Don't discredit Mindfulness because it's a buzz word right now. Being mindful is one of the most important things you can do to improve your life!
Is mindfulness just being more aware? Or does it mean clearing your mind?
Being mindful, in one sense, is like simplifying things. Normally we try to multitask all day, worrying about 20 things while doing 10. That doesn't work too well.
Being mindful means focusing on the present moment. Being fully here in the now. It allows you to attend to what's going on right around you and inside you. It simplifies things because you get to enjoy the present moment.
Be proactive about setting aside your problems and focus on what you're doing and who you're with.
Mindfulness a gift that we don't give to ourselves much. In fact, our society teaches that we should be getting as much done as possible all the time, which leads to burnout, stress, health problems, and lower productivity.
Mindfulness, on the other hand, offers the opposite.
Benefits of Mindfulness
Mindfulness Reduces Stress
Let's start with the biggie. In today's world, we really battle stress from all sides.
If we carry around all the things we have to worry about, our mind never gets a break. That's why so many people are completely burned out, feeling down, and stressed to the point of panic attacks or needing medication.
This kind of worrying steals away any chance of joy or relaxation in our day. You probably know how it goes: you're sitting at your desk at work, stressed about a deadline, and also about a disagreement with your partner, and some tension you're feeling with a coworker, and a looming payment you're not sure how you are going to make.
Constantly carrying all of these things and feeling continued stress leads to:
As you can see, trying to keep everything on your mind leads to all kinds of problems, resulting in lower productivity and even worse things.
We might even feel guilty if we forget to worry about something. Do you ever do that? You'll finally get absorbed in something and it feels really nice, but then you remember all the things that aren't resolved, and you feel guilty for letting yourself have a few minutes.
But you need those minutes!
Being mindful and present will allow you to get absorbed in what you're doing, give it your full attention so you can do better, and you'll feel more clear and mentally energized.
Your body and brain wasn't made to handle constant stress. It's so much healthier to be present and put aside the other pressing thoughts.
Challenge yourself to be mindful in one activity a day: a walk, mediation, making a craft, writing, drawing, singing, or something else you enjoy.
Mindfulness Creates Better Health
Being mindful and present lowers our stress levels and also centers us, bringing many health benefits.
You might notice that you're calmer after practicing mindfulness, your head feels more clear and focused, you're more productive, and more alert.
Being mindful greatly benefits your mind, and that in turn benefits your body and overall health.
People who practice being mindful have higher brain function, an increased immune function, lower blood pressure, lower anxiety levels, and are more calm.
We've heard this for years, but experts were talking about meditation and yoga. Both of those are ways to be mindful!
Mindfulness Decreases Symptoms of Depression
When you decrease stress and improve your health, that can help with depression.
Mindfulness does that and more. It's been considered an effective part of overall depression treatment for a long time.
Being mindful often helps people see and acknowledge their feelings, and that leads to better coping. Being mindful and let you say, "I see that I'm feeling that way, and that's okay."
Being mindful engages the observant self, so you can notice how you're feeling, and what you're thinking, but not get completely sucked into those feelings. You can step back and analyze the situation better.
Mindfulness increases Neuroplasticity
Neuroplasticity is one of those fun words (in my opinion) that show you what they mean. Neuro, or brain, plus plasticity, or being flexible.
Think about how plastic can be soft and pliable.
Being mindful helps your brain increase its ability to change and adapt, which is pretty important to our survival even though we're not back in the caveman era.
In a simple sense, neuroplasticity refers to how our brain grows, learns, and changes. When we change our mind or learn new things, we actually make new pathways.
But this has bigger scientific implications. When someone has a stroke and has to relearn how to walk, they're actually learning how to re-circuit their brain around the damaged area.
Imagine how much stronger your brain will be if you practice mindfulness and therefore improve neuroplasticity. That's a huge advantage for dealing with all of life's curves and for any brain damage you might suffer.
Mindfulness and Illness
Studies have found that mindfulness helps people with cancer and people with chronic illness-even terminal illness.
I can see why being in the moment more would help someone enjoy life day by day. Research has found that mindfulness helps cancer patients reduce stress while relieving fatigue.
For many, mindfulness increases our spirituality and sense of purpose, and it helps people handle their emotions regarding their illness.
Mindfulness can greatly improve life for people with chronic pain, such as low back pain. It helps patients focus on something other than the pain.
Overall Benefits of Mindfulness
Being mindful and present has so many benefits apart from having a positive outcome on your health.
Your ability to concentrate will heighten, your confidence and self esteem will soar and you will experience a dramatic sense of increased vitality.
When you are no longer bogged down with the stresses of day to day life, you are receptive to opportunities that come your way and will be able to recognize them and take action.
If this is something you would like to explore further, take a look at Greg Thurston's 7 Minute Mindfulness program.