Ten Reasons to Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness can be defined as giving complete attention to your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment in the immediate present while maintaining a non-judgmental focus. The process of becoming more mindful doesn’t have to be complicated. Paying attention to your breathing, noticing the sights, sounds, and smells around you, and focusing on tactile sensations can help you realize that thoughts and emotions are evanescent. They don’t define you. Following are ten reasons to practice mindfulness.
- Being mindful means being awake. Focusing incessantly on the past or future separates your mind from the here and now. When this happens, your life is slipping away before your very eyes without you even realizing it.
- The more mindful you become, the less likely you are to take the Universe personally. The Universe is everything that existed in the past, exists now, and will exist in the future, and this is probably a narrow definition. Accordingly, taking the Universe personally when things aren’t as we wish demonstrates a form of irrational futility that often leads to mental and physical problems. On the other hand, observing the immediate present objectively clarifies perspective and engenders unexpected and illuminating insights that invariably expand awareness.
- Research shows that practicing mindfulness inspires positive emotion and reduces mood disturbance and stress. As the study “Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: A review of empirical studies” suggests, mindfulness becomes a safe, rational way to fight depression. Perhaps best of all, positive emotion through self-awareness leads to self-regulated behavior. One no longer has to play a leading role in the life of the marionettes.
- Mindfulness changes the way your brain functions. Specifically, it increases gray matter density in the regions of the brain linked to learning, memory, metacognition, emotion regulation, and empathy. Since mindfulness reduces distractions, strengthens memory, and heightens attention skills, it creates a dual transformation: the practitioner becomes hyper-conscious of his or her immediate environment; the practitioner can interpret, plan, and manage that environment with greater celerity.
- Mindfulness liberates us from the tyranny of old mindsets. Greater psychological flexibility leads to a stronger sense of belonging, more competence in performing tasks of all kinds, and the ability to adapt more easily to varying challenges. It “spans a wide range of human abilities to: recognize and adapt to various situational demands; shift mindsets or behavioral repertoires when these strategies compromise personal or social functioning; maintain balance among important life domains; and be aware, open, and committed to behaviors that are congruent with deeply held values.”
- Of vital importance, mindfulness can lead to better health. A recent study indicates that practicing mindfulness on a regular basis boosts the immune system. Specifically, “findings demonstrate that a short program in mindfulness meditation produces demonstrable effects on brain and immune function. These findings suggest that meditation may change brain and immune function in positive ways and underscore the need for additional research.”
- War veterans benefit from practicing mindfulness. It can reduce Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Researchers Barbara L. Niles, Amy K. Silberbogen, and Julie Klunk-Gillis state, “As we investigated various approaches, we found that Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program had proven to be effective at alleviating chronic pain and depression, two common problems for veterans with symptoms of PTSD. What’s more, when practiced regularly, research suggests mindfulness can also calm the body and mind, making it a good fit for addressing the hyperarousal symptoms of PTSD, such as intense irritability and trouble sleeping.”
- Practicing mindful eating habits can help you lose weight and better enjoy the dining experience. Jean Kristeller, a professor emeritus of psychology at Indiana State University, discovered that it’s “possible to teach people with eating disorders to become refocused on their internal hunger and signs that they were full—and develop a more accepting approach to food and eating,” which fit with her “theoretical model of reconnecting people with their inner experiences.”
- Mindfulness usually inspires more compassionate and altruistic behavior. This more humane behavioral vision can even carry into economic policy, shaping healthier pro-social behaviors that might ensure mankind’s survival in the coming years. As the Mind & Life Institute notes, “New research in both economics and neuroscience reveals a much richer and more complex picture of humanity, where altruism and compassion are not only part of the equation but also can be encouraged and learned. Further, research is revealing that pro-social behavior is critical for the survival of humanity, while egoistic and non-altruistic behavior are antithetical to human well-being.”
- This means that mindfulness also enhances our ability to develop and maintain healthy, happy relationships. At the very least, this is something everyone should be able to share on a regular basis, regardless of life’s challenges and for as long as humanly possible.