Health Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness
Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness
You’ve probably come across the word ‘mindfulness’ more than a few times recently. It is a growing trend that has gained popularity across social media, mainstream media and society in general. But what does mindfulness mean and why is it important? We will explore all these and more in the following article.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness refers to the practice of focusing your awareness on the here and now.1 It involves being in the present moment over and over again.1 Mindfulness is an ancient practice, with roots in Buddhist meditation. However, it has become more popular in recent times. It is now commonly found in schools, workplaces and hospitals.2
Mindfulness can be practiced while meditating or during other everyday activities like cooking, cleaning or walking.1 Our minds are often preoccupied with our thoughts. It is normal and natural for the mind to want to think, analyze and figure things out. As a result, our minds will constantly look for new information and new ways to occupy itself.1
With mindfulness, however, we learn to retrain our minds to focus on the present, rather than letting it have control.1 In time, the mind learns to be still and fully immersed in what we are experiencing at any point in time.1 Mindfulness helps us to reconnect with our bodies and the sensations we experience. So, this means paying attention to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment.3
Benefits of Mindfulness
There are many benefits to practicing mindfulness. They range from reducing stress, anxiety and depression symptoms to improved cognitive ability, increased sense of wellbeing and improved quality of life.1
- Improved brain health: studies show that people who practice mindfulness meditation develop significant changes in brain structure. These changes include grey matter volume and cortical thickness which are linked with lower depression scores.1 They also experience lower rates of annual brain tissue loss in areas of the brain related to mood regulation and cognitive integration. This effect is reported to be associated with delayed brain aging.1
- Reduced anxiety and depression: according to research, mindfulness is effective at reducing stress, while increasing well-being and job satisfaction in the workplace.1 Regular practice of mindfulness has been found to be beneficial for anxiety and depression.1 It is complementary to anxiety treatment, low cost and suitable for a wide range of people irrespective of age and ability.1
- Pain and disease management: mindfulness practice offers numerous benefits for people suffering from chronic diseases like cancer.1 According to a research review, mindfulness can help cancer patients with reducing stress, pain and fatigue, improving quality of life, providing relief from digestive problems and improving sleep disorders and immune response.1
- Improved mental wellbeing: practicing mindfulness allows us to enjoy the world around us more, understand ourselves better and experience things afresh we usually took for granted.3 This allows us to deal with issues more productively and manage signs of stress and anxiety on time.3
Tips for Practicing Mindfulness
A good way to practice mindfulness is to focus on your breathing, keeping your attention on inhalation and exhalation repeatedly.1 This way, you can continually bring your attention back to the present moment over and over again.1 You can also try mindfulness meditation which involves sitting silently and paying attention to your thoughts, as well as the sounds and sensations of your body. While doing this, try to bring your attention back whenever your mind starts to wander.3
Other ways of practicing mindfulness include mindful eating, walking, commuting or colouring. These techniques can be easily integrated into your everyday life in ways that are meaningful and enjoyable to you.1 Here are some tips to help you be more mindful:
- Pay attention to the everyday sights and sounds around you, from the food you eat to the air circulating around your body as you walk3
- Make a habit of increasing your awareness of your environment at a regular time. This could be during your morning commute or on a walk at lunchtime3
- Do something different, like seating in a different seat in meetings or eating somewhere new at lunch. This can help you see the world in a new way3
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- Hoshaw C. (2022). What is mindfulness? A simple practice for greater wellbeing. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/mind-body/what-is-mindfulness
- NIH (2021). Mindfulness for your health. The benefits of living moment by moment. News in Health. https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2021/06/mindfulness-your-health
- NHS (2022). Mindfulness. https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/self-help/tips-and-support/mindfulness/