Mindfulness and Your Health
The search term “mindfulness” has soared in popularity since early 2010s. However, few people truly understand what mindfulness entails and just how beneficial it can be when it comes to your health.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is quite simple - taking time to focus on the present moment without being reactive or overwhelmed by the surrounding environment. It is also referred to as “detached self-observation.” Mindfulness is a basic human instinct and is what differentiates us from other beings, but the actual process can be practiced and improved upon.
Mindfulness can be practiced in a number of different ways, with the most popular being yoga. Yoga helps you detach from your hectic environment to concentrate on your breathing, your body, and how it moves. But, mindfulness can be as simple as closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing for a few minutes each day. The most important thing is that when you get distracted with other thoughts, you bring yourself back to the moment and focus on your breathing or your body.
How does Mindfulness affect your health?
Mindfulness can have substantial effects on not only your mental but also physical health and well-being.
1. Behavior and Well-Being
According to a 2011 study, mindfulness has many different positive effects such as improving subjective well-being and improvements in behavior regulations (Keng, Smoski & Robins, 2011).
2. Pain Management and Therapy
Practicing mindfulness is another way of treating and dealing with chronic pain (Cayoun, Simmons & Shires, 2017; Jeitler, et.al., 2015). Although this area of research is still quite new and the full effects are not known, Cayoun’s 2017 study suggests short daily mindfulness activities focused on the body can actually decrease severe and chronic pain.
Zeidan’s 2015 study found that meditation and mindfulness do not actually work through the body’s opioid system, as assumed previously. This is an extremely important finding since it could make mindfulness a viable treatment for patients who prefer opioid-free therapy options (Zeidan et al, 2015). His study also showed that short bursts of mindfulness can even help reduce the feeling of inflicted pain.
3. Depression, Anxiety, and Worrying
Chronic worrying can cause detrimental issues with sleep, fertility, and your cardiovascular system (Ropeik, 2011). It is also one of the biggest factors that can lead to depression and/or anxiety. But practicing mindfulness regularly can help decrease worrying and rumination (Querstret & Cropley, 2013). General depression and anxiety disorders can also be improved by meditating regularly (Goyal, et.al 2014).
4. Cardiovascular Health
Mindfulness is also believed to have a positive influence on cardiovascular health. According to the American Heart Association, a group of people practicing transcendental meditation were 48% less likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or die from these causes.
5. Cognitive Abilities
Practicing mindfulness also improves visuospatial processing, working memory, executive functioning, attention span, memory retrieval, creative thinking, and general brain functioning (Zeidan, Johnson, Diamond, David, & Goolkasian, 2010).
Over the next few years, researchers will focus on determining if certain types of mindfulness practices are better for different health issues. For the time being, you should test various types of mindfulness activities to determine which is the best fit for your lifestyle. The most important thing is that you practice regularly. Research suggests the effects of mindfulness will extend beyond the actual meditation period. (Desbordes, et.al., 2012) These lasting effects will ensure a more fulfilling and healthy lifestyle.
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Bahrani, S., Zargar, F., Yousefipour, G., & Akbari, H. (2017). The Effectiveness of Mindfulness-Integrated Cognitive Behavior Therapy on Depression, Anxiety, and Stress in Females with Multiple Sclerosis: A Single Blind Randomized Controlled Trial. Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal, 19(4). Retrieved from https://cdn.neoscriber.org/cdn/dl/d416ce90-386c-11e7-8333-1b1e04b97869.
Desbordes, G., Negi, L. T., Pace, T. W., Wallace, B. A., Raison, C. L., & Schwartz, E. L. (2012). Effects of mindful-attention and compassion meditation training on amygdala response to emotional stimuli in an ordinary, non-meditative state. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 6. Retrieved from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2012.00292/full.
Goyal, M., Singh, S., Sibingal, E., Gould, N., Rowland-Seymour, A., Sharma, R., . . . Haythornthwaite, J. A. (2014). Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Internal Medicine, 174(3), 357-368. Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/1809754.
Jeitler, M., Brunnhuber, S., Meier, L., Lüdtke, R., Büssing, A., Kessler, C., & Michalsen, A. (2015). Effectiveness of Jyoti Meditation for Patients With Chronic Neck Pain and Psychological Distress—A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial. The Journal of Pain, 16(1), 77-86. Retrieved from https://www.jpain.org/article/S1526-5900(14)00996-1/abstract.
Keng, S., Smoski, M. J., & Robins, C. J. (2011). Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: A review of empirical studies. Clinical Psychology Review, 31(6), 1041-1056. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3679190/.
Querstret, D., & Cropley, M. (2013). Assessing treatments used to reduce rumination and/or worry: A systematic review. Clinical Psychology Review, 33(8), 996-1009. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272735813001207?via=ihub.
Ropeik, D. (2011, December 27). Time to Worry About Worrying Too Much. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/how-risky-is-it-really/201112/time-worry-about-worrying-too-much
Zeidan, F., Johnson, S. K., Diamond, B. J., David, Z., & Goolkasian, P. (2010). Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training. Consciousness and Cognition,19(2), 597-605. Retrieved from jtoomim.org/brain-training/Zeidan2010_Mindfulness_Meditation.pdf