By guest writer Katherine Williams and edited by Joyce
Mindful meditation is not just for monks and yogis. It turns out there are many health benefits of learning and practicing it. Mindful meditation can help you focus on the present moment. By focusing on what’s happening right now instead of worrying about the past or future, mindfulness helps to separate from our thoughts so we can see them objectively and let them go.
An example of this would be the mindfulness exercise known as “mindful breathing.” It involves focusing solely on the act of inhaling and exhaling, instead of letting other thoughts enter your mind’s field of vision. By practicing mindful breathing regularly, it becomes easier for us to direct our attention where we want it–instead of allowing it to wander aimlessly.
It allows the brain time to relax and release all of those thoughts that have been keeping it busy. Focusing solely on breathing or another physical activity helps calm down areas of the brain responsible for processing information.
Stress is a big problem for many people, and it can have serious consequences. Mindful meditation can help reduce everyday anxiety and tension by helping us become more aware of our thoughts and emotions–and then letting them go This allows a calm response instead of reacting emotionally or becoming upset over things beyond our control.
Stress in the body produces cortisol. This hormone makes it feel like everything is urgent and important–so much so that it can interfere with getting a good night’s sleep. Mindful meditation has been shown to decrease cortisol levels in the body, by reducing anxiety levels which helps people fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. It also helps them wake up feeling more refreshed.
Several studies have shown that mindful meditation increases slow wave sleep (SWS), which is deep slumber where we experience dreams or rapid eye movement (REM) sleep–the time when our brains process memories and emotions. This type of sleep is linked with health benefits like reduced risk for heart disease and cancer as well as improved mental health outcomes like lower rates of depression and anxiety disorders.
Mindful meditation has been shown to help improve physical health, mental health and emotional well-being in people with chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer. A recent study found that practicing mindfulness for just 20 minutes per day for eight weeks significantly reduced symptoms of depression among college students. Another study showed that women who had recently given birth experienced less postpartum depression when they practiced mindfulness techniques.
Did you know that mindful meditation can change your brain? The practice of mindful meditation has been shown to increase activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, an area of the brain that is associated with attention and emotional regulation. This means that with regular meditation, it’s possible to be less impulsive and less prone to making decisions based on emotion rather than logic.
Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness can increase gray matter in areas related to learning and memory, as well as decrease inflammation in the brain. This means that it’s good at preventing Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.
One of the most common things that people deal with is judging others. When someone does something that seems strange or out of place, the first instinct is to judge them for their actions. However, by practicing mindful meditation regularly it becomes easier to be aware of thoughts and feelings–and therefore less likely to jump to conclusions about what other people are thinking or feeling. Also, by taking time each day for a short period devoted solely towards reflecting on how things went throughout the day can help guide future decisions, so they aren’t made impulsively, but rather thoughtfully planned beforehand.
Being aware of your feelings allows you to accept them rather than fight them or try to ignore them. This can lead to greater happiness in life. Mindful meditation can be an effective way to reduce stress, focus and improve overall health. It is not just for monks and yogis. It’s easy to do, takes only a few minutes each day, and can be done anywhere and anytime.
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