Before you go strolling past this paragraph, humor me for a moment and let me clarify any misconceptions about mindfulness. In the simplest of definitions, mindfulness is intentionally focusing on the present moment without judging it as good or bad. It can include a focus on the internal (your body sensations, emotions, thoughts, your breath) or the external environment (sights you see, sounds you hear, flavors you taste, the touch of your legs on your seat).
Mindfulness may also be referenced as meditation or mindful meditation. The definitions are interchangeable so don’t get hung up on the phrasing. Mindfulness is simple yet difficult especially when you first start your practice. It doesn’t require much except for intention and practice.
Mindfulness is NOT a religion although some people associate mindfulness with spirituality as one of the benefits is experiencing a sense of connectedness with your environment. Mindfulness doesn’t cost a single penny and it doesn’t require special clothing. It can be practiced by anyone regardless of physical limitations and environment. It is essentially free medication with no adverse side effects. In fact, some of the side effects of mindfulness practice include feelings of relaxation and calm.
Thanks for humoring me now let’s get into the benefits of mindfulness. We will start with the mental health benefits and move on to the physical.
Mental Health Benefits of Mindfulness
1.A reduction in worry or rumination1
2.Fewer depression symptoms1
4. More effective cognitive processing2
5. An increase in emotional regulation and a reduction in emotional reaction2
6. Enhance attention and self-control1
7. Relationship satisfaction1
8. An increase in self-awareness, intuition, fear regulation and morality1
9. An increase in feelings of happiness and life satisfaction3
10. An increase working memory1
If the mental benefits alone aren’t enough to convince you to try mindfulness meditation, look at the proven physical benefits of mindfulness practice.
Physical Health Benefits of Mindfulness
1. Treat heart disease3
2. Improve quality of sleep3
3. Decrease physical pain3
4. Decrease stomach and gastrointestinal issues3
5. Reduce blood pressure3
6. Manage and treat binge eating2
7. Boost your immune system response4
8. Stop cellular aging2
9. Improve psoriasis4
10. Improve immune system functioning in patients with HIV4
Are you convinced yet? I understand if you are apprehensive or skeptical about mindfulness and the power it has. I had those same feelings and for the first few years of my career as a therapist I didn’t incorporate mindfulness into my work with clients nor did I practice it myself. It wasn’t until I voluntarily signed up for an intensive training on Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) that I became a believer. I started with practicing for 2-3 minutes on the days I remembered to do it. When I started to notice an increase in my ability to control my thoughts and emotions I made mindfulness a priority and committed to it. I am now practicing for 10 minutes a day and I have noticed several benefits from my practice.
I have intentionally been practicing mindfulness daily for the past 6 months. I have noticed an increase in my ability to process my thoughts and emotions without having to react to them. I have also noticed that I can let unhealthy or unhelpful thoughts go as opposed to hanging on to them like I used to. I can also say with certainty that I have been experiencing life more fully because I am noticing and embracing things I hadn’t paid any attention to before.
Simple things like sipping a perfect cup of coffee, watching my 6 year old play with his matchbox cars and listening to the raindrops outside my window are enriching experiences that contribute to an increase in my feelings of happiness and joy. These things were lost on me before I started my mindfulness practice because I wasn’t even noticing that they were occurring.
Research and my personal experience with mindfulness have convinced me that it is a cornerstone to a healthy mind. Therefore, I will be referencing it throughout my posts often. If you would like more information on mindfulness check out my mindfulness page. You have nothing to lose and a lot of benefits to gain.
1.American Psychological Association. (2012). What are the benefits of mindfulness.
2.Explore Integrative Medicine. (2017).The benefits of mindfulness meditation.
3.Harvard Health Publications. (nd). Benefits of mindfulness: Practices for improving emotional and physical well-being.
4.Linehan, M. (2015). DBT skills training manual (2nd ed.). New York, NY, US: Guilford Press.