What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a mental state that involves focusing your complete attention on the present moment – without judgment, analysis, or concern. It sounds a little strange, doesn’t it?
Our daily lives commonly consist of rushing from one activity to another while we worry about how we’ll respond to an email, pay the next credit card bill or deal with that client who needs something right now. But is this the healthiest way to approach life?
Mindfulness is a method of facing the events of our everyday life with both extreme focus and equanimity. While this may seem like new age mumbo-jumbo – and you may be telling yourself that you thrive on the challenge of multi-tasking; there are some real-world benefits to practicing mindfulness that are hard to ignore.
Whether you’re the head of a large company or a working mom, keep reading to discover the benefits of facing life’s challenges with a whole new outlook.
According to mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn: Mindfulness is simply paying attention to the present moment with intention while removing all judgment as if our lives depended on it, with the knowledge that the present is the only real moment we have.
Strangely enough – our lives may literally depend on taking advantage of this unique mental state.
Mindfulness Meditation Bolsters the Immune System
In a 2003 research study on the effects mindfulness meditation has on the brain and immune system; a widely used 8-week clinical training program in mindfulness meditation was applied in a work environment with healthy employees.
The conclusions were startling.
Scientists found that there were significant increases in antibody titers to influenza vaccine among subjects in the meditation compared with those in the wait-list control group. Additionally, the magnitude of growth in activation of the left side of the brain (from mindfulness training) directly correlated with the magnitude of antibody titer rise to the vaccine.
Mindfulness practice made the people in this study more resistant to disease!
Beat Stress with Mindfulness
Studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of mindfulness practice in reducing stress and anxiety levels in test subjects. By teaching an individual to focus on the present, mindfulness prevents people from obsessing on concerns that they can’t resolve by always worrying about them. Mindfulness is a way to prioritize your thought processes so you can deal with issues pragmatically – without obsessing on the problems that have no immediate solution.
Many serious health problems have their origin in chronic stress.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that sudden emotional stresses — particularly anger — have triggered heart attacks, cardiac arrhythmias, and even sudden death. While this most often occurs in people who already have heart disease, most people don’t know they have a problem until acute stress causes a heart attack or stroke.
Mindfulness will help you control your stress levels for a healthier life.
Mindfulness for a Better Memory
Researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara conducted a study of 48 undergraduate students who were assigned to either a mindfulness training class or one about nutrition to discover what effects – if any – mindfulness had on memory
A week before the classes started, the students were given two tests: a modified verbal reasoning test from the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) and a working memory capacity (WMC) test. Mind-wandering was also measured during both tests.
The mindfulness class offered a conceptual introduction to mindfulness, as well as instruction on how to practice mindfulness with targeted exercises and in daily life. Meanwhile, the nutrition class taught nutritional science and the strategies of healthy eating.
Less than a week after the classes concluded, the students were again tested.
The scores demonstrated that the mindfulness group significantly improved on both the verbal GRE test and the working memory capacity test. The students also exhibited less mind-wandering during testing.
None of these changes were true of the nutrition group.
Mindfulness improves your capacity to retain information and focus on the task in front of you.
Mindfulness Practice Keeps You Emotionally Stable
There are studies that have shown how mindfulness can decrease emotional reactivity.
Researchers compared a group of experienced mindfulness practitioners with a control group that had never practiced mindfulness. Each group was shown a series of emotionally charged pictures.
They observed that the experienced mindfulness practitioners were better able to disengage from the emotionally upsetting photos, enabling them to focus better on cognitive tasks than those test subjects who had no mindfulness experience.
Use mindfulness to disengage from distractions that keep you from giving the tasks at hand your complete attention.
Relationships Can Be Improved with Mindfulness
Studies have shown that the ability to be mindful is an accurate predictor of relationship satisfaction – defined as the capacity to respond well to relationship stresses and also to be able to effectively communicate your emotional state to your partner.
There is evidence that mindfulness mitigates the adverse effects of conflict between partners in a relationship and is frequently associated with the ability to successfully navigate a range of social situations.
Dealing with people can be difficult at the best of times – mindfulness practice is a proven way to stay calm and get the most out of your personal interactions.
What about the Workplace?
It’s true that mindfulness reduces stress and eases the emotional strain of human interaction – but does it help you at work?
Research done by Taylor and Millear in 2016 shows that employees can benefit from mindfulness training. They discovered that mindfulness helps workers to construct a buffer between themselves and their work that can prevent “burn out” and reduce turnover.
They also found out that employees who demonstrated higher levels of mindfulness are much less likely to leave their jobs for any reason.
Mindfulness is an excellent way to keep your head straight under stressful working conditions and may prevent people from walking away from their jobs due to stress.
This article covered a few of the essential benefits of mindfulness practice:
- Stress reduction that can prevent certain illnesses and improve your outlook
- An improved immune response to disease
- Enhanced memory and improved focus
- Better relationships and interpersonal communication
- Emotional stability
- Better work performance and ability to achieve your career goals
A quick online search can get you started on the basics of practicing mindfulness in your daily life so you can start reaping the incredible emotional and physical benefits of this whole new way of approaching life.