Mindfulness is all about being aware of anything you are doing or thinking at present. It does not require to be judgmental. At the same time, being mindful does not mean that you shall be averse to change or become mechanical. It just requires you to focus on the present, being totally involved in it. This practice of meditation while being mindful can be done at home while doing the daily tasks or even at office while working. To get initiated, there are simple techniques of mindfulness meditation.
That mindfulness meditation is beneficial for human beings is now a scientifically established fact. It improves emotional, physical and mental well-being of a person. It is provides a way to deal with diseases and disorders, both at preventive and at curative levels.
Here we discuss some of the advantages or benefits of mindfulness meditation which have been medically and scientifically proven to be correct.
1/18. Reduced stress, anxiety and depression
The fact that there is a well-established Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) which is a group-based program including yoga, knowledge about body and daily assignment, does signify that mindfulness meditation has been accepted as one of the therapies to reduce stress, anxiety and depression clinically. MBCT includes the mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
As per this paper from Lancet research for details on use MBCT for preventing depression vis-à-vis anti-depressants, it was found that MBCT was equally effective as anti-depressants in preventing relapse to depression.
The increase is self-compassion and love for oneself increased by doing mindfulness mediation along with yoga rather than going for yoga alone.
Another beneficial aspect of this meditation is that it prevents panic attacks. Panic attacks generally happen due to inability to cope with stressful environment and anxiety levels reaching extreme level. It may result in palpitations and trembling. Mindfulness meditation secrets the serotonin which develops good mood in us. This also prevents extreme anxiety levels and panic attacks. Read details of usefulness of Mindfulness in panic attacks.
2/18. Improves Cognition and Brain Coherence
People who do have gone through mindfulness meditation stress reduction therapy (MBSR) for a period of just 4 days have longer and better attention span than those who have not done it. They do not have fatigue and anxiety and have better visuo-spatial processing, working memory and better functioning at workplace that those who do not do mindfulness meditation.
Coherence refers to optimal functioning of various parts and systems. Brain coherence is achieved with mindfulness meditation as all systems of the body work in tandem in optimal condition, without stressing out or developing fatigue.
It has also been observed that in certain illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, where there is decline in cognitive abilities gradually with progression of age, the speed of cognitive decline is reduced by Mindfulness meditation.
3/18. Enhanced ability to deal with illness
A number of experiments have been conducted using mindfulness meditation on patients with different illnesses, including cancer and back-pain patients. The results of these experiments point to the fact that there is reduction in stress, rumination and worry, and an increase in spirituality, non-reactivity to experience, non-judgmental nature, self-kindness, vigor and growth after the traumatic experience. These improve the ability of the patients to deal with their illness. In turn, these have proved beneficial in recovery from the disease by improving the ability of body and mind to fight with the disease.
4/18. Controls Eating Disorders and Helps Reduce Weight
When it comes to eating, people tend to overeat or eat too frequently. The name given to these practices is binge-eating and stress-eating. By being mindful, people tend to slow down the process of eating. While focusing on the food while eating, they tend to focus on its flavors and savor its taste. There is also a constant communication with the body to know when the eating shall stop. The signal of satiety given by body is clearer and cannot be ignored. Similarly, those who used to eat less by not paying any attention to food are able to eat more by listening to these quiet signals.
By being in better control of eating habits, the person is able to improve digestion as well. State of mindfulness also tells when the body wants to have the next meal. So, you do not eat or drink when it is presented to you but when your body actually demands it. This prevents over-eating.
Also, by allowing the hunger to grow consciously before eating anything and not eating at the first instance, you allow the body cells to feed on the accumulated fat which is akin to intermittent fasting. This works to reduce the fat as well and improve body systems. This practice also helps in cultivating stronger will-power.
Another important aspect of mindfulness on eating is that you become aware of what you are eating. So, the junk food intake is reduced and more nutritious and balanced diet is taken in. This conscious decision which alters the eating behavior not only helps in reducing the weight and prevent eating disorders, but also in preventing many gastro-intestinal problems.
5/18. Slows down Aging
While ageing is nature and inevitable, we can surely reduce the pace of ageing. The activity of an enzyme Telomerase affects the aging process. This enzyme is directly responsible for the length of Telomeres which protects the chromosomes. It has been observed that meditation can decrease the aging process by increasing Telomerase activity by 30% in 3-4 months of regular meditation.
6/18. Improves Immunity of Body
Whenever our body is faced with the threat from viruses or disease-causing germs, our body shores up its defenses to fight with these. This is done by way of sending off T-cells, immunoglobulin, neutrophils and other such killers which our body produces naturally.
