Have you heard of the many benefits of mindfulness? I have spent many years trying to find an answer to all my problems. It seems crazy to think that there is a miracle cure, one solution to solve it all. Your’e right there isn’t, but by practicing mindfulness on daily basis a lot of my issues disappeared.
This sparked my interest and I have spent the last few months researching what the scientifically proven benefits are, I am going to share some of them with you today. Simply put, mindfulness is a state of being conscious, focusing your awareness on the current moment. It teaches you to become aware of how and what you think. It also helps you to understand how your thoughts impact your daily life.
Why Is Mindfulness Important?
We are faced with a rapidly changing world everyday. We are constantly forced to manage a complex array of problems, challenges and stressors. Depression and anxiety are as common as the flu. Society praises individuals who overwork, strive to be the best and exhibit little to no “emotional weakness”.
The reality is that people just can’t cope anymore. Drug and alcohol addiction is on the rise, food has become a comfort and fewer people are able to manage meaningful relationships. We are a stressed-out and exhausted society. Now, I wish I could tell you that I have the means to get rid of your stress and problems, but I don’t. What I can tell you is that there is a way you can better manage all your challenges. There is a way you can live a more fulfilling and calm life, and its quite simple – the mindful experience.
Mindfulness is the remedy we have been searching for. It wont remove the core problem, but it will teach you how to handle your overloaded plate and adjust to the increasing demands you face on a daily basis. The benefits of mindfulness are scientifically proven to regulate emotions, decrease stress, anxiety and depression. It will help improve your concentration and allow you to be more present in your life and with others.
Below are some of the most common questions we have received around the benefits of being mindful:
1. How Does Mindfulness Help Anxiety?
One of the most amazing benefits is that it reduces anxiety and depression.
Mindfulness stops the stress response from triggering in the brain. During mindful meditation you train your mind to slow down, and stop the incessant thinking and find the space to sieve through your thoughts and feelings.
When you learn to become an objective observer to your thoughts and emotions you learn to stop reacting to experiences. Instead you are able to give yourself a moment to reflect on events and feelings and come up with healthy ways to manage them. Basically, life stops feeling like a roller coaster ride.
A couple of years ago I was anxiety ridden. Honestly, I didn’t even know it, I just thought it was how I lived my life. I looked around me and all the feelings I experienced were felt by others, so I wasn’t the odd one out. Even though I was exhausted, stressed and could never sleep, there was no point in moaning, because most people felt this way. I was a young woman moving up the career ladder, stress was part of the job description.
On one particular Friday I remember feeling overwhelmed, I was completely negative and agitated. If anyone had said the wrong thing to me I probably would have exploded. Luckily a friend of mine popped his head around the corner and asked If I was okay? I literally collapsed and cried. This was a turning point in my life. I got up and called a psychologist.
My psychologist introduced me to mindfulness. Initially I was skeptical, but at the time I was desperate for anything to work. I had tried medication, other forms of therapy and even changed my diet. Nothing seemed to work. Once I started practicing mindfulness though, things started to change.
I wish I could tell you that I left my job and ran away to an Ashram to find inner peace, but I didn’t.
Having a successful career is important to me and I enjoy my life, so learning to live with my anxiety was my goal. It’s achievable – all thanks to mindfulness.
2. Will Meditation Help Me Focus?
One of the best mindfulness benefits is improved brain function. Who wouldn’t want to have an increased attention span, improved memory and better decision making abilities? Before practicing mindfulness I really struggled to focus, little issues would feel overwhelming and so my work suffered as a result. Thanks to mindful meditation, I am finally feeling clear minded and I have the mental focus I always lacked.
3. Does Mindful Meditation Increase Creativity?
How often have you felt in a creative rut? Running through idea after idea and never actually getting anywhere? It seems quite counterproductive. Mindfulness teaches you to be alive, to live with purpose and intention. It shuts out all the unnecessary noise in your head. As a result it gives your brain a chance to rest and formulate new thoughts and ideas so you can access your creative nature.
4. Can Mindful Eating Help You Lose Weight?
We often eat on autopilot mode. We sit in front of the television or behind our desks and mindlessly shove food down our throat. Consequently, we consume more than our body needs, and this leads to weight gain. Mindful eating is a technique you can use to bring your attention to your experiences of eating and drinking, and as a result lose weight. This typically involves:
- Eating slowly and without distraction
- Identifying actual hunger cues vs emotional hunger cues
- Paying attention to colors, smells, textures and flavors of food
- Noticing how food impacts our emotions and moods
- The focus shifts from eating as an emotional coping mechanism to eating to improve your over all health and well-being.
5. Does Mindfulness Help You Sleep?
The short answer is yes. Sleep is one of the most important parts of our daily routine. We need sleep to be able to function properly, it’s just as essential to our survival as food and water is. If you are struggling to fall asleep at night and find that you feel restless or tired the next day then mindfulness meditation might be exactly what you need.
6. Can Meditation Reduce Pain?
Millions of people suffer with chronic pain whether it was a result of an accident, a medical condition or injury. However, even after taking painkillers their pain will return.
The founding father of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn initially developed the mindfulness based stress reduction program to help treat patients suffering with physical pain. Mindful meditation has been scientifically proven to reduce pain by soothing brain patterns that underlie the pain.
Over time these changes alter the structure of the brain so that the patient no longer feels pain with the same intensity. Meditation for pain relief works by lowering levels of stress and therefore lowers levels of pain.
