Listen to Your Inner Self: The Benefits of Mindfulness and How it Can Improve Your Life
Mindfulness initially started out as an ancient Buddhist practice, developed over 2,600 years ago. Nowadays, it’s enjoying a surge of popularity, as more people across the world recognise the many benefits that it can offer the mind, body and spirit.
What is Mindfulness, Exactly?
In simplest terms, mindfulness is about living in the present moment. It’s about forgetting the past, ignoring the future, and simply enjoying the state you’re in right at this second. Achieving mindfulness can, of course, be tricky. Our worries, concerns and anxieties can often interfere with the process. This is why breathing techniques and yoga are often used to help reach a fully mindful state. Mindfulness also helps us to become more aware of our thoughts and feelings, enabling us to manage them more effectively, and not become too overwhelmed.
According to a 2012 report compiled by Daphne Davis and Jeffrey Hayes PhD, previous research shows that mindfulness has a variety of key benefits. These include:
- Reduced depression. A 2008 study found that, after spending time in a 10 day mindfulness retreat, participants had fewer depressive symptoms.
- Decreased levels of stress. In 2010, a further study, featuring 39 participants, concluded that mindfulness was helpful in terms of altering cognitive processes. In simpler terms, being more mindful of your reactions to certain situations enables you to handle them more effectively, thus reducing stress.
- Memory boost. A 2010 study by Jha et al. focused on a military group, who underwent an 8 week mindfulness training session. The group were found to have improved memory capacity when practicing meditation and mindfulness, when compared to their non-mindful colleagues.
- Better relationships with others. There have been several studies exploring how mindfulness can impact upon relationship satisfaction. Evidence seems to suggest that mindfulness helps the individual to handle stressful situations or conflict more effectively, and also promotes better self-expression.
In addition to this, Cancer Research UK also recommends meditation as a helpful form of complementary therapy; recognising the potential that it has to help patients cope with pain, nausea and tiredness.
How to Be More Mindful in Your Life
- Focus on your breathing. Sit comfortably and focus on your breathing, feeling the air enter and leave your body. If your mind wanders, don’t give up, simply guide your thoughts back to focusing on your breathing. Eventually, your mind will become calm. You might not be able to achieve this initially, it can take practice!
- Enjoy the moment. At regular intervals throughout the day, take the time to appreciate your surroundings and really enjoy that particular moment in time. This is especially easy to achieve if you’re surrounded by beautiful nature, so head to the beach or local woods for some additional inspiration.
- Don’t judge. Try not to judge situations and responses, but become more accepting of them. In other words, don’t sweat the small stuff. Try to let things wash over you more, without resorting to stress, anger or anxiety.
You may also be able to find a local class in your area, which practices mindfulness and meditation. This can be an excellent way of perfecting the technique and bringing the benefits of mindfulness into your life.