What Can 'Mindfulness' Do For You And Your Health?
The science behind happiness and health can be fairly clear when it comes to the physical. Maintain regular exercise with a well-balanced nutritious rich diet. But what about your mental health?
Getting that balance between looking after you mind as well as your body, is essential for your long term wellness and wellbeing. The practice of “mindfulness” has gained a lot of traction in the health and fitness community recently, and taking the time to be more mindful can bring an array of benefits to your health.
What does mindfulness mean?
There are a few slightly varying definitions of mindfulness out there, but essentially it boils down to a simple form of meditation, which focuses on achieving a nonjudgmental state of mind, through creating an overall feeling of relaxation and calmness. Keep in mind that it doesn’t necessarily require a meditation practice, it’s a psychological process, designed to bring your attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in your everyday life.
The actual term itself is derived from ancient Buddhist traditions, with the word mindfulness corresponding to the Pali term, sati. The actual meaning of the term has been up for debate, but roughly translates to mean,”to remember.”
Practicing mindfulness can help you attain a heightened awareness of your own thoughts, in order to help alleviate the day-to-day worries and stresses that are weighing on your mind. When put into practice with other training, mindfulness is also used to reduce the symptoms of depression, and anxiety.
What does it include?
Putting mindfulness into practice typically involves entering into a meditative state, where you focus on your breathing and allow your thoughts to concentrate on the present moment. There are a number of meditation exercises that can help you develop your mindfulness.
One of the most effective techniques is to sit comfortably and cross-legged on the floor, a matt or a cushion, and simply close your eyes. Let your mind concentrate on the sensations of your abdomen as you slowly breath, in, and out. Try to control your breathing as much as possible, paying attention to your rhythm. If your mind starts to wander, just accept it in a non-judgmental way, then allow it to gently return to focusing on your breathing.
Other meditative exercises for mindfulness include various yoga techniques, which draw attention to your body’s movements and sensations, while still focusing on the sounds, thoughts and feelings that are happening in the present moment.
What are the other ways to be more mindful?
It’s not just meditation that’s recommended to achieve mindfulness, there are a number of everyday activities you can adopt to stay calm and centered, such as:
- Going for a walk – in a peaceful outdoor environment is a simple way to calm your mind and escape from any negative daily distractions. It’s a good way to reflect, gain a better perspective, and achieve a greater awareness of current situations.
- Getting creative – if you’re struggling with a silent meditation exercise, you could try engaging in your favourite creative activity. Whether it’s drawing, writing, baking, or just singing in the shower, being creative and achieving mindfulness go hand-in-hand.
- Multitasking less – can help put less strain on your mind and keep you living in the present. Focus solely on one task as once, and take regular breaks before continuing or moving on to another task.
- Reducing screen time – and maintaining a healthy relationship with your mobile devices, is essential for mindfulness. Try limiting your usage, by keeping your phone in a separate room when you sleep, turning it off in the evenings, and looking up from it and into the eyes of those you’re interacting with.
- Focusing on food – is essential when you want to look after your body and mind. Be more conscious of what you put into your body. Stop reaching for junk food, listen to your body, and make sure to nourish yourself with healthy meals, prepared with care.
How can it help you?
By taking the time to practice mindfulness, you’ll come to realise that any negative thoughts are just that, thoughts. They are always transient, and you always have a choice whether to act on them or not.
Mindfulness is all about observing yourself without being critical. As you relax and centre your mind, drowning out daily distractions and unwanted feelings, it will help you to be more compassionate with yourself. When anxiety or stress seeps in, you can learn to treat them as if they were clouds in the sky, and watch them as they drift away.
As mentioned, your breathing is key to calming your mind, which is why mindfulness focuses so much on simply breathing in and out in a controlled way. You can direct your mindfulness internally by paying attention to your body and thoughts, externally by being more aware of what’s going on around you, or employ a combination of both.
However you achieve your mindfulness is up to you, but once you start the process of putting your thoughts back under your control, you’ll catch those negative thought patterns before they spiral, and greatly improve your overall physical and mental state.
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