The Mindfulness Hype
“Let go of your mind and then be mindful. Close your ears and listen!”
Mindfulness is a practice that allows you to slow down and appreciate the moment and be present. It sounds easy but since many of us live in the virtual world of social media, or we live in the past- thinking about those things that happened to us or live in the future planning or worrying about those that have not happened yet. We seem to be in a constant state of multi-tasking so we’re never fully present to a single task or even to the person standing in front of us.
Being present means bringing your FULL attention to the current experience. Mindfulness can be applied to any experience such as eating, relaxing, exercising, even painful experiences whether physical or emotional. It’s being attentive to whatever you’re doing, feeling and whatever is going on in and around you.
Although mindfulness may seem like it’s just the latest buzz word in self-help programs, you may not know is that mindfulness meditation has the research to back up all the hype.
Based on the research, a regular mindfulness practice can:
- Change the structure of the brain. Eight different areas of the brain are changed with the most significant changes occurring in the frontal lobe and hippocampus which are associated with emotions and memory. These brain changes support greater self-regulation allowing for purposeful action versus an automatic reaction response. This creates emotional resilience, helping us to handle life’s challenges better. Memory and focus are also enhanced with as little as 8 weeks of practice.
- Increased immune system. Research confirms that what we think and feel can impact our immune system. Mindfulness activates the areas in the brain that influences our immune system to help it respond more effectively.
- Reduce stress. Taking time to slow down helps decrease the hormone cortisol in the body which in turn lowers stress and can reduce the risk of stress-related disease and illness. It also has been shown to increase telomere length which is related to a longer life span.
- Reduce Pain. Yes, mindfulness meditation can reduce pain and help those who have chronic pain conditions, manage the discomfort more effectively. The research also shows that those who practice regularly have an increase in vitality and zest for life.
- Increase quality of life. Mindfulness participants report lower depression, anxiety and overall have less negative thoughts and feelings versus those who do not practice mindfulness. In addition, participants report an increase in empathy and compassion as well as higher relationship satisfaction.
As the research continues, additional benefits are being discovered that indicate that mindfulness can also aid in treating PTSD, ADHD, mood disorders, and other psychological issues, however, the overall physical , mental and emotional benefits to everyone makes this a practice that should be incorporated in everyone’s life.
If you haven’t tried it yet, here are a few exercises to try.