How Can Mindfulness Impact Your Life?

Updated November 3, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team|Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW

It's Not Always Easy To Talk About Our Thoughts And Feelings

Mindfulness is a technique that uses intentional breathing and observation to focus the mind on the present moment. It can offer a variety of benefits for both the mind and body, which may positively impact your life.

Here is a basic explanation of mindfulness, from what it is and what it does, to how you can reap some of its benefits in your everyday life.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness, in the simplest terms, is a technique that is designed around being focused entirely on the present and the feedback you receive from your senses.

The practice has its roots in Buddhism, according to historians and anthropologists, and is theorized to have begun as a meditative practice for monks and other religious figures in Tibet, India, and Japan. However, in the past few decades, mindfulness came to the West as a more secular concept.

A mindful person may display these traits, among others:

  • Hyper-awareness of their senses and the physical world around them: Someone outside who is mindful may feel the wind against their skin and take a moment to acknowledge how their skin responds. A mindful person may focus on telling objects apart from their distinct smells or by touching them and getting a good feel for the nuances of their textures. Someone who is mindful may pick apart the many sounds they hear. If they are listening to music, a mindful person may listen to the various pitches and instruments and offer a deeper analysis of the song.
  • A lack of worry about the past or future: People who practice mindfulness may try to accept the actions they have already taken because they cannot change them. This includes both past and future- a mindful person may choose not to dwell on regrets since they cannot go back in time, but they are also focused on the present moment since they are aware they cannot control the future.
  • An enhanced ability to regulate thoughts: If there are negative, worrying, or self-defeating thoughts, a mindful person can let them go by acknowledging them but realizing that they are not productive.
  • Deeper focus on the present: For a person practicing mindfulness, what they are experiencing right now is the most important thing going on, and they attempt to be hyper aware of their surroundings.
  • Meditative: Mindful people may focus on the idea that they are one with their body, and as they do breathing exercises, they feel the air going in and out, considering it to be giving their body new life as it does so.

Many diverse groups of people have discovered the benefits of mindfulness. While it's not a miracle, it is a scientifically proven way to become healthier.

Benefits Of Mindfulness

There has been much research into the benefits of mindfulness. These benefits are quite varied, affecting both the mind and body. Here are a few ways that mindfulness can change you.

Mindfulness Can Reduce Stress

Stress is a physiological response to danger, which, in our history, has motivated us to seek shelter, eat, drink, and survive. In the modern world, our bodies may at times be unable to tell the difference between real danger and inconvenience. Because of this, we can become overloaded with stress, making it hard to accomplish our tasks. This fuels a repetitive cycle that can be hard to break.

Mindfulness can help alleviate the symptoms of stress by allowing us to let go of our stressors. For instance, if there is a task to be done, mindfulness encourages you to fully focus on performing the task right now rather than worrying about the future effects of the task or any procrastination.

By using mindfulness to focus on what you can do in the present moment, you can reduce your stress and be more productive.

Mindfulness Can Reduce Anxiety And Manage Depression

Mindfulness can be a tool to help reduce the symptoms of anxiety. For example, if you experience anxiety, you may have racing thoughts. Using mindfulness techniques may help by giving you a chance to breathe and relax.

Studies suggest that mindfulness-based therapy can be effective in the treatment of anxiety and other mood-based diagnoses by instilling a sense of calm and control through repeated and regular practice.

In this same vein, mindfulness may help those who live with depression. Mindfulness allows practitioners to recognize and accept the negative thoughts that may arise as a symptom of depression without internalizing their damaging effects, allowing them to have more control over their mental health.

While mindfulness isn’t effective in all cases and is often used in conjunction with other forms of therapy including in-person and online counseling efforts, it can be a useful tool for symptom management in the moment.

Mindfulness Keeps Us Aware Of Our Bodily Sensations

If you experience an odd or unusual body sensation, mindfulness can help you to look at your sensations and see if there is an issue to be resolved. For example, performing a body scan – focusing on different sections of your body sequentially - can help you tell the difference between concerning sensations that should be followed up on with a medical professional and everyday bodily functions such as a need for food, sleep, or relaxation.

It's Not Always Easy To Talk About Our Thoughts And Feelings

Mindfulness Helps Us Enjoy the World More And Improve Empathy

Mindfulness can involve a hyper-awareness of the world and its more enjoyable experiences. For example, mindfulness can involve taking a nature walk outside and listening to the various birds, sounds of nature, and your own footsteps hitting the ground.

Mindfulness can help practitioners regain a sense of wonder and enjoyment for the natural world by allowing them to be more present in and cognizant of it.

Mindfulness techniques may also allow people to connect more deeply to each other, which can improve empathy and foster a sense of community that encourages people to work together for greater social and societal benefits. Mindfulness can mean that you speak to people and listen more deeply, offering them your undivided attention in vulnerable moments.

Mindfulness Can Make Us Live Healthier Lives

Because mindfulness has been shown to help alleviate stress and certain mental health conditions, it may also cause those who practice it to be more physically healthy. This is because a reduction in stress can reduce physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, sleep issues, and muscle pain, which can greatly improve your quality of life especially as you age.

Mindful Breathing

Since mindfulness stems from meditation, many forms of meditation have made their way into mindfulness. One such form is mindful breathing.

  1. Take a deep breath. Inhale through your nose.
  2. Focus on the feeling of the breath entering your lungs as you hold the breath for a few seconds.
  3. Exhale through your mouth.
  4. Repeat

Try to recognize, but not to focus on, any distractions around you or distracting thoughts in your head. Take a moment to observe the thought before returning your focus to breathing.

Observing The World Around You

One popular way to be more mindful is to take a walk through nature – at a park, hiking trail, or even your own back yard – and really observe what’s going on outside. Take a deep breath and look at how the trees move. Watch the bugs move through the grass. Hear your footsteps as they crunch through the leaves. Absorb nature through all of your senses.

By focusing on the physical input you receive from your senses, you can be hyper-aware of the world and allow yourself to live in the moment without stressing about future or past events.

Perform A Body Scan

Body scans, as mentioned, involve taking a thoughtful assessment of your physical condition.

  1. Lie flat on your back with your legs and arms extended in a resting position.
  2. Starting with your head, focus your attention deliberately on the physical sensations you experience at each part of your body.
  3. Take note of any emotions that you experience in association with each section of your body, but do not dwell on them.

This method can promote a stronger connection to and awareness of your body, allowing you to seek treatment for any outstanding issues and improve your health.

Seek Help through Mindfulness In Online Therapy

If you find yourself experiencing mental health issues for which you would like to seek more effective solutions, such as mindfulness, you may consider looking into therapy.

In-person therapy can be an excellent resource, but for those who have difficulty attending in-person meetings (due to scheduling issues or transportation concerns, among other factors), online therapy can be a reasonable alternative. Through online therapy, you can speak with licensed professionals from your home, and message your therapist at any time throughout the day to ask questions or voice concerns outside of regular sessions.

Online therapy that relies on the mindfulness practice has proven promising for establishing positive mental health habits through an emphasized focus on self-care and emotional regulation. It’s also been shown to foster a heightened sense of connection to emotions and recognition for stress and stress-causing factors in people’s lives, which can help to manage stress.

Takeaway

Mindfulness can be an effective treatment for a wide variety of mental illnesses and mental health conditions. It can help you feel more connected to your body, to the physical world, and to the current moment in time, while distancing you from the stresses of future events and past actions.

If you are ready to be more mindful, consider online therapy to discuss your options and learn useful methods for feeling more present in the moment.

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