5 Benefits of Mindfulness
Life can become busy, with so much going on, work, study, relationships and maybe even kids… it’s easy to get caught up in it all. Preoccupied with your own thoughts, worrying, planning. At times it can feel like you’re living on autopilot. Although there’s sometimes a place for planning and worry, being caught in your worries constantly leaves little room for enjoyment.
How long has it been since felt truly relaxed and at peace? When did you last slow down and genuinely enjoy the moment? If it’s been a while, perhaps something needs to change. Perhaps it’s time to start practicing mindfulness.
What is mindfulness?
When it comes to the latest trends in the therapy world, mindfulness has been the rising star for the last few years. It was originally practiced in eastern culture with roots in Buddhism and yoga. More recently, it has exploded in popularity in western culture and many of its benefits are only now being realized to their full potential.
So what is it?
Mindfulness is a state of mind used in everyday life (not only when you are stressed or under pressure). To work properly, it requires two important but very simple things.
1) Remaining in the present moment. This means getting off autopilot and redirecting your thoughts about the past or the future, back to right now, and;
2) taking a kind, non-judgmental approach towards your experiences and thoughts and learning to just let them be.
Mindfulness is extremely flexible. It can be used for a few moments per day, per week, only during meditations or you can choose to try and always live your life mindfully. The most important part of mindfulness and how it can benefit your life depends on the two simple things described above (remaining present and non-judgmental).
So, what are the benefits of mindfulness?
1) It reduces anxiety and stress levels
Studies have found that mindfulness can help break negative thinking practices and reduce anxiety and stress levels. One of the things that we as humans tend to do, particularly when we are stressed or busy, is ruminate. This is when you go over and over the same thought, generally because you are worried about something.
How many times has this process helped you though? We’re guessing not many… Generally what happens as we ruminate, is that we become more and more stressed, and rising anxiety rarely helps us to solve anything. By keeping your focus only on the present, and experiencing this in a non-judgmental way, mindfulness stops you from being able to ruminate. This takes the power away from your thoughts. This makes your thoughts less threatening and easier to sort through when you are ready, without causing as much emotional distress or anxiety. Practicing this daily can have a huge impact on wellbeing and reduce overall levels of stress and anxiety significantly.
2) Improves emotional regulation
Those who practice mindfulness also tend to have less issues with negative emotional outbursts (such as anger or sadness) when compared to those who don’t use mindfulness. People who practice mindfulness have also be found to be happier than those who do not.
Mindfulness makes you pay more attention to how you are truly feeling and the connection this has with your experience. This over time helps you to better understand your own emotional reactions, what your triggers are and how your emotions fluctuate. Combined with the non-judgmental approach, it allows you to see situations in a different way. Ultimately, this can help you reframe situations so that they don’t trigger such strong negative emotions and provides you with the space to deal with the issue without becoming overly upset, scared or angry.
3) Improves focus, boosts memory and mental flexibility
Practicing mindfulness in the form of mediation has also been found to have huge benefits for the brain. Mindful meditation can increase your ability to focus and keep any distracting thoughts under control. In addition to this, it can expand your working memory and mental flexibility. Helping you to think outside the box, solve abstract problems and respond to stressful or negative situations in a more productive manner.
4) Improves your relationships
As we discussed earlier, one of the main goals of mindfulness is improving your ability to be present. Imagine for a second, how your partner, child, parents, or best friend might react if you could give them 100% of your attention when they needed it. Chances are, they’d really appreciate this, and your relationship would be so much stronger for it. That’s not all though, if we look at the other benefits we have already explored, mindfulness help you to not only be present and non-judgmental, but manage and communicate your emotions better, think outside the box, resolve conflicts and manage stress in a more productive way. What more could you want in a relationship?
5) It benefits your health
In addition to the well-known benefits above, most recently, mindfulness has been shown to produce a multitude of other health and personal benefits. It has been found to improve immune function, improve quality and quantity of sleep and has even been linked to lower blood pressure, better cardiovascular health and healthy weight loss. If personal self-improvement is more your style than you’ll be happy to know it can improve levels of compassion, self-insight, morality and reduce overall psychological distress.
Like any other skill, mindfulness can take some time to get the hang of and is best learned with the assistance of a professional. However, one of the best parts of mindfulness is that you only need to spend a few minutes per day to see some of the benefits in your life. Even the most inexperienced can improve their quality of life with just a few moments of mindfulness!
To learn more about mindfulness and the benefits it can offer you, book a consultation with one of our Therapists today!