Mindfulness has become this “hip” term in our popular culture, especially when it comes to self-help. It’s also usually associated with meditation. But what if I tell you that meditating is only one way to practice mindfulness? You can actually learn other ways too. There are a ton of benefits to being more mindful, but first, let’s start with what mindfulness is.
Mindfulness is paying attention, nonjudgmentally, on purpose, in the present moment. It is a practice that has been around for centuries. In fact, all the world’s major religions include mindfulness in some form. We usually associate it with Eastern Religions, but mindfulness practices can also be found in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Nowadays, most people take more of a secular approach to it, which means you don’t have to be religious to practice mindfulness. That’s because the benefits really have nothing to do with spirituality or religion. You may (or may not) have heard of Jon Kabat-Zinn, but he is a doctor who is credited with bringing mindfulness into the mainstream when he developed the Mindfulness Stress Reduction program (MBSR). Kabat-Zinn learned mindfulness from several Buddhist teachers but then he integrated with Western science (as he is a medical doctor).
Let’s talk about some of the many benefits of mindfulness. There have been many scientific studies on this subject. Here are some of the big ones:
Reduced rumination. This means we spend less time dwelling on our past. In turn, our mood typically improves and we are less likely to be depressed (and if we are depressed, we have fewer depressive symptoms).
Stress reduction. People who practice mindfulness regularly tend to be less stressed, and when they are stressed they are able to deal with it more effectively. A whole program, MBSR (as mentioned above) was created for this purpose.
Improves memory. Especially during periods of stress, but also with older people. Many studies have found that people who practice regular mindfulness are less likely to get dementia or do so when they are much older. In general, memory tends to improve with mindfulness.
Improves focus. Our concentration and focus also get better. Remember, the definition of mindfulness is to pay attention, nonjudgmentally, on purpose, in the present moment. This is inherently about being able to focus.
Less emotional reactivity. It gives us a moment to pause amidst an emotional storm. We are less likely to panic, burst into tears, and yell at others if we practice mindfulness. This is because we notice what is happening and give ourselves to think before reacting.
Physical health benefits: Mindfulness has been shown to reduce blood pressure and chronic pain for example. There are many recorded health benefits to mindfulness.
Where can you learn mindfulness? There are a million places and programs out there to learn mindfulness. At Westwood Total Health, I’m running a 4-week Intro to Mindfulness Group that will teach you the basic skills of meditation and informal practices that you can use anywhere.
The group begins March 5, 2022, and is on 4 Saturdays from 2:30-3:30(ish)pm.
See reception for details.