The Benefits of Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness is being present and being aware. Mindfulness practices increase our ability to be present and aware.
‘Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally.’
– Jon Kabat Zinn Professor of Medicine Emeritus at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
Psychological benefits of mindfulness – less stress and anxiety
Many scientific studies have found there to be benefits in regular mindfulness practice. These benefits include:
- Reduced stress, anxiety and depression
- Better sleep
- More self-acceptance
- Increased self-awareness and emotional intelligence
- Greater relationship satisfaction
- Better focus and concentration
“The research tells us that practising mindfulness does have some benefits for mental health wellbeing and for managing depression and anxiety. It is also helpful when it comes to managing some long-term physical conditions.” – Dr Grant Blashki is a practising GP and Beyond Blue’s lead Clinical Advisor
Being more present and aware …
• Makes us less reactive — less likely to act out of anger, being hurt, fear and so on. We are less reactive because we do not feel so threatened by circumstances, our own thoughts and emotions, or other people.
• Gives us more choices and options – more freedom. We have the opportunity to work with difficult situations (a relationship breakup, an argument, feeling angry, scared) in new ways. This means we have the opportunity for new and often surprising outcomes. We don’t go on repeating the same mistake or habit pattern again and again and again. These choices, options and different outcomes give us a feeling of empowerment and freedom.
“Multiple scientific studies have demonstrated effects of mindfulness on wellbeing, as well as effects of mindfulness on brain function and brain structure. The neuroscience community accepts these facts. There is no debate surrounding the potential for mindfulness to deliver positive benefits for individuals” — Dr. Bechara Saab Phd. Neuroscientist Mobio Interactive, CEO & Chief Scientist.
Physiological benefits of mindfulness
Formally practising mindfulness engages the parasympathetic nervous system. This means that
- our breathing slows
- our blood pressure drops
- our heart rate slows
- oxygen in our blood increases
- our muscles relax
- our mind feels more spacious
Over time and with consistent practice the parts of our brain that activate when we are relaxed become more naturally accessible as those neural pathways are strengthened (just like when you learn a musical instrument, it becomes easier and easier to play over time as you practice).
This is why many studies show that regular formal mindfulness practice leads to less stress, anxiety and depression.
“For all of us, our minds often tend to get caught up thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Mindfulness helps you to keep your thoughts in the present moment. As you practice, you tend to get better at calming the mind and keeping things in perspective.” — Dr Grant Blashki GP and Beyond Blue’s (beyondblue.orgh.au) lead Clinical Advisor
Locking in the benefits of mindfulness
Over time and with consistent practice the parts of our brain that are stimulated when we relax become more accessible. Just like when we learn a new skill, musical instrument or language we find it becomes easier and easier over time, so to does mindfulness and the resulting relaxation.
How do you practice mindfulness?
Formal mindfulness practice
Formal mindfulness practice is practicing a mindfulness meditation. This means sitting (or lying) for a period of time in a relaxed, un-distracted and focused way. The more you practice the easier it gets. Just physical exercise, mindfulness exercises need to be practiced regularly, consistently and over a period of time for the benefits to occur.
Informal mindfulness practice
Informal mindfulness practice is when we bring mindfulness to all aspects of our day-to-day life, being aware of our thoughts, emotions, feelings and the environment on a moment-to-moment basis from doing the dishes, to eating to talking and listening.
“I feel calmer. I am able to use techniques when my triggers go off. Using the meditation at night has allowed me to get a better night’s sleep.” — Sue Mathew
Learn Mindfulness and Meditation With a 4 Week Introduction to Mindfulness and Meditation Course
Find an Introduction to Mindfulness and Meditation beginners courses near you now…
“Since doing this course, I have been sleeping much better, I feel much more in control of my emotions, I have enjoyed ‘noticing’ my own state, but also it has transferred to everything around. This means I am re-enjoying many things that I had been taking for granted.” — Sandy Good
“Using mindfulness to help me better manage unrelenting anxiety, obsessive worrying & sadness. I have found that using the apps is helpful when having a stressful day, & I intend to keep practicing daily. Thank you.” — Cecily Wilson
“Thank goodness I came across Mindfulness Works. I have learnt so much in a year and have the happiest, authentic and content that I have ever been. By learning acceptance without judgement has been an eye opener for me.” — Rebecca Young
“Am so glad I did the course and would recommend it to everyone. ” — Rosie Smith
“Huge reduction in anxiety, calmness of mind and body and empowerment over my symptoms.” — Jo Kirwan
“The course was very relaxed and friendly, and full of useful practical advice that recognised the limits to time that everyone faces. Also I liked the mix of people attending, with a range of different reasons for being there.” — Rosie Cree
“Mindfulness is now my go-to tool when I’m overwhelmed or need to re focus.” — Biljana Rufati