Mindfulness meditation has proved useful in activating and increasing the power of these natural killers. The practice has shown increase of T-cells levels in HIV and breast cancer patients, increase in levels of protein interleukin-8 in elderly, increase in interleukin-10 and faster wound healing in colitis patients and reduction of C-reactive protein in patients of rheumatoid arthritis which gives relief to them from pain and inflammation, to quote a few examples of medical research.
8/18. Blood Pressure Control
Hypertension, called Blood Pressure in normal parlance, refers to increase in minimum or maximum normal levels of blood pressure. By using mindfulness meditation, you slow down the heart beat which results in lower intake of oxygen and this has impact on reducing the blood pressure levels. Mindfulness brings down high blood pressure as it calms down the activity in the sympathetic nervous system and increases that of parasympathetic nervous system. This leads to better flow of blood in an eased manner, with reduced pressure.
9/18. Improves health of heart
One distinctive benefit of Mindfulness meditation is the positive impact on overall cardiovascular activity. With reduction on blood pressure levels, also called hypertension, there is a direct positive impact on heart health. It is also considered to be an adjunct treatment for coronary diseases by American Heart Association. Also, it increases respiratory sinus arrhythmia which is good for heart health.
10/18. Drug, Alcohol and other Addictions
By learning to be mindful, or in a state of being awake while doing anything, people tend to deeply feel about harmful effects of addictions. With increased self-control and self-awareness which is induced by mindfulness, people are able to control their habits of alcoholism, drug addiction, food cravings, or any other. This reduces their instances of taking these again and on regular practice, might even totally stop the intake. If people are under medication and they also do meditation, then they are able to withstand relapse with stronger resilience.
11/18. Sleep Disorders
Sleep disorders are quite common among the population nowadays because of the overactive mind which is the result of day long stress and other factors. Mindfulness meditation goes a long way in improving our sleep. At first, it helps in reducing the time gap between when body demands sleep and when it actually comes. Secondly, it helps in increasing the number of hours of sleep. Further, it also improves the quality of sleep. These benefits are well documented in many researches done worldwide to gauge the effect of mindfulness meditation on insomnia.
12/18. Obsessive Compulsory Disorder (OCD)
For people who are compulsively oriented to do certain things even when they know this does not make sense, it is called an obsessive compulsive disorder. They are just not able to shrug off the habit. Mindfulness meditation can help in treating OCD patients, as has been established in a number of studies.
When you are resisting the thoughts that are coming your way but was letting them pass by without holding them and being judgmental about them, you are also avoiding resistance to them. This avoidance of resistance to thoughts takes you away from OCD. This also makes them approach their OCD in a lighter manner while recognizing these are there but not confronting them strongly.
13/18. Improved Sexuality
Enjoyment of sexual pleasure is related with stress and mental distractions. When you are not present in the moment, there can be no enjoyment. If you remain in state of non-judgment during sex, you keep yourself free and have higher enjoyment.
14/18. Enhances Positive Soft Emotions
Mindfulness mediation also helps in enhancing positive soft emotions. These include kindness, compassion, forgiveness, love and likewise. This is because of generation of higher level of acceptance and subsidence of resistance. The more is practice and longer the duration, more is the prevalence of these emotions.
15/18. Help in ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder)
ADHD is a disorder which does not let people have higher attention span. This is a direct result of over-active people. This is usually found in children who are so active that they would not concentrate on any one thing for a long time. But, this can also be in adolescent and adult age groups.
Mindfulness meditation increases the level of serotonin and oxytocin, the two crucial neurotransmitters. Serotonin makes us calmer and oxytocin reduces the levels of anxiety. These help in increasing the attention span as these reduce hyperactivity of brain.
16/18. Helps in Respiratory Problems
One of the best ways of doing meditation is to focus on your breath- inhaling and exhaling. Mindfulness meditation and respiratory function of the body are intimately related. This practice helps in preventing or reducing the effects of some respiratory problems such as asthma. Stress is single most important reason for most of these problems. By tiding over stress levels, mindfulness helps in preventing constriction of air passages. This improves inhale and exhale capacity of lungs. The feeling or heaviness also goes away gradually.
17/18. Deepens spirituality
Meditation is long associated with attainment of enlightenment which is a connection with spirituality. Buddha attained enlightenment by meditating. So, there is a connect with higher levels of consciousness. Even people who have not been very spiritual earlier, have more inclination towards it after they begin to mindfulness meditation. There is an inner urge to connect with some higher dimension of consciousness which can be said to be spiritual connect.
18/18. Helps during Pregnancy
Pregnancy is a crucial phase of a woman’s life. Every woman would like to give birth to a healthy child. To be able to do so, she has to take care of her physical and mental health. Mindfulness meditation helps in reducing stress, anxiety, depression, calming mind, controlling emotions and leveraging all other physical and mental benefits which it brings. This helps in reducing instances of pre-mature deliveries which often comes with complications of its own.