The term “mindfulness” refers to the psychological state of awareness, the practices that promote this awareness, a mode of processing information and a character trait. In other words, mindfulness is a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment, making it a state rather than a trait. Let’s put it into perspective; you’re folding laundry at home while keeping an eye on the kids. While you do this, you’re also planning the rest of your day as well as the events for the weekend. But in this rush to accomplish necessary tasks, you may find yourself losing your connection with the present. This leads to you missing out on what you’re doing and how you’re feeling. Did you notice how you felt when you woke up this morning or if the mogras have bloomed along your way to work?
While mindfulness is promoted by certain practices or activities, such as meditation and yoga, it is not equivalent to or synonymous with them. Mindfulness is a practice in itself which allows us to purposely focus attention on the present moment – and accept it without judgment. So, how does mindfulness improve our health?
1. Mindfulness Improves Well-Being
Increasing your capacity for mindfulness supports many behaviours that contribute to a fulfilling life. Being mindful makes it easier to savour the pleasures in life as they occur instead of dwelling on the negativity. It also helps us become fully engaged in the activities we’re doing in the present and creates a greater capacity to deal with adverse events. Those who regularly practice mindfulness have found themselves less likely to get caught in the worries of the future and the regrets of the past and are better able to form deep connections as their mind is not occupied with concerns about success and self-esteem.
2. Being Mindful Improves Physical Health
Heart disease is the leading killer in the world, but mindfulness can help decrease the risks or symptoms of heart disease. Those who practice mindfulness have a significant chance of reducing their systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Research also suggests that meditation can increase respiratory sinus arrhythmia, the natural variations in the heart rate that happen when we breathe that indicate better heart health and an increased chance of surviving a heart attack.
Moreover, mindfulness also helps:
- Relieve stress
- Reduce chronic pain
- Improve sleep
- Alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties
3. Mindfulness Improves Mental Health
Mindfulness encompasses two components; self-regulation of attention, and adoption of a particular orientation towards one’s experiences. Self-regulation of attention refers to non-elaborative observation and awareness of sensations, thoughts, or feelings from moment to moment. It requires both the ability to anchor one’s attention on what is occurring and the ability to intentionally switch attention from one aspect of the experience to another. Through a study comparing non-meditators and meditators, it was reported that meditators have significantly higher levels of mindfulness, self-compassion and overall sense of well-being and significantly lower levels of psychological symptoms, rumination, thought suppression, fear of emotion, and difficulties with emotional regulation, compared to non-meditators.
Mindfulness also serves as an important part of treatment in the following:
- Substance abuse
- Eating disorders
- Couples’ conflicts
- Anxiety disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Above all, mindfulness involves practising acceptance of whatever arises in your awareness at each moment. It involves being kind and forgiving to yourself and to others. The more you do it, the more effect it’ll have on you.
This video is the perfect starting point for you to embrace the practice of mindfulness.