Can't stop forgetting where you put your keys or whether you turned off the stove? It might be time to give your mind some R&R. Modern life can give rise to restless minds, which is why western psychology has increasingly become interested in ancient approaches like mindfulness meditation. Attending to your mind's wellbeing – or practising mindfulness – is a hugely therapeutic process.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness can be described as being aware of the present moment and paying attention to the here and now. In fact, it is a practice of 'self-awareness' and a realisation that thoughts are simply thoughts and sensations are simply sensations; that is, understanding that we are not merely our thoughts or sensations. In this way, it is somewhat similar to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), a psychological process that also challenges us to question negative thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness encourages us observes negative thoughts without any self-criticism, judgement or emotional investment in those thoughts. By paying attention to the current moment, we don't get caught up in the past or future. Instead of dwelling on what has been or worrying about what will be, we can see these thoughts for what they are: simply thoughts.
What are the Key Benefits of Mindfulness?
Through mindfulness, we can release our attachmen tto things not serving us: particularly, any attachment to negative agendas and scripts containing harmful patterns of assumptions. Once we observe the many negatives going on in our head – while walking, running, washing the dishes or waiting for a bus – then we are free to dissociate from these (often judgemental) perceptions.
A mindful state helps bring about the realisation that you are more than your thoughts. Due to the benefits of this way of this mode of thinking, this Buddhist practise of mindfulness or sati has been taught as a technique to overcome stress, improve concentration, and enhance resilience. Arguably, the more developed the world is, the more distressed people tend to be. Getting across the benefits of mindfulness will allow you weather life's challenges armed with with better physical and mental health.
1. Improved Physical Health
Practicing mindfulness is not only about your mind. When you have an improved mindset, it affects your physical health as well. With continued practice, you will notice your body adjust to:
- Improved sleep
- Healthier eating habits
- Reduced physical pain
- Improved immunity
Some of these benefits are directly connected to the state of your mind. It causes instability depending on your stress, anxiety and other mind matters. For example, both mindfulness and medicine could help with issues such as insomnia.
2. Improved Focus
Research confirms that individuals who practice mindfulness can better focus their attention than those who do not. Experienced mindfulness meditators generally have an improved ability to:
- Focus attention to work
- Focus attention to the surrounding environment
- Suppress distractions
- Focus while studying
This benefit will suit students who have trouble taming their minds to focus on their studies. If you're in this category, mindfulness meditation will likely help.
3. Enhanced Emotional Wellbeing
Emotional stability is key in helping you lead a healthy life. But more often than not, we tend to feel impatient, pressured, and unstable in our emotional lives, especially if we don't have a strategy for controlling them. Mindfulness can play a role here, too, helping:
- Promote positivity
- Foster better emotional regulation
- Encourage clear and rational thinking
- Instil motivation, problem-solving and decision making qualities
This is once again a huge win for young people struggling to grapple with their emotions. It allows you to better confront difficult situations and overcome them using critical thinking, orienting you towards more logical solutions.
4. Better Relationships
Relationship problems rarely bring about much peace of mind. Instead, many of us act out and make decisions that we later regret. But the benefits of mindfulness extend to interpersonal relationships, too. Mindful meditation can help improve relationships as it:
- Increases levels of empathy
- Improves communication skills
- Encourages self-consciousness over reactivity
- Increases personal satisfaction and self-acceptance
Mastering these skills won't only strengthen your relationships; it will help you become a calmer, more self-aware person.
5. Boosting Memory
Are you always double-checking you did what you were supposed to? Then your memory could be lagging. Studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can definitely help sharpen your memory. For example, it has been shown to:
- Improve working memory
- Make you extra conscious and helps you recall simple acts
- Improve your focus and helps you aware of your acts
- Enhance productivity through improved memory and attention
Once you start practising mindfulness, you'll likely spend less time rummaging around for your keys or double-checking that you've locked your front door. An improved memory will also sharpen you up intellectually, helping improve your performance at school, uni or work. Not a bad deal, right?
6. Less Stress & Anxiety
Words like anxiety, depression and stress have become a part of our everyday vernacular. The causes of these conditions are complex, but stressful work environments, personal problems and the hustle of modern day life probably aren't helping. Getting into the habit of mindful meditation will likely ease much of these tensions, as the practise works to:
- Reduce anxiety and depression
- Enhance resilience to difficult situations and experiences
- Curb negative thinking
- Reduce stress hormone production
Establishing mindfulness as a daily ritual or habit will help you lead a more self-aware existence, pushing away the pain of stress and anxiety. Plus, the benefits of the practise don't end here. After establishing mindfulness meditation as part of your routine, you'll notice huge shifts in all facets of your life.
Best of all, mindfulness meditation isn't a complicated process – and it's free. All you have to do is find a comfortable spot and start with just five minutes of meditation. You'll find loads of great online resources that will take you through how to practice mindfulness for the first time.
So why not get started today? Your head will thank you for it.