If you spend much time on social media, you may be familiar with the buzz about mindfulness. A search on Pinterest will yield thousands of results. #mindfulness has over 4 million posts on Instagram. I did a quick search of TED talks on YouTube and found over 100 pertaining to mindfulness. There are also several hundred apps for mindfulness. It seems like everyone is jumping on the mindfulness and meditation bandwagon. And it’s not just hype. The crucial thing to know is, mindfulness actually works. It’s not just a buzz word.
Everyone is trying to sell you some peace of mind. It’s really not surprising as to why. Today’s world is loud and distracting. We have 24/7 news, 24/7 internet entertainment, cell phones that let people reach us anywhere and at any time, and a never ending supply of voices, opinions, and just plain noise. No wonder mindfulness has become such a trend. People are looking for a way to calm their worries and quiet their minds.
The good news, besides scientific proof that mindfulness works, it that practicing mindfulness does not have to be expensive or time consuming. Ten or fifteen minutes of quiet time each day is all it takes. That’s a coffee break, a few less cute cat videos, or a getting up just a few minutes earlier each day. The benefits of these 10 minutes are bigger than I expected. Research to demonstrate the mental and physical benefits of practicing mindfulness.
Proof Mindfulness Works
Mindfulness can reduce anxiety.
– A 2013 study at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) took divided 93 patients diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) into two random groups. One was treated with Stress Management Education program (SME). The other with Mindfulness-Base Stress Reduction program (MBSR). The results showed a significantly larger reduction in anxiety in those treated with MBSR. Another review of 39 other studies found similar conclusions.
Practicing Mindfulness Helps Even When You’re Not Actively Meditating
– A 2012 study from Harvard Medical School (HMS) sent healthy adults to an 8-week course on mindfulness training. The control group was given educational training, not meditation. Before training, MRI brain imaging was performed. New brain scans were performed after mediation training was completed. The results showed those who practiced mindfulness meditation had significantly lower activity in parts of the brain stimulated by emotional response. This affect was seen even when the subject was not actively meditating. The conclusions of the study were that practicing mindfulness could produce enduring benefits to brain function, especially in regards to emotional well-being.
Mindfulness Can Help Reduce Depression
– According to the American Psychological Association, there is growing scientific evidence that treating depression with Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is beneficial to treating depression and lowering it’s recurrence. Another study (JAMA Internal Medicine 2014) reported that mindfulness can have the same moderate effect on depression as medication, exercise, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. And a study from Oxford University in the U.K. found that mindfulness meditation had the same level of effectiveness as medication in preventing recurring depression.
Mindfulness Can Improve Brain Function and Cognition
– Studies, including one from 2012 reported in Consciousness and Cognition, have shown that practicing mindfulness improves not only mood, but also memory, attention levels, and time management skills. It also reduces anxiety and fatigue, two problems that can affect cognition. Studies have also found that mindfulness works in helping us make better decisions. Not surprisingly, when we stop to take a breath, we are less likely to choose rashly.
Mindfulness Can Reduce Distractions
– No, practicing mindfulness won’t keep your kids from interrupting, but it can help your brain deal better with distractions. A study by MGH, HMS and MIT found that an 8-week course in mindfulness helped increase the ability to focus and process information. Patients were found to have better control over a crucial brain wave “called the alpha rhythm. This rhythm is thought to “turn down the volume” on distracting information. This suggests that a key value of meditation may be helping the brain deal with an often overstimulating world.”
Mindfulness Had Physical Benefits Too
– Reducing stress on your brain also reduces stress on your body. This, in turn, can help lower your blood pressure, your stress-hormone levels, and even your weight. You’ll also sleep better which helps with a variety of illnesses. According to the Mayo Clinic, meditation has been shown to help people with the following medical issues: asthma, chronic pain, heart disease, IBS, and headaches.
Mindfulness Works Simply and Inexpensively
Practicing mindfulness does not need to take a lot of your time or money. Of the hundreds of apps available for guided meditation, most are free or low cost. I use Headspace. It started with 30 free sessions. I now pay a small annual membership fee. You can also finded guided meditations online. UCLA has free sessions here You can also check out the offerings at your local YMCA or community center.
What I like about Headspace is that I only need to devote 10 minutes per day. I can make 10 minutes for myself. If I had to take an hour and/or drive somewhere, it wouldn’t work for me. And all the studies I’ve read support the idea that 10-15 minutes per day is all you need to gain the benefits of mindfulness.
How Mindfulness Works
There are many different ways to practice mindfulness. Focused breathing is the most common form. You simply sit and breathe and focus only on that physical sensation. Some practices include sound, like chanting or saying one word to yourself. When your mind wanders, you simply bring it back to your breathing.
When your mind wanders, it is often headed to worries and concerns. Don’t judge your thoughts or emotions. The idea is to recognize them and then return your focus to breathing. There is no failure in mindfulness. You simply need to keep practicing.
Practicing regularly may be the most difficult part. All the studies I researched suggested that regular meditation is the key to reaping the benefits. Over time, your mind and body become stronger and healthier. Just like you won’t get stronger after doing one push up or going for one walk. You need to practice mindfulness more than a few times before you’ll see the benefits.
Favorite TED Talks on Mindfulness
Two of my favorite TED talks on mindfulness come from very different people. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. I have listened to them more than once. Practice and repetition is everything when it comes to mindfulness. The first is by Andy Puddicombe. He’s one of the people behind Headspace. The other is by Dr. Shauna Shapiro. She is a professor of Psychology at Santa Clara University who specializes in mindfulness and well-being.
More Mindfulness Resources
Besides all the ones listed above, I have a short list of other sites you can go to to learn more about mindfulness and it’s benefits. This list contains affiliate links. See disclosure page for me info.
- Mindful.org – Very thorough website
- UC San Diego Health – Center for Mindfulness at the University
- The Free Mindfulness Project – Free Resources and downloads
- 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story – Book for skeptics
- Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life – Classic book to get you started
- Zencast – Free podcasts on mindfulness
What are your favorite mindfulness resources? Have you used mindfulness practice in your life? Please tell us about it in the comments section below.
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