When you’re constantly on the go, it can be hard to really see a benefit of sitting still. Time is a precious commodity and we’ve got plenty of things to fill it with. Why would you want to waste the opportunity? While it can seem counterproductive, the benefits are undeniable. While we all have 24 hours in the day, we’re also incredibly good at leaving very little room for rest. And not only that but keeping up with the Jones’ is hard work which also comes with a lot of stress. We have a lot to juggle: bills, social activities, work, overtime, kids, mortgage, car, loans. You might not think it, but all of this swirling in your mind is a big weight to carry and one your brain isn’t very well equipped to do 24/7. Mindfulness practice is a way to give your brain that much deserved break. This blog post dives deeper into just five benefits of mindfulness.
Five Benefits of Mindfulness:
You are probably well aware that there are countless ways to apply mindfulness to your daily life. As a whole, the practice enhances your ability to cope with stress and all the everyday activities that come with it. But what is mindfulness? As a short answer, there is no right or wrong way to practice. Some look to yoga, others prefer journaling and others again enjoy an evening walk. Mindfulness doesn’t change the outer circumstance. Rather, it can help us cope with stress by building emotional resilience. In this way, we begin to view our reactions from a more grounded perspective.
Whatever method you choose, research has demonstrated time and again that a regular meditation practice imparts immense benefit to our physiological functioning.
Stress and Anxiety
Resilience and emotional control
One study showed how certain areas of the brain experienced heightened activity and connectivity, while others experienced decreased functional activity after exposure to emotionally charged stimuli (Gotink, Meijboom, Vernooji, Smits, & Hunink, 2016). This means that the areas of the brain associated with higher-level functioning were more active, while the area of the brain that handles stress and strong emotions was less involved. These findings match the behavioral changes we see after a mindfulness program, like better emotion regulation, less reactivity, and even better performance on tasks.
Grégoire and Lachance (2015) found that call center employees who took part in a brief mindfulness intervention experienced greater satisfaction at work and also reported decreased stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and negative affect. Mindfulness can also lower the incidence of burnout and turnover at work. Researchers Taylor and Millear (2016) found that mindfulness helps employees construct a buffer between their work and becoming burned out.
Enhanced cognitive function
Various brain regions have been reported to be anatomically different between meditators and controls. These are associated with benefits like faster processing, better memory formation, and more integrated decision making (study).
Enhanced overall health
Beyond the many mental health benefits of mindfulness, it can also improve your general health. Mindfulness has been positively linked with lower blood pressure, especially when the practitioner is skilled in nonjudging and nonreactivity (Tomfohr, Pung, Mills, & Edwards, 2015).
One study showed how after just two months, meditation was enough to upregulate several genes related to “energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion and telomere maintenance.” At the same time, genes related to inflammation and the body’s stress response were downregulated.
The importance of Consistency
Just like fitness and nutrition, the winning piece to the puzzle is consistency. Any studies that have identified the benefits of mindfulness are based on a period of practice of 5-8 weeks or more. But while regular practice is vital, the time commitment needed starts at just 5-10 minutes per day. To help you stay consistent consider the following key steps:
- Pick a routine: although length and location might vary, it’s important to pick a minimum commitment with the frequency
- Pick a spot: try to practice in the same place be it your living room, bedroom or office chair.
Getting Started with Mindfulness
When starting out, it’s important not to place too much stress on yourself to ‘get it right’. It’s worth trying out a few things and find something that works for you. From there, start with just five minutes a day. You can build up from there or choose to leave it at just five minutes. It depends on your meditation practice of choice and also on your own preference. Some people find 5 minutes of journaling enough while others prefer a yoga class of 60 minutes.
An alternative idea is to try something different every day. Here’s an example:
Monday – Gratitude: write down 3 things you’re grateful for at the end of the day
Tuesday – Yoga: Whether a class or following a practice on youtube
Wednesday – Mantra: Set an intention or a mantra for the day. Focus on it for five minutes.
Thursday – Breathing: Follow the box method. Breathe in for 5, hold for 5, exhale for 5, hold for 5. Repeat the box for 5 sets.
Friday – Journaling: write down the peak and pit of your day. What are you happy with today, what do you still need to do. Write down your thoughts on paper.
Saturday – Walk: Get out in nature, alone or with the family. Switch off from all technology.
Sunday – Reflection: reflect on your week. This can be accomplished through meditation, prayer or simple awareness.