Mindfulness is the art of fully existing in the present moment. It has roots in Buddhist meditation practices, but you don’t need to become Buddhist or learn to meditate to take advantage of its benefits. Mindfulness involves focusing on the here and now rather than ruminating on the past or worrying about the future. You will take note of your feelings and thoughts, acknowledge their existence, and then let them go without judging them.
Mindfulness is a way to stay calm, but did you know it can also have a powerful impact on your mental and physical health? Explore a few health benefits of mindfulness below.
Advantages of Mindfulness
Managing chronic pain
Chronic pain is a highly subjective experience. Only you know how you feel, and two people with the same condition may have wildly different pain levels. But in general, chronic pain can lead to a vicious cycle of physical and mental reactions that worsen the pain over time. Mindfulness helps reduce these reactions, calming your mind and body and lowering the pain you experience. It also promotes deep relaxation and sleep, which can be difficult for people with chronic pain to achieve.
Coping with anxiety and depression
People with anxiety and depression tend to spend a lot of time living in the past or the future. Negative thoughts often build on each other, leading to anxiety or depression spirals that are difficult to escape. But mindfulness teaches you to remain grounded, allowing each thought to exist without paying too much attention. And you’ll learn to stay in the present, experiencing each moment as it unfolds rather than ruminating on the past or worrying about the future.
Making healthier decisions
Most people go through the day on autopilot, paying very little attention to mundane details. Yet those details can hold powerful clues to improving your health. For example, you might feel energized after a good workout or sluggish after eating too many cookies. Take note of the connections between the choices you make and the feelings you have. Over time, you will naturally begin to make the decisions that promote health and well-being.
How can I experience the advantages of mindfulness in my everyday life?
Fortunately, mindfulness exercises are incredibly easy to incorporate into a busy schedule. While you can certainly take time out to sit and focus, you can also practice mindfulness at any time, no matter where you are (except maybe when driving).
Standing in line at the grocery store? Put away your phone and focus on the sensory details around you. Can you smell freshly baked bread? What do the magazine headlines say? Do you hear the beeping of the scanners?
Or maybe you’re waiting your turn at the DMV. This is an excellent opportunity to check in with yourself. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Scan your body for signs of tension, and work on actively releasing those tight muscles.
Mindfulness is a skill. Like any skill, you will get better at it the more you practice. As you go through your day, actively turn your attention to whatever is happening in the here and now. Note your thoughts and feelings, but don’t get lost in them. Allow them to exist and then float away. Over time, you will start to notice the mental and physical advantages of mindfulness in practice.