What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the simple practice of becoming aware of your internal and external world.
For many people, it conjures images of monks sitting cross-legged or thoughts of wise yogis trying to bring you into “alignment” with the world.
Whilst it can be a deeply spiritual practice, mindfulness is becoming a very scientific, therapeutic treatment for a number of problems.
Mindfulness may be becoming aware of the breath. You might also become more aware of your body movements or of sounds around you. For some, it is simply tuning into the mind to observe the constant rush of thoughts.
Mindfulness, at it’s simplest, is awareness.
How I Got Started With Mindfulness
I began practising meditation on a casual basis almost five years ago.
Initially, it began as a way to gain more control over my thoughts and actions. However, it was only when I began to see a therapist that I started to see mindfulness for the powerful tool that it is.
Regularly during our sessions, she would walk me through some mindfulness exercises. Sometimes I was just paying attention to the breath. Other times I would be completing a mental body scan, finding areas of tension and observing them without judgement.
Very soon, I began to apply mindfulness in other areas of my life.
Now, I use mindfulness almost every day. Sometimes it is in a formal meditation practice, but often it is just to cope with the day-to-day things that life throws at you.
There are so many benefits of mindfulness in everyday life. Over the next few minutes, I will share with you a few of the benefits of mindfulness I have discovered over the years.
What are the Benefits of Mindfulness?
There are dozens of reasons why you should begin a mindfulness practice. You may want to improve your physical health. Maybe your mental health could be better. You may also want to attain some other type of benefit.
Mindfulness can almost certainly help you to achieve that goal.
So, what are the benefits of daily mindfulness meditation?
Physical Health Benefits
I am sure that we can all agree that we could use a little less stress in our lives. I’ve never yet met a person that told me that they wanted more stress.
Stress can come from anywhere: your job, your family, your friends, your partner or spouse, unexpected bills or something as simple and mundane as unexpected roadworks.
Studies have shown that stress can be relieved by taking part in regular mindfulness meditation.
Lowers Blood Pressure
If you suffer from high blood pressure, this can be a massive problem for your physical health.
Taking part in regular mindfulness could save you many hundreds of pounds or dollars that you may have spent on medications or medical bills. It has been shown to be nearly as effective in the long term as traditional medicines. It also has no negative side effects. Instead, it can create a sense of peace, understanding of yourself and provide a clear mind and healthier body.
Studies have shown that sleep disorders can be greatly improved by participating in mindfulness meditation. If you’re having trouble sleeping this practice may help you to have a richer, deeper sleep. It can also help you feel more refreshed when you wake up in the morning.
There is also some evidence to suggest that being mindful can lead to lucid dreaming. This means you could become more conscious in your dreams, being able to control aspects of it, such as being able to fly or speak to your ‘self’. However, this is certainly not common and the evidence is somewhat tenuous.
Other health benefits include:
- Treating heart disease
- The reduction of chronic pain
- A myriad of other physical health issues
Mental Health Benefits
Effective Treatment of Depression
One of the most common uses of mindfulness is to use it to treat mental illnesses.
Mindfulness is not only a great treatment of the disorder but it is also an amazing preventative measure.
Part of depression is negative thought patterns being repeated over and over again in a person’s head. Mindfulness teaches you to become aware of those thoughts as just thoughts. Only then can you learn to observe them without criticism of the thoughts or of yourself.
Though it requires regular practice in order to be an effective treatment, the benefits that mindfulness can have for people suffering from depression is truly incredible.
Not to mention that it has approximately zero negative side effects unlike traditional medication treatments for the disorder.
Another common use of mindfulness is as a treatment for those suffering from various forms of anxiety disorders.
Through practices such as the mindful observing and naming of emotions that flow through a person when they are having an anxiety attack, the anxiety relating to that particular stimulus can slowly be reduced until it is no longer a problem for the person.
Combined with CBT techniques such as using the ABC Model could help to boost the therapeutic effects.
Just as with physical health benefits, there are dozens of other mental health benefits of mindfulness including
- Treatment of eating disorders
- Helping to cope with obsessive-compulsive disorders
- Treating substance abuse
- It has even been shown to ease couple conflicts.
Additional Benefits of Mindfulness
Of course, there are benefits of mindfulness meditation which are not related to your personal physical or mental health.
Mindfulness has many amazing cognitive benefits as well which can help you in your everyday life.
Mindfulness has been shown to
- Improve memory
- Increase your creativity
- Lengthen your attention span
- Improve your reaction speed.
That’s right, mindfulness can prevent you from losing those pesky keys. It can inspire you to take up that creative talent that you set aside in your youth to focus on more ‘practical things’. It’s possible that it could make you a better listener. It may even prevent you from spilling that important catch when that ball is smashed into the stadium stands right where you are seated.
Mindfulness can also improve your emotional intelligence. Not only will you be able to understand yourself better, but you’ll also be able to understand other people’s emotions too.
I hope that these benefits which I have listed have at least convinced you that the practice of mindfulness may be worth a try.
Mindfulness meditation need not be part of formal meditation practice.
As you have seen now, mindfulness can be used as a tool to improve many areas of your life. If you’re looking for a great introduction to mindfulness, I would recommend Mark William’s and Danny Pellman’s book “Mindfulness: A Practical Guide To Finding Peace In A Frantic World”.
Try it out for a few weeks.
What’s the worst that could happen?