almost 20 years.
- Hormone production – in the long-run, mindfulness aids in releasing chemicals in the brain that induces a good mood and relaxing feeling. This is why you feel calm and at peace every time you practice mindfulness.
- Decreases physical stress – the grey matter of the amygdala—part of the brain affected when you are stressed out—becomes smaller, which means that it helps in reducing stress.
4. Improves Physical Well-Being
Aside from your mental welfare, mindfulness exercises also let you reap the rewards of its physical advantages.
For one, it reduces your risk of developing heart disease by progressively relaxing your muscles during every mindfulness practice. It also lowers your blood pressure, which helps prevent hypertension.
Other physical benefits include:
- Strengthens the immune response
- Relieves gastrointestinal problems
- Alleviates chronic pain
- Reduces inflammation
- Helps achieve better sleep
- Reduce cell aging
5. Supports Emotional Health
Your overall well-being would not be complete without the emotional aspect. Fortunately, enhancing your emotional health is also one of the many benefits of mindfulness.
Mindfulness makes you feel good about yourself - your body and overall health. Having an enhanced inner satisfaction will ultimately be manifested outward, making you a better person towards others.
Being mindful of yourself and your environment helps you live in the moment and become the best version of yourself.
You will start savoring relationships, engaging more in activities, and having a positive outlook on life.