The Science Behind Mindfulness

 
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What exactly is mindfulness? If you're not familiar with it, you might think it means relaxing on a yoga mat for hours at a time to become one with the universe. 

For some, maybe that's what it means, but it doesn't have to be a spiritual calling so to speak. It could just be a gateway to rest the mind and reap the mental and physical benefits, even if just for a brief time. 

How Can it Help?

  • Improves working memory and attention

  • Shrinks the amygdala (stress region of your brain)

  • Increases your resilience 

  • Fights insomnia and improves sleep

  • Gives an overall sense of enhanced well-being and more...

Mindfulness is "the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something." You can see why that doesn't have to translate to hours of meditation. It can be as simple as incorporating just 5-10 minutes a day of careful, intentional thought. If it gets hard to disconnect from the chaos in your life, try to think of your favorite thing and close your eyes for a moment.

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The practice has been proven to positively affect psychological health in a number of ways, according to several studies by the National Institutes of Health. The studies showed reduced psychological symptoms and emotional responsiveness, along with improved behavior and an overall better sense of well-being. 

The subjects tested suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder, anxiety, workplace stress, parasuicide, substance abuse and addiction, depression, and more. A treatment called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) that focused on mindfulness practices was added over time (weeks, months, to 1 year). After this was tested, many of their symptoms improved. 

Specifically, participant's showed an increase in their willingness to come into a better understanding of their experiences, identify their values, and commit to behaviors that match up with those values.

The studies also proved that some needed less medication, had improvements in their quality of life, and it even showed college students had significant reductions in math and test anxiety. 

Mindfulness Practices to Try: 

  • Listen carefully: Even just the practice of listening to others and yourself with intention counts.

  • Observe your thoughts and feelings, without judgement, wherever you are.

  • Be aware of the present moment. You can do this by taking a walk and keeping your mind still, or even just observing your breath on your commute.

Meditation gives you the wherewithal to pause, observe how easily the mind can exaggerate the severity of a setback, and resist getting drawn into the abyss.
— Richard Davidson, Neuroscientist¬†

 

Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23538911
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4846034/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3679190/#!po=51.4205
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5813792/ 
https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2110998