Mindfulness, the state of being mindful of your inner and outer experiences, is among the most rewarding practices when done in the long term.
Those who have practised it consistently for years can attest to the mental and physical benefits they have enjoyed from it. If you are someone who wishes to understand why millions of people hold this practice in high regard and how beneficial it actually is, then read on.
When it comes to mindfulness, there are various techniques to practice and each technique comes with its own set of benefits. Here are the benefits you get to enjoy as a whole from engaging in mindfulness-based activities:
Benefits of mindfulness
- Gives you control over your emotions. As you become more and more mindful, you are able to gain control over yourself. You are better able to perceive stressful situations and have the chance to react to them in a more sober way than when they overwhelm you. Mindfulness also helps you become aware of yourself, which also gives you the mental space you need to make better decisions on how you respond to different circumstances. Research on mindfulness has also revealed that it helps with lowering levels of aggression.
- Manages fatigue and pain. Mindfulness meditation, a meditation practice for increasing your levels of mindfulness, helps you to become more aware of your negative emotions and feelings, including fatigue and allows you an easier time changing them to more positive ones. It is also known to reduce sensitivity to pain and thus help you have a more toned-down experience of it.
- Improves brain function and moods. Research on mindfulness meditation show that it improves three brain aspects, which are executive functioning, working memory, and visual-spatial processing. Other studies have shown that even four days of mindfulness training are enough to notice an improvement in attention. Also, by increasing the density of the grey matter in the brain, mindfulness has been found to have a positive effect on learning abilities, perceptive thinking, and self-referential processing.
- Makes you more compassionate. Generally, when you become more mindful, you have better control over yourself and, in the long term, this brings about peace and happiness. And when you have a good feeling about yourself, you also tend to be more of the same with other people, thereby making you more compassionate. Research also shows that people who engage in a few weeks of mindfulness are more likely to do things compassionately compared to those who don’t engage in the practice.
- Enhances the quality of sleep. By engaging in mindfulness you get to reduce the constant mental chatter that often keeps you awake, and it also helps you create a peaceful inner environment that will help you fall asleep easily and remain asleep for longer periods.
- Manages anxiety, depression, and stress. When you are mindful, you are aware of your thoughts, emotions, and feelings, including anxiety, stress, and depression, and you can react much better to them, hence reducing their effect on you.
- Improves your overall well-being. Mindfulness helps you to have a better experience of life since you are in the present moment. You are better able to relate with others, engage in various activities fully, and gain full benefits from them. Moreover, it helps you have fewer worries about the future and regrets about the past. It also reduces overthinking and racing thoughts that keep you from seeing things realistically. This and other benefits you get from it as a whole enhance your well-being.
- Strengthens your character. As you gain control over your thoughts and feelings and get better at reacting to them, you get to build your character in the process, as doing that eventually becomes a positive habit. Also, you can recover from tough situations much faster than you did before, which makes you stronger and in better control of the direction of your life and even how you relate with others.
- Increases your productivity. Mind-wandering and thoughts of tiredness are known to cause less productivity in the workplace, school, and even at home. Also, feeling exhausted after a few minutes of work makes you want to take a long break. Mindfulness helps you become aware of these aspects that reduce your performance when they start creeping in and you get to respond to them in an uplifting way that will help you keep going on with the activity.
- Increases insight. By being aware of both your inner and outer experiences, you get to discover more about yourself and your environment, as well as others. This, in turn, helps you understand how to deal with various problems you face as a person, how to make your environment better, and how to be a better friend, partner, and person in general.
How to cultivate mindfulness
Here are some of the most popular mindfulness techniques that you can work with to also boost your level of mindfulness:
- Mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation is one of the best ways to learn how mindfulness generally works – you get to experience it and start cultivating it in your life slowly. Essentially, this meditation helps you to become aware of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and sensations as they arise within you. It starts by being aware of your breath and then other parts of your body, as well as your immediate environment. As a beginner, guided meditation really goes a long way.
- Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). This is a form of training that makes use of mindfulness to help participants become more aware of the present moment and be able to manage stress, depression, and anxiety, and how they react to it. It was created by Jon Kabat Zinn and involves 26 hours of session time. This is a good way to learn about and practise deeply mindfulness in relation to other areas of your body.
- Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBC-T). This is a form of therapy that works with meditation, mindfulness, and cognitive therapy. It helps the participants to break the negative thought patterns that get them into deep states of depression and gives them the chance to manage it well. It was created by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, and Zindale Segal, and it is about eight weeks long.
- Body scan meditation. This is a practice that involves doing a general body scan while paying attention to the thoughts and feelings that come up with each body part, without forming opinions or conclusions, you just remain aware of them.
- Mindful eating. This is another practice that many people sneak into their lives that helps with keeping them more aware. Mindful eating involves taking your daily meal while being aware of the activity of eating. You put your mobile devices away and stay away from the TV as well as any other things that would keep you from concentrating while eating. This way you can be mindful of the taste of the food you are eating, how you chew, how you swallow, and everything else involved in eating without judging or making conclusions.
- Mindful walking (walking meditation). Mindful walking is the same as mindful eating since you pay attention to the activity of walking. You take note of how you take each step and what you are thinking about as well as feeling as you do it. It is normally done in an open space or anywhere you feel you have a suitable environment to concentrate. After doing it for a long time, you can then do it as you walk to work or to other rooms in your house and any other time you are walking.
- Resting awareness. This involves observing yourself while you are in a state of rest. As you take your rest, you aim to be aware of the thoughts and feelings that manifest themselves without trying to interfere with them. Thoughts come and go on their own, and you should just observe how that works without making an effort to change anything.
- Visualisation. The practice helps you focus, relax, and become calm and mindful as well. Here, you take time and visualise in your mind an attribute that exists although it can’t be touched, like happiness or love, and you explore different aspects of it as you take your time with each aspect.
How to make mindfulness work in your life
Now that you have seen how mindfulness greatly improves your life and have discovered some of the most popular methods to build it into your life, let’s now take a look at how you get started with it and make it work for you.
Getting started with mindfulness
The most recommended technique for building mindfulness is mindfulness meditation. This type of meditation, as mentioned earlier, helps you get acquainted with the general concept of mindfulness and you can get a feel for it.
When you use guided mindfulness meditation resources like videos and audios, you are given a walkthrough of what you are going to experience, why you experience that, and how to work with it by the guide.
After you have used guided meditation well enough to understand how the practice works and how to do it, you can then proceed to do it on your own. Then you can do it frequently without taking long breaks.
Making mindfulness a habitual practice
On top of mindfulness meditation, it is advisable to add other mindfulness activities to increase your level of mindfulness throughout the day.
You can choose two or three mindfulness techniques from the list above, those that you feel are a good fit for you, to combine with mindfulness meditation that you will work with for years to come.
Then you should also go ahead and reconsider your daily schedule and figure out where you can take some time to use these techniques to increase your mindfulness and make it a habit of doing them daily.
Eventually, you should aim to be mindful from when you wake up to when you go back to sleep. That is mindfulness at its best. It will take time to get there, but it is more than possible with determination and persistence.
It is also worth noting that your experience with mindfulness meditation will vary from one session to another, so don’t be worried when on some days you have an easy time concentrating and, on others, your mind wanders a lot. It is normal, and with time you will get better.
Now that you have learned how life-improving mindfulness can be, it is now your chance to make up your mind about it – follow the process you have learned here to begin working on it and making it part of your life.
David Oscar is the founder of IYBP and is always researching better ways to tap into the unused power of the brain and share them with the world.
The articles we publish on Psychreg are here to educate and inform. They’re not meant to take the place of expert advice. So if you’re looking for professional help, don’t delay or ignore it because of what you’ve read here. Check our full disclaimer.