The increasing growth in mindfulness is the most significant change in mental health practice that has occurred this century!
The idea of “mindfulness” has been around for over 2,000 years. In ancient times, it was a relatively obscure Buddhist concept. Today, due to its many physical, emotional and mental health benefits, it is widely recognized as a key component to health and wellness programs.
Mindfulness articles, clinics, books, and videos are available everywhere you look. There are many different suggestions about how to practice mindfulness, and the best ways to achieve it. There is less debate surrounding the belief that mindfulness, in general, is a good idea! This post is all about the benefits you can expect to achieve from adopting mindfulness behaviors.
What is Mindfulness?
First, what does it mean to be mindful? It means being in the moment and experiencing what is happening at that moment, without judgment. Since many things are happening in a given moment, part of being mindful is also selecting what to focus on, either around us or within us.
What Are the Benefits of Mindfulness on Health?
Numerous researches have been conducted over the last two decades, to assess how being mindful can impact our health. Scientists have proven that mindfulness benefits our physical, mental and emotional health in many ways. Experts believe the benefits include:
1. Improved Brain Health and Functioning
Being mindful has been linked to better brain health and activity. For example, some studies have shown that mindfulness leads to increased gyrification within the brain. This refers to the presence of folds in brain tissue that is believed to help us process information faster, and avoid dwelling on thoughts in non-productive ways.
Mindfulness also promotes neuroplasticity, which is the ability of the brain to adapt over time. Practicing mindfulness is also believed to facilitate focus, clarity, and reasoning. It also improves our decision making and attention span. Also, mindfulness is considered to help stave off dementia, Alzheimer`s and other degenerative brain diseases.
2. Reduced Stress and Anxiety
Being mindful helps reduce stress and anxiety. The more mindful we become, the better we can process the thoughts and events in a purposeful, reasonable way. Development of mindful thought processes helps us avoid stress, worry, and anxiety by increasing our ability to be in the moment vs. in the past (which often leads to depressed thoughts) or in the future (which often results in worry).
Mindfulness also reduces the production of cortisol, known as the 'stress hormone.' By reducing stress and anxiety, mindfulness also helps improve our sleep and avoid 'burn-out.'
3. Improved Cardiovascular Health
Not surprisingly, since mindfulness helps reduce stress and anxiety, there are also many downstream benefits to our cardiovascular health. Being mindful has been shown to lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, and to decrease the risk of both heart attack and stroke. Those who are mindful have also been shown to be more likely to stick with fitness programs, and achieve and maintain a desirable Body Mass Index (BMI), which also benefits our cardiovascular health.
4. Strengthen Immune System and Resiliency
Mindfulness improves both our resistance to illness and disease, as well as our ability to recover from and cope with illness. Cancer patients who practice mindfulness have been shown to better tolerate both the disease and care regimen required. There are no clear reasons for this connection; however, it may be another downstream benefit from reduced stress and anxiety.
People who are mindful are also more likely to be conscientious in their self-care, and a healthy self-care regimen also provides benefits that help us to avoid and conquer illness. Mindfulness also improves resiliency in our emotional lives; for example, people are more likely to have healthy self-esteem, higher empathy, and self-confidence.
5. Better Overall Health and Wellness
Those who are mindful tend to have healthier lifestyles, which promotes better-improved health overall. Mindfulness has been shown to correlate to stronger adherence to wellness programs, routine health care check-ups, and attention to safety. Mindful people are also less likely to suffer from alcohol dependency, substance abuse, and nicotine addiction. Those who are mindful are also more likely to be physically active and fit.
6. More Effective Pain Management
Many suffer from chronic pain. This pain can be a result of injury, disease or the by-product of other health conditions. Dealing with chronic pain over long periods of time is physically draining, but also affects our emotions and mental health. The side effects of chronic pain can be severe, including depression and even suicidal tendencies.
Mindfulness has been shown to be effective at lowering patient`s perception of pain. The lower the perception, the higher the patient`s tolerance for pain. In addition, reduced perception of pain means fewer pain medications, fewer side effects, and lower stress, as well.
7. Enhanced Life Experience
To summarize, being mindful has been shown to enhance many of our life experiences.
By reducing stress and anxiety, mindfulness helps us to avoid a wide array of undesirable emotions and behaviors. For example, stress often leads us to be irritable, agitated, anxious and worried. We are more likely to be argumentative, defensive and restless when we are under stress. Other common side-effects of high stress include being self-critical as well as critical of others, difficulty concentrating, an inability to think rationally, and to deal appropriately with challenging situations. These benefits alone create a much more pleasant living experience.
But there`s more. Things we find enjoyable and pleasurable become that much more incredible when we can focus at the moment. Leisure activities are more fun when we are fully present; even the music sounds better! Beyond the experiences we enjoy, becoming more mindful has been shown to increase our ability to be compassionate, which translates into higher tolerance and kindness for others and ourselves.
Mindfulness is also believed to lead to more satisfying relationships because it enhances our communication skills, and allows us to deal more effectively with relationship-related stresses.
The many benefits of mindfulness are compelling - why not read more about mindfulness and mindfulness practices today?
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