You may have heard of mindfulness and meditation before, but have you ever considered how they can benefit you?
Many people dismiss these practices as goofy and unscientific without considering the very real benefits they have been proven to provide. If you are not sure what mindfulness is, you don’t know how it can benefit you, or you don’t know how to get started, it just may be time for you to give it some consideration!
Keep reading to learn the basics about what mindfulness is and how it might benefit your health.
What Is Mindfulness?
In the simplest of terms, mindfulness is the practice of observing your own thoughts without judgment. Mindfulness involves being an active observer of your thoughts and actions as they occur without reacting to them in an emotional way.
In order to exercise mindfulness, you must be able to experience moments as they occur. This means that, while practicing mindfulness, if you find yourself drifting into thoughts of the past or the future, you should calmly reorient your mind to be focused only on the present. This also means allowing yourself to experience thoughts without judgment or opinion, instead allowing your thoughts to freely enter and exit your mind.
Many people give up on mindfulness early on because they associated it with meditation and assume that it requires you to completely clear your mind. If you have trouble calming or controlling your thoughts, meditation can be challenging. What you need to know, however, is that the purpose of mindfulness is not to stop or smother your thoughts at all. Instead, the purpose is to calibrate the mind with a neutral state of experience – it is not about success or failure.
Mindfulness takes practice and though you may struggle at first, that is part of the process. When you struggle to keep your thoughts from wandering, you are given a chance to train your mind. With time and practice, you will learn to be in control of your thoughts and, once you do, you will find yourself in a state of neutral experience which has many benefits.
A final misconception about mindfulness is that it is a religious exercise. While many religions do practice meditation and forms of mindfulness, it does not need to have any sort of religious connotation if you don’t want it to. Whether you are religious or not, there is quite a bit for you to gain by practicing mindfulness. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of mindfulness.
What Are the Benefits of Mindfulness?
It should not come as a surprise to you that cultivating the ability to think without judgment or interpretation can have a positive effect on the mind and body. Have you ever had trouble separating your thoughts from your emotions, or have you experienced stress due to an inability to take your mind off of something that worries or upsets you? These are examples of times where a bit of mindfulness could go a long way.
Not only can practicing mindfulness reduce stress, but it has also been proven an effective method of combatting depression and other forms of mental illness. Having a firm focal point in your mind that you can return to when needed is a major advantage in keeping things in perspective. In both the short term and long term, mindfulness can help keep you emotionally healthy.
Unsurprisingly, mindfulness has also been shown to improve memory, reflexes, and energy levels. You may see your creativity rise and your mood improve on a regular basis if you begin prioritizing mindfulness. Even addictive and self-destructive behaviors have been shown to drop in people that begin to do mindfulness exercises. In general, mindfulness is an excellent tool to have if you want to keep your mind sharp and your emotional health stable.
Though mindfulness provides many mental health benefits, it has also been shown to improve sleep and reduce your odds of serious illness. People that meditate are admitted to the hospital less frequently than others for cancer, heart disease, and other serious diseases. It has also been shown to improve circulatory health.
Best of all, there are simply no negative consequences associated with mindfulness. Some people worry that mindfulness will dull their mind or make them complacent, but in fact it has the opposite effect. People who practice mindfulness find themselves feeling sharper and more energized than ever.
There are few things out there that are truly great for both the mind and body. There are even fewer things that require as little as 15 minutes out of your daily schedule with no other sacrifices. When it comes to getting the most figurative bang for your buck regarding your health, practicing mindfulness is an excellent way to go about it.
How to Practice Mindfulness
The best thing about mindfulness is that it is very simple to get started. It takes almost no time out of your day and does not cost a penny. Once you know how to go about practicing mindfulness, you can begin living your whole life mindfully.
There are several ways to practice mindfulness, but the most popular is simple mindfulness meditation. Many people mistakenly think that the terms “mindfulness” and “meditation” are synonymous, but there are subtle differences. Getting started with meditation can be challenging to many people, particularly the most busy-minded among us. However, with a little bit of diligence you should be able to get going in no time.
In order to help you get started with mindfulness, try out this simple exercise:
Mindfulness Meditation Exercise
- Sit erect (if you are able to able) but relaxed in a straight-backed chair with your feet on the floor. If you are not able to comfortably sit up, then lie down instead. Allow your arms and hands to be as relaxed as possible.
- Close your eyes and focus your awareness on your breath as it flows in and out. Count your breaths in and out if it will help you to focus.
- Feel the sensations that the air makes as it flows through you. Feel your lungs filling with air and your chest expanding.
- Exhale slowly, observing the feeling of air leaving your body. Continue to breathe purposefully.
- As you breathe, start to gather the details of everything you hear and feel around your body – pay attention to the tiny details.
- When your mind begins to wander, acknowledge each thought without judging or reacting to it and gently return your focus to the breathing.
- Whatever emotional experiences you have, simply observe them without judgment or intention. Do this for at least 5 minutes, up to 30 minutes.
Once you are comfortable doing this exercise, feel free to try others. There are many ways to practice mindfulness, and they all have the chance to provide you with excellent benefits to your health. As long as you are patient enough to see the process through, you have the opportunity to improve your mental, emotional, and physical state through meditation and mindfulness.