If you haven’t noticed the influx of Internet musings on mindfulness, then I know no other explanation except that you’ve been living in a cave meditating and being mindful.
Mindfulness has become the craze these days. I’m sure it can get annoying to people. Sometimes it comes across as haughty, arrogant or spiritually snobby. Some people assume that if someone claims to practice mindfulness, that they think themselves perfect, holier-than-thou. You know, like, a mindful person never flips out, honks the horn at someone driving too slowly, and never ever yells at his or her kids.
Not true. Mindfulness is really like a kind of training for the brain. It’s exercise. Just because you go jogging everyday doesn’t mean you are perfect, right?
Mindfulness practice is just that: practice.
Practicing mindfulness everyday can do so many great things to your brain. Here are 15 scientifically/clinically supported benefits of being mindful that was published in an article on the American Psychological Association’s website (http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner.aspx).
Reduced rumination: You know those nights where you can’t fall asleep because you can’t stop thinking about things? Mindfulness can help slow your brain down when you need to.
Reduced Stress: This one is simple. If you aren’t stewing about things as much, you will be less stressed out. Enough said.
Boosts to working memory: Working memory is short-term memory. It can be understood as a temporary holding station for all the things you see, hear or experience throughout your day. People who practice mindfulness, particularly mindfulness meditation, have improved working memory. It’s like your brain’s notepad as go about your day. The better your working memory is, the better you will learn new things, remember telephone numbers, appointments, to-do’s, and be able to manage your daily life.
Focus: Practicing mindfulness can increase your ability to focus on a particular task for longer periods of time. This has been supported through scientific, neurological studies for many years now. Mindfulness and meditation increases your ability to pay attention.
Less emotional reactivity: If you practice mindfulness you start to realize your thoughts and feelings are only temporary moments you do not have to react to. You realize this because you practice seeing them from a neutral perspective. You are not your thoughts and feelings. Thus, you get used to not automatically reacting to them when emotions occur.
More cognitive flexibility: This mean you are able to switch back and forth between two concepts. We take this skill for granted, but it we didn’t have cognitive flexibility, we would exhibit extremely autistic characteristics. We would be completely thrown off if we were, say, talking to someone about work, and then they ask you if you’re going on vacation. Simple tasks like this would be impossible without cognitive flexibility. Mindfulness increases our ability to multitask and learn new and complex concepts.
Relationship satisfaction: Mindfulness can improve the way we communicate with our partner, it can improve our ability to listen, and to see situations with our partner in a more objective way and react, therefore, less emotional.
Enhanced self-insight: Practicing mindfulness helps us to become more self-reflective. We realize we are not our thoughts and feelings, and thus are better able to reflect about what we are feeling and thinking without judgment, without getting ourselves into a tizzy.
Enhanced morality: This one is kind of a result of the rest on this list. If we are more self-reflective, less emotionally reactive, better able to think, etc., we will be better able to behave in ways that are in line with our moral beliefs.
Enhanced intuition: Being in touch with our own inner world, and approaching it without judgment, as well as being better able to focus on all the things we experience in our daily lives help us tune into our intuition. We are better able to decipher between our erratic thoughts and our inner voice of wisdom.
Improved fear modulation: Mindfulness helps us be in a state of neutrality, which helps us manage our fears more effectively.
Increased immune functioning: Some studies have shown that all this mindfulness stuff actually improves our immune system. Makes sense, since stress lowers our immune system functioning, and mindfulness lowers stress.
Increased information processing speed: Mindfulness has been shown to improve our processing speed, which means we are able to understand and process information much faster. In other words, we can learn things faster. Pretty awesome! We need to teach mindfulness to our children!
Increased well being: If you’ve read the rest of the list, this one and the next one should be pretty obvious.
Reduced psychological distress: See point 14.
If you practice mindfulness, you will be better able to cope with difficult thoughts and emotions without becoming overwhelmed or shutting down emotionally. Pausing and observing the mind can help to resist become sucked into the situation. Mindfulness weakens the chain of associations that keep people obsessing about their problems. Focusing less on problems or failures helps people to not quit, and instead, keep trying. In other words, mindfulness promotes resilience.
So there you have it! This is why I’m so passionate about mindfulness! It is a relatively easy way to train your brain! There’s no need to go live in a cave as a monk and meditate and fast all day long. Mindfulness can be practiced throughout your day, regardless of how busy or distracted you are! That’s why I love it!
What do you think about mindfulness? Have you tried practicing it yet? Let me know in the comments section!