Mindfulness has been in the press a lot of late and it’s not hard to see why.
It’s impact on stress and anxiety can be significant and the knock-on effects just as beneficial. In fact, there’s now a whole host of studies available that prove that Mindfulness can be effective for a number of mental and physical problems.
If you’ve always wanted to know the top concrete benefits of Mindfulness, read on…
Mindfulness is one of the key elements to coping with stress. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) has been running since the 1970s with tens of thousands or more trainees and decades of research on the outcomes.
Numerous studies find Mindfulness helps deal with daily stress, improving emotional regulation and mood and increasing an individual’s ability to handle anxiety.
The symptoms of stress can include constant worry and anxiety, feeling irritable, agitated and restless and low levels of energy, and self-control. Headaches or migraines are also common.
By increasing attention and focus and inducing states of relaxation, Mindfulness addresses the stress behind these symptoms. It improves attention, increases thinking clarity and perceptiveness and lowers heart rate and blood pressure.
Mindfulness has proved so successful in helping patients with cancer and other illnesses that there are now dedicated programs using Mindfulness to address these diseases.
Mindfulness can’t cure them, but it can help make them more manageable. There is a strong link between a healthy mind and a healthy body.
One study in Canada found that Mindfulness enhanced spirituality and peace, facilitated post-traumatic recovery and relieved fatigue.
Mindfulness has also been found to improve patient’s ability to function with back pain. It helps patients improve their quality of life. It’s not that the pain goes away, only that patients learn to relate to it in a more accepting, non-judgemental way.
Mindfulness can not only help you deal with cancer or other illnesses; it can also help you recover from them.
A study of breast cancer survivors find that mindfulness can facilitate patient’s recovery to normal health. All the woman who participated in Mindfulness were more likely to experience increased self-kindness, decreased worry and decreased stress, leading to a faster than normal recovery.
It is believed that the state of calm and stillness Mindfulness brings, as well as the feeling of connectedness with the world increases immune function and this contributes to post-illness revival.
For a long time now, Mindfulness has been known to alleviate symptoms of depression, being equal if not better to antidepressants. The Oxford Centre for Mindfulness has found that that Mindfulness can reduce depression for the average practitioner by anywhere between 40-63%. It is particularly useful for those suffering chronic depression and who have had three or more depressive re-occurrences.
Some of the ways in which in which mindfulness helps treat depression in through trainee’s ability to regulate their emotions, recognise and control their thoughts and decrease the amount of time spent in unhelpful, repetitive thinking patterns.
Over and above the many mental health benefits of mindfulness, trainees find it improves general health.
There are direct benefits such as improved cardiovascular health – through decreased smoking and increased physical activity. But there are also secondary affects such as increased likelihood of getting regular health check-ups, using seatbelts, and decreased alcohol consumption.
As mindfulness helps increase awareness of thoughts, feelings, and impulses it has been proven to help people lose weight and improve their eating behaviours and attitudes.
Mindfulness is both easy and difficult. It is a way of being, a way of relating to the world. It includes accepting your thoughts, feelings and emotions as they are. It involves accepting the present as it is and it involves cultivating an attitude of acceptance and nonjudgement.
The benefits are real and the practice is relatively easy to implement. With just a little practice, you’ll soon be on your way.
Matt is a trained and licenced Mindfulness teacher and Stress and Anxiety Reduction Counsellor operating in and around the Peterborough area. After overcoming his own stress and anxiety he's found his purpose teaching others to do the same.
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