7 Easy Mindfulness Activities
If you want to beat stress, manage your anxiety and live a more productive life, mindfulness seems to be the answer. I know many of us don’t have the time to just sit down and relax or do a long drawn out meditation.
However bearing in mind the above benefits, incorporating a mindful activity into your daily routine is essential for your well being. Practicing mindfulness doesn’t have to take a long time and the beauty of mindful practice is that you can do it throughout your day, anytime or anywhere.
I’m going to cover 7 mindfulness activities that take little effort but reap massive rewards.
1.Mindful breathing – This one minute exercise can be done standing up, sitting or lying down. The aim of the exercise is to focus on your breath.
- Close your eyes or lower your gaze
- Begin by breathing in and out slowly
- Inhale slowly through your nose for 4 counts
- Hold your breath for 2 counts
- Exhale slowly out your mouth for 4 counts
- Your breathing should be comfortable and effortless
- Spend time observing your breath and your bodily sensations with each inhale and exhale
- Let go of all other thoughts, worries and judgments
- When thoughts pop up gently let them go and focus on your breath
- After one minute open your eyes and take in your surroundings
Congratulations you’ve just meditated! If you enjoyed this exercise why not try our more in depth exercise on breathing meditation exercises here.
2.Mindful coloring – Coloring can be very therapeutic. It’s a simple, fun and creative way to include mindfulness into your daily routine. An added bonus is that it reduces stress, replaces negative thinking and stimulates brain function.
Learn more about mindful coloring in this blog post. If coloring isn’t really your thing you could always try your hand at mindful drawing. Read our article on mindful drawing here.
3.Mindful driving – Many of us drive on a daily basis whether it’s to go to work or to drop the kids off at school. Why not take this as an opportunity to practice mindfulness. Take a look at this blog post to learn more about how you can become a mindful driver.
4.Mindful walking – Believe it or not meditation can be practiced anywhere. Mindful walking is simply moving without a goal or intention. It’s as easy as being aware of each step and breath you take as you move. Mindful walking can be practiced when you are out in nature, in the city, moving between offices or around the house.
Mindful walking encourages us to become more aware of the pleasures of walking. So here’s how you do it:
- From the moment you start walking just notice how your body feels.
- With each movement pay attention to how your legs, arms and feet feel with each stride.
- Notice how your foot touches the ground and become aware of how your body moves as you take each step.
- As you walk around take in each sight, smell and sound as if it is the first time you are experiencing it.
- If your thoughts start to wonder gently bring your attention back to your strides.
- Acknowledge all sensations, thoughts and feelings that arise without judgement.
- Try not linger on one particular thing for too long.
5.Mindful Eating – We live in a society where we eat mindlessly. How often have you found yourself unconsciously putting food in your mouth? Can you remember the last thing you ate and what it tastes like? Mindful eating is learning to pay attention to what and how you eat.
We have a few interesting mindful eating articles on our site for a more in depth explanation take a look here.
6.Mindful ritual – How often are your daily rituals done on autopilot (making your bed, brushing your teeth, showering or drinking water)? Why not turn it into a mindful ritual instead? All you need to do is start paying attention to the task at hand. The aim is to start breaking habits, it doesn’t have to be done slowly and you dont even have to enjoy it. The point is to challenge yourself and become fully immersed in the activity.
Brushing your teeth: What are you thinking about when you are brushing your teeth? Maybe you’re going through your to do list, thinking about dinner or not thinking at all. Tomorrow morning try and pay careful attention to all the sensations that arise while you are brushing your teeth.
- What does your toothbrush feel like against your teeth?
- What does your toothpaste taste like?
- How does it feel as the moisture builds up in your mouth?
Running on autopilot can be dangerous for your well being and this how habits take control of our life. One thing easily leads to another without any thought. It starts out simply, one minute we are brushing our teeth, getting dressed, eating breakfast and suddenly we find ourselves at work with no recollection of how we got there.
This may not seem like a big deal but these small habits eventually become larger issues. This is when we stop paying attention to our children, spouses and friends. By making an effort to adopt a mindful ritual you are taking one small step to breaking your larger bad habits. It really is that simple.
7.Mindful Gratitude practice – When you begin your day with an attitude of gratitude, you train your mind to look for all the positive things happening around you instead of focusing on all the challenges and frustrations you’ve experienced the day before.
When we mindfully practice gratitude we immerse ourselves in all the positive emotions being grateful elicits. Here are some unique ways you can practice gratitude.
Each morning answer the following questions:
- What and who are you grateful for?
- Why are you grateful for the above?
- What are you looking forward to today?
- Why are you looking forward to those things?
It is easy to make a list of all the things and people you are grateful for in your life, but in order to make this exercise more powerful it is important that you think about why you are grateful for these things. The more you elaborate the deeper your gratitude flows, this will stay with you throughout your day.
Try This Meditation Experience
We often have people telling us they cannot meditate or find long drawn out meditation a bore. The seven activities we have explained above are all different versions of meditation. If you can do them you can meditate.
For a more formal meditation experience you can try your hand at the mindfulness meditation below:
Mindfulness takes a while to master, and learn. However, with this little exercise I assure you, you will start to experience the benefits. So, the next time you feel tired, anxious or stressed, or if you feel creatively blocked and cant concentrate, take 10 minutes to practice this short mindful meditation.
Mindfulness has many more benefits. All you have to do is start practicing it to reap the rewards. If you don’t know how and where to start, why not take our FREE 7-Day Mindfulness Course and experience it for yourself?