Mindfulness Basics to Improve Physical and Emotional Well-Being
If you woke up this morning and immediately began listing in your mind the things you already won’t have time to complete, you’re not practicing mindfulness.
If you gulped down your morning coffee, ate lunch at your desk and rushed through dinner, you were not practicing mindfulness.
If you are still brooding because a coworker got the promotion you think you should have gotten and that’s decreased your motivation at work, you aren’t practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment – and accepting it without judgment. Mindfulness is being examined scientifically and has been found to be a key element in happiness.
Being mindful can enrich your appreciation of the pleasures of life and give you a greater capacity to deal with adverse events, according to the special health report “Positive Psychology: Harnessing the Power of Happiness, Personal Strength and Mindfulness,” by Harvard Health Publications.
Benefits of Mindfulness on Life Perspective
Initially, it may seem a stretch to understand how focusing on the “here and now” can help you let go of regrets about the past and worries about the future.
Zeroing in on the present moment can also lessen unnecessary concerns about success and increase satisfaction with the tiny moments that lead to success. Mindfulness can help you form deeper connections with others.
Mindfulness Can Improve Physical Health
Extensive research on mindfulness in the past few decades is showing impressive results on how it can improve physical health. Scientists have found that the practice of mindfulness can:
- Help relieve stress
- Reduce the danger of heart disease
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce chronic pain
- Improve sleep
- Alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties
Psychotherapists Embrace Mindfulness to Improve Mental Health
The complexity of mental health issues has spurred psychotherapists to combine mindfulness practices with other strategies, especially cognitive behavioral therapy.
The results many therapists are witnessing is that mindfulness techniques can be helpful in treating a variety of disorders, including:
- substance abuse
- eating disorders
- couples conflicts
- anxiety disorders
- obsessive-compulsive disorder
Some therapists believe that mindfulness works, in part, by helping people to accept their experiences, including painful emotions, rather than react to them with aversion and avoidance.
How to Start Practicing Mindfulness
Mindfulness meditation builds upon the practice of concentration. Here are some ways the practice of mindfulness meditation begins:
- Go with the flow: Observe the flow of your inner thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations without judging them as good or bad.
- Pay attention: Notice external sensations such as sounds, sights and touch. Notice the feel of the air on your arm or the sound of birds singing in the tree outside the window. Watch what comes and goes in your mind and discover what produces a feeling of suffering and what gives you a feeling of well-being.
- Stay with it: Mindfulness meditation may cause you to be fidgety at first, and not at all relaxed. Over time, however, many practitioners of mindfulness have found that it is a key to greater happiness and self-awareness.
Sample Mindfulness Meditations
To get a feel for what mindfulness meditation is like, you can try these from Harvard Health:
Harvard Health Publications, HelpGuide, “Benefits of Mindfulness: Practices for Improving Emotional and Physical Well-Being,” 2016
Siegel, Ronald D., “Positive Psychology: Harnessing the Power of Happiness, Personal Strength and Mindfulness,” Harvard Health Publications, 2016.