It’s likely that you’ve heard of the term ‘mindfulness’ before. It’s a fairly simple word that suggests you’re fully aware of what’s happening, what you’re doing and how you’re interacting with the environment around you.
While this may sound trivial, often we can find ourselves distracted by the fast pace of daily life. Our lives can cause us to stray from the simple act of staying in touch with our bodies and wider surroundings and instead force us to obsessively concern ourselves with matters relating to work, our relationships, money and just about anything else. These unwelcome obsessions can cause us to become anxious and for the many of us who suffer from existing health conditions, it can make us feel worse.
Mindfulness is a basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing and not overwhelmed by what’s happening around us. However, it is an ability that we may need to practice, especially if we have lost our innate habit.
No matter how far our distractions take us, mindfulness can help to bring us back to the present in what we’re doing and how we’re feeling. It can also be a profound help for those of us living with illnesses that may affect our daily lives.
To take a deeper look at how mindfulness can benefit all of us, let’s explore what the term actually means, how it works and the 5 proven benefits:
What is Mindfulness
Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment level of awareness surrounding your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and the wider environment.
Practising mindfulness also revolves around acceptance. It means that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them and without seeking out ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ solutions to the way we interpret things. When mindfulness is practised, our thoughts can tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment, rather than conjuring up memories of the past or looking to the future.
Mindfulness is linked to Buddhist meditation, but in recent years the practice of mindfulness has been adapted for western mainstream audiences. Over time, there have been countless studies that have documented the physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness in general and MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) – which has been adapted to help the lives of students, patients, veterans, prisoners and many more members of society.
How to Practice Mindfulness
Technology has paved the way for more of us to practice mindfulness in a way that suits our needs. Today, app stores feature countless mindfulness applications – many of which are free to download – that can help us to focus and find peace of mind in a way that best suits us.
While mindfulness might seem simple, it’s not necessarily that straightforward to practice. Many of us can work on our mindfulness in any way we like, but making the time each day to clear our minds of our distractions can be difficult. However, here’s a quick look at how you can act to practice mindfulness wherever you are:
It’s as simple as that. However, there are many interpretations of mindfulness that can work for you, so it’s largely about finding a pattern that you’re comfortable with and that you can feel the benefits of.
5 Proven Benefits of Mindfulness:
There are countless studies that have found connections between mindfulness and countless health benefits. To look at these tried and tested benefits in more detail, let’s explore five key perks:
The most commonly known benefit of mindfulness and meditation revolves around its ability to lower stress and anxiety levels.
By training your mind to abandon thoughts about your daily stresses at work or about money, and to simply focus on your breathing in the here and now, it can have a profound effect on your wellbeing.
In fact, according to a 2013 Massachusetts General Hospital study, 93 individuals with DSM-IV-diagnosed generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) were randomly assigned to an eight-week group intervention with mindfulness-based stress reduction, or to a control group. It was subsequently found that the mindfulness-based stress reduction program was associated with far lower levels of anxiety among individuals.
Another study published in March 2016 in the Journal of the American Medical Association found mindful-based therapy can improve symptoms in adults suffering from chronic lower back pain.
Furthermore, a study from around the same time in The Journal of Neuroscience found that mindful meditation can help to ease chronic pain by using a different pathway in the body than that which is used by typical opioid painkillers.
This means that individuals who suffer from chronic illnesses or struggle to find comfort in their day-to-day lives can find peace of mind through mindfulness practices.
According to Dr. Golubic, the meditation practice along with yoga has been shown to decrease inflammation in white blood cells: “The higher inflammation you have the more pain you have. The way that aspirin, ibuprofen, all of other NSAIDs, work is they inhibit those pain mediators that are inflammatory,” he explained.
If meditation really does reduce inflammation, then it’s likely that this might be the mechanism that reduces feelings of pain, Golubic concludes. Although more studies will be needed to verify the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation in this way, it appears as though the practice can largely help individuals to manage their illnesses and the pain that they may feel.
Mindfulness has shown great promise for individuals in recovery from physical and mental health issues like stroke, traumatic brain injury, addiction, depression and other mental illnesses.
Much of these health issues negatively alter the wiring of the brain, overriding its normal functioning. However, the brain is neuroplastic so, for many changes that may occur, they can also be worked on through practice and perseverance.
In the case of traumatic brain injuries, these tend to be physical changes that can negatively impact the brain’s circuitry. However, for those with addictions to alcohol or drugs, the substances alter the structure of the brain so that it becomes reliant on it to take the place of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.
Mindfulness and meditation can help to return the brain to more normal functioning for individuals in various states of recovery. Because they’re focussed on calming the mind, the brain becomes more efficient at handling routine tasks, as well as generally improving mood, relationships and the patient’s outlook on life.
Better Mental Health
Mindfulness encourages you to slow down and to gain a deeper sense of self-reflection. It can also help you to discover positive attributes about yourself.
According to Brian Wind, Chief Clinical Officer at JourneyPure, mindfulness “helps increase self-awareness by increasing the ability to examine one’s thoughts and feelings without judgment, which ends up improving self-esteem.”
Researchers at Stanford University have also found that meditation can help individuals to overcome feelings of social anxiety. In a 2009 study published in the Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 14 participants with social anxiety disorder participated in two months of meditation training and agreed that they felt decreased levels of anxiety and a greater feeling of self-esteem after finishing the program.
Better General Health
Alongside the many mental health benefits attached to mindfulness, it can also significantly improve your general health.
For instance, a study of how the two facets of mindfulness impact health behaviours found that practising mindfulness can enhance behaviours related to health – including the act of getting regular check-ups, being more active physically, using seat belts and avoiding harmful substances like alcohol or nicotine.
Another study on mindfulness and health illustrated how the practice is related to better cardiovascular health through a lower incidence of smoking, more physical activity and a healthier BMI (body mass index).
Furthermore, mindfulness has been positively linked with lower blood pressure – particularly when the practitioner is skilled in non-judging (experiencing thoughts and feelings without judging them or criticizing oneself) and non-reactivity (allowing thoughts and feelings to come and go without reacting to them or getting caught up in them).
In a study constructed to focus on the impact of mindfulness on the psychological and physical health of overweight or obese adults, researchers found that mindfulness aided patients in losing weight and improving their diet and general attitude – all while decreasing incidences of depression and anxiety.
Including MedicAlert in your practice and daily life
At MedicAlert, we’re passionate about providing you with peace of mind in a similar way to that of the mindfulness measures that you can take to manage your health. Our medical alert services and medical jewellery are designed to provide you with the confidence you need to live your life to the full and avoid feeling burdened by any perceived limitations.
By setting up a medical ID with us, you can continue doing the things you love in confidence, knowing that you’re well covered should a setback occur. By combining MedicAlert with mindfulness, you can live a comfortable life, supporting your ongoing physical and mental health.
This content was originally published here.