Mindfulness is being aware of our everyday experiences without judgement. It’s surprisingly simple. In fact, you can be mindful of absolutely anything. That cup of coffee you drink in the morning? You can be mindful of each sip, its temperature and even the taste of it on your tongue. Simply becoming in tune with the present moment is being mindful.
Here are nine of the benefits of practising mindfulness.
Enhances cognitive function
Mindfulness has been proven to strengthen the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for our concentration and attention.
“As these brain areas become stronger, we become more able to focus,” says Dr Richard Chambers, a clinical psychologist and mindfulness expert.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) has been found to help those at risk of depression. In 10 randomised trials conducted by Oxford University, it was demonstrated that mindfulness helped prevent a depressive relapse in patients and can be incorporated as a long-term antidepressant. Researchers also found that MBCT is as effective in preventing depression as antidepressant medication.
As we improve our focus, we’re better equipped to communicate with others. “[When we practice mindfulness], we can see things with greater clarity and understanding, in order to respond in more skillful ways,” says Matthew Young, director of the Melbourne Meditation Centre.
With all of those positive benefits on the brain, it’s easy to see how a mindfulness practice boosts our productivity. The more we flex our prefrontal cortex and strengthen the hippocampus, we’re able to concentrate for longer and become more present, which in turn boosts productivity.
Improves emotional wellbeing
“Mindfulness involves paying attention to your thoughts and feelings in order to become more aware of them, less enmeshed in them and better able to manage them,” says Matthew.
As we become more aware of our thoughts, we’re therefore more equipped to deal with our emotions.
Once we improve our emotional intelligence, we’re able to develop more compassion and empathy for those around us. “[Mindfulness] makes us more empathetic and less reactive, resulting in improved relationships,” adds Dr Chambers.
Aids weight loss
In a clinical study conducted at McGill University in Canada, researchers found that a consistent mindfulness practice can help people lose excess weight. The researchers found that eating more mindfully may support weight maintenance and weight loss, as well as improve obesity-related eating behaviours.
Reduces stress and anxiety
A mindfulness practice encourages us to be in the present moment, which prevents us from thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Experts say this is a powerful way to reduce stress and anxiety. According to Dr Chambers, when we practice mindfulness, we “spend less time worrying and reliving past events, which reduces levels of stress, anxiety and depression”.
Strengthens our memory
A regular mindfulness practice strengthens the hippocampus, which is directly linked to the brain’s short- and long-term memory. In a Harvard study, researchers found increased thickness of the hippocampus through an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program created by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
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