The first big question here, is what is mindfulness? Well simply put, mindfulness is a type of self care. I’d even argue that it’s the most important type. Strangely enough, mindfulness is all about really putting your mind to work – noticing what’s happening in the present moment, whether it be in your mind, your body, or your surroundings. It’s about taking note of the small details, such as the feel of grass between your toes, or the crunch of your toast at breakfast. Ultimately, it’s about training your brain to work with you rather than against you.
Reduces stress, anxiety, and depression
Mindfulness helps to ground you, and to bring you back to the present moment. A lot of stress, anxiety and depression comes from what was or what could be. Rather than focusing on something that is out of your control, it allows you to focus on what is actually in your control. Also, you will begin to see a lot more positive thoughts when you take stock of what is good in your life.
Restores emotional control
Research has shown that practising mindfulness is beneficial for people’s emotional regulation. It gives you the opportunity to step back and assess what is going on, almost from an outsider’s perspective. What are you feeling and why? What has triggered it? These are the main questions you should be asking yourself when assessing your emotions, and using mindfulness can help you answer them. It enables you to give yourself permission for what you are feeling, as well as seeing other ways to manage it. Are there certain situations you should avoid? Certain people or subject matters?
When we get emotional, it is so easy to spiral – especially when it comes to negative emotions. It builds and it builds, until we are fit to explode. Using mindfulness, however, can help to stop it in its tracks. It allows you to take a breather.
Makes you more self aware
Practising mindfulness often changes your perception of yourself. You gain a better understanding of how your mind and body work, as well as acknowledging what type of situations to try and avoid for your own well being. Studies have shown that two months of mindfulness practices can lead to an increase in self-acceptance and self-esteem.
Improves sleep quality
Sleep is often disturbed when the mind is troubled. Whether you suffer from insomnia or have difficulty staying awake, mindfulness techniques can help. By focusing on the present and awakening your senses to the here and now, you can allow your mind to relax and switch off. Not only will this help you to fall asleep easier, it will also ensure that your sleep is of a better quality.
Thanks to the use of neuroimaging, studies have shown us that mindfulness does in fact increase focus and concentration. What it actually does is increase activity in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), which is the area of the brain that is involved in attention and executive function. This means that your level of attention increases, thereby making it easier to avoid distractions and focus on the task ahead.
Improves physical health
Many studies suggest that mindfulness can have a positive impact on your body, particularly the heart, immune system, and brain. It can help to stave off heart disease, as well as lower your blood pressure, and may even be able to slow the cognitive decline that comes with Alzheimer and ageing. This is ultimately down to mindfulness relieving you from the stress that so often impacts our physical health, as well as keeping our mind active and healthy. If you want to know more about the physical benefits, I highly recommend reading this article by Jill Suttie published in Greater Good Magazine.
Many people argue that mindfulness does in fact slow ageing – they have even done studies. It’s not difficult to see why, especially when you consider that one of the most significant causes of ageing is stress. To practice Mindfulness is to work on all aspects of your health – physical, psychological, and emotional. Taking away (or at the very least reducing) some of the main stressors in your life can have a real positive impact on your body and mind, and therefore allow your body and mind to age more peacefully and at its own pace.