From the moment you wake up, you face many tasks and problems that need to be prioritised and addressed. Planning, processing random ideas, and daydreaming can take a toll on your body, and can lead to anxiety, stress, and symptoms of depression.
Performing mindfulness exercises can help you focus your attention away from these kinds of thoughts and connect with your surroundings.
When you hear the word ‘mindfulness,’ you often think of sitting in total silence with your eyes closed and legs crossed. Mindfulness, however, is a practice that all of you can use, especially if you live in a fast-paced society.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you concentrate on becoming intensely conscious of what you feel in the moment without judgment or interpretation.
Mindfulness has been practiced for thousands of years but has gained interest in the modern world because humans now have the ability to see the connection and structure of the brain.
It has a long tradition of practice in religion and secularism. Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism popularized mindfulness centuries ago, before it was brought to the West.
Today, mindfulness has been linked with cognitive therapies aimed at minimizing anxiety, depression, and stress. Research has learned that mindfulness plays a vital role in achieving a healthy mind and body.
What are the Benefits of Mindfulness?
Studies have discovered that mindfulness offers a lot of advantages for your overall condition. Read on to find out some of its benefits.
1. Reduces Anxiety
Individuals who encountered mindfulness-based stress reduction had remarkably less somatic distress and anxiety.
Mindfulness changes your capacity to use emotion regulation techniques, allowing you to selectively perceive feelings. As a result, the brain interprets these feelings differently.
2. Decreases the Feeling of Isolation
Carnegie Mellon University has conducted a recent study and found that a 30-minute daily meditation for eight weeks decreased the feelings of loneliness among 40 older adults.
The results are significant because reduced feelings of isolation combined with resilience and compassion can result in happiness and fulfillment.
3. Improves Decision Making
A University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) study has discovered that those who meditate long-term have bigger amounts of folding of the cortex of the brain than those who don’t meditate. These additional folds can allow those who meditate to process data quicker and avoid contemplating on past events.
4. Enhances Focus
The ‘thinking about not thinking’ practice of Zen has been reported to raise your attention through freeing the mind from interruption.
Experts noticed that brains were faster to get back to the ‘Zen mode’ even after being distracted for a considerable amount of time. Your ability to focus and hold attention even on dull stimuli improves significantly with mindfulness.
Research has also learned that mindfulness is one of the ultimate ways to strengthen your muscles linked to attention. Experienced mindfulness practitioners had higher scores in cognitive and flexibility tests.
5. Improves Creativity
Leiden University has discovered that mindful meditation enhanced both convergent and divergent thinking. Convergent and divergent thinking are the two major factors that dictate levels of creativity.
6. Boosts Moods
In a study, a group of U.S. Marines getting ready for deployment conducted mindfulness meditation two hours per week for eight weeks. They demonstrated marked developments in working memory and moods which permits short-term storage and retrieval of information.
The researchers noticed that doing mindfulness meditation in emotional and stressful situations such as going off to battle helped meditators to remain alert and not become too emotional.
7. Helps You Fall Asleep Faster
After a long and busy day, you want to hop on your bed and sleep. For some reason, your mind doesn’t want to take a rest. This happens when your physical body is tired, but your mind is overactive, according to sleep psychologists.
Here’s good news. Researchers have learned that short mindfulness meditation improved the quality of sleep among the participants of the study.
3 Simple Mindfulness Exercises
Here are simple ways to practice mindfulness:
1. Breathing Exercise
The breathing exercise is one of the simplest ways to meditate. You can do this either sitting down or standing up, but it’s better if you do this in the lotus position.
Try and focus only on your breathing for at least a minute.
The quality of your breathing says a lot about where your headspace is. If you’re a bit anxious, your breathing is more likely to feel shallow, short, or constrained. Deep breathing through the diaphragm is a simple way to relieve stress.
The four-count method is suitable if you’re a beginner. To begin, breathe in and breathe out for four seconds each. Repeat the process five times.
2. Observation Exercise
The observation exercise is designed to connect you with the wonders of the natural environment, something that you usually ignore when you’re very busy. This exercise is very dynamic because it helps you observe and appreciate simple things in your surroundings in a smarter way.
It involves choosing something in your environment and observing it without judgement for a few minutes. Focus on it and try to connect with its energy. Enjoy its simplicity.
3. Listening Exercise
This exercise is designed to unlock your ears to sound in a non-judgmental way and to teach your mind to be less swayed by the influence of past experiences and preconceptions.
Past experiences influence most of your feelings. For instance, you may despise a song because it brings back negative emotions. Having said this, the goal of this exercise is to listen to tunes from a neutral point of view with a present knowledge that’s unhindered by preconceptions.
Choose music you’ve never listened to before. You may have something you've never heard in your set or you may turn on the radio.
Final Word: Mindfulness Benefits
If you’re serious about the practice of mindfulness, commit yourself to do it daily. Make a timeframe that you can follow with ease. Re-evaluate your practice after a week and determine if you prefer to meditate for longer or shorter periods.
Have the goal to practice mindfulness every day for at least six months. As time goes by, you may notice that mindfulness becomes a natural routine.
Multiple studies have shown remarkable results, so why not give it a try? After all, it’s amazing to think that mindfulness is still practiced and being developed today after its discovery a thousand years ago.