Donald Altman—award-winning author, psychotherapist, and former Buddhist monk—probably best expressed the core principle of mindfulness with this quote from his definitive book, The Mindfulness Code: Keys for Overcoming Stress, Anxiety, Fear, and Unhappiness: "If you truly want to change your life, you must first be willing to change your mind."
But really: What is mindfulness, and what are the benefits of mindfulness?
The Mindful Awareness Research Center at the University of California at Los Angeles gives us a sweeping definition, stating that "Mindful awareness is the moment-by-moment process of actively and openly observing one's physical, mental, and emotional experiences”.
For many, this can be simple in a day-to-day sense, possibly showing up as a state of complete attention to the present, allowing one to live in the moment—without worry about the future or the past.
Read on to learn more about the many possible health and lifestyle benefits that can happen as a result of the intentional pursuit of mindfulness.
Mindfulness Can Be A Key To A Healthier Life
When the topic of health is brought up, the first thing that people might think about is their physical health. However, the possible benefits of mindfulness can all apply to other aspects of our overall health—both mental and emotional—as well.
Throughout all of these aspects of health—from mind to body to emotions—the benefits of mindfulness are ever-present in many.
To properly learn about mindfulness, it can be helpful to include mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) in our contextual understanding. This strategy is known by many as an actual mental health program that can leverage the power of mindfulness in stress reduction, possibly encouraging resiliency in those who practice it.
MBSR is thought by many to have originated from centuries-old teachings and was formally developed in the 1970s at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center by Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn—once a student of Thich Nhất Hanh.
These benefits can apply to the world of online therapy as well.
The Most Common Benefits Of Mindfulness
There are many evidence-based benefits to pursuing mindfulness. We’ve summarized some of the most notable below:
Mindfulness Can Help To Reduce Stress
Out of all of the benefits of mindfulness, stress reduction often receives the most praise. Stress can be an ever-present experience for many, so being able to feel and see the results in your life can be motivating for many.
MBSR and other associated studies have given suggested evidence that indicates that many can benefit from consistent mindfulness practices—from police officers to healthcare professionals, or veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder.
Studies, such as the linked study above, have found evidence that suggests that after just a few sessions of mindfulness-based stress reduction, individuals who had exhibited symptoms of stress were now reporting feelings of:
- Increased focus and attentiveness
- Lowered levels of nervousness
- Higher levels of perceptiveness
- Increased clarity in thought processes
- Increased feelings of calmness
Mindfulness Can Actually Make You Smarter
Many religions have made use of mindfulness in their daily practice for hundreds of years. From the range of spiritual meditative techniques often associated with Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, to the prayer-focused meditative techniques of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, the core facets of mindfulness are generally thought to have permeated all of these practices.
Research has shown strong evidence of meditative experiences that can exist in and out of religion being associated with increased cortical thickness; especially in brain regions associated with attention, enteroception and sensory processing.
Individuals with increased cortical thickness may experience a range of benefits that are associated with the variation, such as greater attentiveness, sensory processing abilities, and self-awareness.”
Mindfulness Can Help You To Get Things Done
This may seem counterintuitive to some degree since mindfulness, and the practices that surround it, can promote core beliefs like 'thinking about not thinking.' However, if one sits down and practices mindfulness for themselves, they may realize that the idea is not as farfetched as it sounds.
It has been noted how the benefits of mindfulness can assist one in aspects of their life, such as helping to deal with stress from a job or within a difficult family dynamic. In addition to this, many sources suggest that mindfulness can promote an increased attention span and a higher degree of focus in your everyday life.
In this digital age, where information and distractions are both just a button press away, being truly focused and attentive to the task at hand can be an invaluable life skill to have. Mindfulness can teach focus and discipline in both mind and body, possibly allowing for greater strength and fortitude to see distractions— leaving them for when the task at hand is dealt with.
Mindfulness Might Strengthen The Body
When it comes to strengthening their bodies, many people may focus on jogging, eating right, going on a diet, or regular visits to the gym. These are generally regarded by many as great ways to take care of your body, strengthen it, and ultimately live a healthy life; however, it is important not to overlook mindfulness as a tool.
Some easily measurable benefits of mindfulness that are reported include:
- Lower heart rate
- Higher levels of brain functioning
- A reduction in psychological distress
- Increased immune function
Research has also shown that mindfulness, in conjunction with other practices like yoga, can help to facilitate recovery in breast cancer survivors. This can show promise for those with other chronic conditions, who may be looking for a low-risk and available supportive strategy to try for a higher quality of life.
How Can Online Therapy Support Those Pursuing Mindfulness?
Online therapy can be a worthwhile support to those who are working to incorporate mindfulness in their daily patterns. This type of therapeutic modality can be especially effective, connecting you to a therapist without the strain or inconvenience that an in-person appointment would potentially put on your schedule. Your therapist can then work with you on personalized exercises that can help to establish mindfulness as a go-to supportive strategy for your specific needs.
Is Online Therapy Effective
Many sources have found that online therapy can be equally as effective as in-person therapeutic treatment. The National Council on Aging has found that it can be especially useful in addressing conditions such as anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression—all of which can undermine attempts to incorporate mindfulness in one’s life.
How does mindfulness help improve a person's quality of life?
Mindfulness practice can enhance mental and physical health by reducing stress, improving concentration, and boosting overall well-being. It has also been shown to lower blood pressure and alleviate chronic pain.
How can you apply mindfulness techniques in your daily life?
You can incorporate mindfulness exercises such as deep breathing and body scans into your daily routines. These techniques can help you become more aware of your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations.
What value do you place on becoming more mindful?
Becoming more mindful can significantly improve overall well-being and equip you with the tools to handle life’s challenges more effectively. It provides numerous health benefits, including stress reduction and improved focus.
What are the benefits of utilizing mindfulness when responding to a person in distress?
Through mindfulness training, you can learn to listen attentively and respond empathetically, helping alleviate the physical and psychological symptoms of someone in distress.
How can mindfulness help you achieve health and fitness goals?
Mindfulness can help you become more aware of your eating habits, making it easier to make healthier choices. It can also help maintain focus during workouts, directly impacting your fitness levels. There are many health benefits of mindfulness that can contribute to a fitness journey.
What are the benefits of mindfulness at work, and how can we train ourselves to be more mindful in the workplace?
Implementing mindfulness programs in the workplace can boost productivity and reduce stress. Formal meditation sessions could also be integrated into the workday to help employees become more mindful.
How can the practice of mindfulness help a student prepare for an exam or assessment?
Engaging in mindfulness meditation before an exam can help focus the mind and reduce anxiety, possibly improving academic performance. Being in the present moment can help in better concentration and information retention.
How can practicing mindfulness help students deal with stress?
Mindfulness techniques can alleviate psychological symptoms like stress and anxiety in students. Focusing on bodily sensations through breathing exercises can offer immediate relief for many individuals.
How do you practice mindfulness and focus on the present?
One of the best ways to practice mindfulness is through mindfulness meditation, which involves focusing your attention on your breath and bodily sensations to stay in the present moment and improve your mental well-being.
Where and how would you consider applying mindfulness?
Mindfulness can be applied in various settings, including work, home, and even travel. A formal mindfulness program can provide structured exercises and techniques for application.
How can you incorporate more mindfulness into your life?
You can incorporate more mindfulness through habits like mindful eating, which involves being fully attentive to your food, and by setting aside time for mindfulness exercises. Pay attention to moments where mindfulness can be beneficial, like when experiencing high blood pressure or intense stress.
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