Updated: Oct 8
Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present in the moment; maintaining an awareness of your thoughts and surroundings. Below is a list of the benefits that come with mindfulness and how to practise it
1. Increased awareness
Mindfulness practice can help you become more aware of your thoughts. This can increase your capacity to deal with stressful situations and disempower negative feelings.
Additionally, having an increased awareness of your surroundings and interactions with people can provide a greater appreciation for the present. This way you can be fully engaged in activities and conversations.
2. Reduced stress
Mindfulness practice has been shown to reduce the activity of the amygdala, the primary centre for stress. This can improve emotion regulation during stressful situations allowing you to remain calm and find an effective resolution.
A clinical trial by George Town University on the efficacy of a mindfulness program on patients with an anxiety disorder found a significant reduction in stress hormones and inflammatory signals when placed in stressful situations. Another study confirmed interleukin-6, a stress hormone, reduction following a mindfulness meditation program.
In a review of 47 clinical trials on mindfulness meditation programs, it found “small improvements in stress/distress and the mental health component of health-related quality of life.”
Overall, mindfulness practice can help you respond to stressful situations without having to initiate your stress response.
3. Better eating habits
In practicing mindfulness you are more likely to make healthy food choices, because you begin appreciating the experience of food rather than restricting your diet. It also helps in recognising when you are hungry or full, which can help with maintaining healthy glucose and cholesterol levels.
Many studies have shown that mindfulness does not necessarily cause an automatic self-regulation in eating habits, but rather deliberative self-control in response to food stimuli
A weight-loss study in the University of California studied the effects of mindfulness on weight loss in obese individuals
194 adults were split into two groups, a control and a mindfulness intervention group, for 5.5 months. Both were given the same diet and exercise guidelines. It was found that after a year and a half, the mindfulness intervention group had lost 3.7 pounds more than the control.
Having an awareness of what you eat can, therefore, transform our relationship with food, and minimise health risks associated with unhealthy eating.
How to practice mindfulness?
This is a form of meditation that helps you become more aware of your breathing. To do this ensure that you are in a quiet environment and sitting in a comfortable position.
Sitting cross-legged is the recommended position as it provides you with a stable base, but if this is not comfortable for you feel free to try something different.
Begin by taking a deep breath in, followed by a deep breath out, focusing your attention on sensations of the breath.
It is completely natural for your mind to begin to wonder, so gently return your attention back to your breathing.
To make things easier you can set a timer before you begin this process.
The more you practice this form of meditation, the better you will become at maintaining a constant awareness of your breathe. Over time, you will also become more aware of your thoughts outside of the mindfulness practice
Sometimes our thoughts can be overwhelming, so taking a step outside for a quick walk can be a great way to relax our minds, especially through your local park/ woods. Really try to focus on your surroundings to develop a habit of awareness in the present.
Start a journal
Starting a journal can really help you find some clarity in your thoughts, giving you time to assess and evaluate certain situations and come to an effective solution. Journals are also a great tool for self-exploration, giving you an opportunity to reflect and ponder upon the layered meaning behind your thoughts. They can also be a great way of disempowering negative feelings, to help you feel refreshed and motivated.
Stop, Breathe & Think