Mindfulness - 5 Amazing Benefits and How to Achieve Them
Post written by Haridas Pal. Content reviewed by Emily Garber, APRN
Mindfulness is the human mind's ability, gained through practice, to be wholly awake to its surroundings, the present moment, and the incoming stimuli. It's the practice of being aware of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations of the moment.
Who should practice mindfulness? The simple and precise answer is - EVERYONE! The digital age with its phenomenal pace and growth throws our way its own set of challenges. Stress is now increasingly transferred from our body to our mind. In our everyday lives, the mind is all over the place, and often gets disconnected from the body. The purpose of mindfulness is to gather the body and the mind back together.
Let us now take a look at these 5 amazing benefits of mindfulness:
1. Better concentration: Mindfulness helps enhance concentration by cutting out distractions. Better concentration naturally enhances memory.
2. Reduced stress: Stress is the single greatest detriment to a productive and fulfilling life, and often leads to chronic medical conditions like depression and anxiety. Structured mindfulness exercises will calm your mind and fortify you better to cope with stress.
3. Regulated emotions: Emotions can often sweep you off your feet and catch you off guard. This is another scenario where mindfulness does the trick by regulating your responses to sudden and unforeseen emotional stimuli.
4. Improved relations: Mindfulness will invariably have a positive impact on your personal relations. It will make you more open and accepting toward your partners, parents, or siblings. It will help you tone down your emotional reaction toward the people who matter.
5. Improved physical health: Our body and mind work hand in hand. Practicing mindfulness can and does bring about unmistakable improvements in your digestion, bowel movements, and sleep pattern. Researches have also shown that mindfulness helps improve chronic ailments such as lower back pain, neck stiffness, muscle stiffness, Type-2 diabetes, and the like.
Mindfulness can be achieved on two levels:
1. The basic level that doesn't require much practice or concentration. This is more suited to you if:
• You are a beginner, OR
• You have only a couple of minutes in your hand, OR
• You don't have a secluded spot right now
2. The slightly more advanced and more structured level
At the BASIC level, practice the following exercises:
• Pay attention: Be consciously aware of at least five sounds you hear, at least five objects you can see, and at least three smells you can remember.
• Focus on your breathing: It's amazing how we perform such a vital function as breathing, without being consciously aware of it! Try to focus on the airflow through your nose and mouth as you inhale and exhale and try to do it slowly, taking all the time to cherish what an awesome function your body performs.
• Relax your muscles: As you start practicing mindfulness, you'll be surprised to find how many muscles you keep taut without realizing it! It's time to unclench your jaws, un-frown your brows, and un-stick your tongue from the roof of your mouth!
At the more ADVANCED level, mindfulness can be attained through the following exercises:
• Body scan meditation: Lie on your back with your legs stretched out and your arms on your side. Slowly bring your focus to each part of the body, moving up from your toes to your head. Try to be aware of any sensation associated with each of the parts.
• Sitting meditation: Sit comfortably with your legs crossed and back straight. Try to focus your concentration on the space between your eyes, without straining too hard.
• Walking: Select a stretch of two or three blocks in a relatively quiet neighborhood. Start walking slowly from one end of the stretch to the other. Bring your focus to the working of your legs, then your upper body, then your hands, and finally how the entire body works in unison.
Mindfulness is all about enjoying the process as you go. Do not fixate on how close you get to your goal, and how quickly. In fact, do not set any fixed goals because there are, in fact, none! Mindfulness is a lifestyle and not a target to be achieved.