By Taylor Murphy
Days free of anxiety, the ability to enjoy good moments when they arrive, and improved sleeping habits are just a small taste of what a mindful life can bring you. While this may seem impossible considering the combination of work e-mails and endless errands, a recent study from the Journal of Research in Personality found that being mindful enhances our response to daily stress, allowing us to reap all the aforementioned benefits.
Your Guide to Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the practice of sustaining an enhanced state of awareness. It is a tool used to achieve total recognition of every thought, experience, sensation and emotion as they present themselves to you. While practicing mindfulness, these feelings and thoughts shouldn’t be judged as right or wrong, because the concept of being mindful emphasizes that there is no correct way to think or feel.
Mind and Body Benefits
Practicing mindfulness has plenty of payoff for a person’s physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. Here’s how:
- Mindfulness reduces stress levels. Aside from allowing us to perceive stress in a healthier way, a 2013 study from the Health Psychology journal found that mindful meditation – just one of the many ways to invoke a mindful state – is actually correlated to a decrease in the levels the stress hormone cortisol.
- It decreases the risk of depression. Mindfulness also has a role in lowering the risk of depression among pregnant women and teenagers, as published in the Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice journal and a study found in a 2014 issue of the Mindfulness journal.
- It decreases chronic pain. Those who suffer from chronic pain are able to effectively manage their symptoms, and even experience less pain in general, thanks to the utilization of mindful techniques, which is demonstrated in an Australian Journal of Psychology study.
- It improves focus. As far as a cluttered mind and lack of focus go, mindfulness significantly improves a person’s concentration. When tested, the researchers from a Career Development International study found that mindfulness was positively related to increased focus, and the newfound ability to avoid mental overload and burnout overall.
- It makes you more intelligent. Yes, it’s true – mindfulness can even make you smarter. A study published in the Consciousness and Cognition journal revealed that just four days of mindful meditation training improved the participants’ working memory, executive functioning, prolonged attention span and visuospatial processing.
- It helps you break bad habits. Addiction centers nationwide have been incorporating mindfulness techniques, properly deemed Mindfulness Based Addiction Treatment (MBAT), into their recovery programs. In an American Psychological Association list of findings, MBAT allowed addicts to stop, think and recognize the options they had when faced with a habit, which helped them to not pursue their desires.
Teach Yourself Mindfulness
Yes, there is an app for that. In fact, you can choose from a wide selection that will guide you through specific mindful exercises, with instructions developed by psychologists and health professionals alike. Looking for a more unplugged approach? There are other helpful ways to teach yourself mindfulness, mindful meditation being the most popular. Additionally, learning how to concentrate on your breathing for a prolonged period of time forces you to exist in the present moment, and engaging your senses helps you become increasingly aware – both of which are super easy ways to practice mindfulness.
Try a Mindful Exercise
Take a brief moment (only 15 minutes) and conduct a five-step mindfulness exercise by doing the following:
- Get rid of all distractions, shutting off your cell phone, laptop, tablet and television.
- Settle yourself into a comfortable position.
- Acknowledge all incoming thoughts and feelings, then refocus without judging them.
- Inhale and exhale slowly for 10 minutes, making yourself aware of each breath you take.
- Take note of your recurring thoughts and feelings once again, and refocus accordingly without judgment.
Although there are countless versions of a mindful meditation practice, the underlying concept of focusing on your body, breath, thoughts and feelings are universally applied to each.