“The real meditation practice is how we live our lives from moment to moment to moment.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
You have probably noticed how as time goes on our lives get busier and busier, society is changing and we now live in such a fast-paced world. If you have heard old tale stories of how your parents or grandparents used to live it sounds pretty different to today! The downsides of today’s stressful society is that some days we can lose sight of the present because we are so busy worrying about the future or analysing the past. In today’s rushed society, we can lose sight of what’s important and we become so rushed that we often become unhappy and lose our purpose in life. As well as the modern world effecting our emotional wellbeing and our mental health it can also affect our physical health, which I see every single day with the clients who I treat in my clinic. Our bodies are not designed to sustain this fast pace of life we often associate with the modern world so eventually it can come crashing down resulting in chronic health conditions such as chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. Mindfulness meditation is a technique designed to help alleviate symptoms of poor emotional wellbeing, mental health and physical health. I often incorporate mindfulness mediation into my client’s treatment protocols to help slow the body down and retrain the brain which ultimately gives us a better chance of recovering from whatever physical or mental health illness it may be.
What is mindfulness meditation and where did it come from?
Mindfulness meditation is the practice of purposely being mindful, which means being present in the moment without any distractions and accepting it without judgement. It helps shift your thoughts away from your usual preoccupations towards an awareness and appreciation of the moment and a larger perspective on life whilst also connecting the mind to the body. This practice has been around for thousands of years and it now transcends religious and cultural backgrounds appealing to those from all walks of life but it’s roots originate from Vietnamese Buddhism and in the last 40 years has been pioneered by the American doctor John-Zin-Yannet who helped bring mindfulness into mainstream medicine and is said to be the father of modern mindfulness meditation.
I personally have struggled with meditation my mind is so busy that I struggle to calm it down. However, I have found over the years that the more I let go and practice it, the easier it gets and now 5 years on(!) I love it! I used to aim to do it everyday but realistically it doesn’t happen so now I aim for 3-4 times per week (and if I do more then it’s a bonus!). The best time for me to meditate is when I’m not working and mumming is once Noah is down for his nap. I also like to concentrate on how meditation benefits those around me for example, I’m more compassionate to those around me, a lot calmer and I have more mental capacity to deal with every day stresses!
Scientific research has proven time and time again that mindfulness has powerful effects and so many different health benefits which really are limitless so I’m going to share with you my top 5 reasons why we should all be practicing mindfulness (all of which are backed by science).
Relieves Stress and Anxiety
Are you stressed out or suffer with anxiety? Mindfulness can help reduce anxiety because it helps bring attention to the present moment instead of leaving your mind to run wild worrying about both the past and the future. Researchers have found that even a single session of mindfulness meditation can result in reduced anxiety. For the study, researchers focused on the effect of a single session of mindfulness meditation on participants with high levels of anxiety but normal blood pressure. They found measurable improvements in anxiety following the single mindfulness meditation session and further anxiety reduction one week later. This can also lead to amazing physical health benefits because a stressed system can lead to lots of different illnesses! Our bodies are simply not designed to be stressed 24/7.
Improves Mood and Lifts Depression
Do you suffer with depression? Most people at some point in their life will experience some kind of mental health difficulties which can include depression. Mindfulness is known to help chronic depression and improve overall happiness because it teaches you to accept thoughts without judgement. This is SO important because negative feelings are commonly associated with the development of depression. People at risk for depression are dealing with a lot of negative thoughts, feelings and beliefs about themselves, and this can easily slide into a depressive relapse,” says Willem Kuyken, PhD, a professor at the University of Oxford. “MBCT helps them to recognize that’s happening, engage with it in a different way and respond to it with equanimity and compassion.” A study found that MBCT provided significant relapse protection for participants with a history of childhood trauma that left them with increased vulnerability for depression. It gave them a kind of “mental armour.”
Improves Sleep Quality
Anyone that has suffered the lingering mental and physical effects of poor sleep on a regular basis will understand the importance of deep, restful and restorative sleep. The deep relaxation technique has been shown to increase sleep time, improve sleep quality, and make it easier to fall (and stay) asleep. Research has found that with older adults diagnosed with sleep disturbances, the practice of mindfullness resulted in signigicant short term imporvement in sleep quality by getting rid of sleep problems!
Improves Focus and Cognitive Health
I think so many people in the modern world find they are easily distracted, struggling to concentrate and have a lack of focus because our minds are so busy trying to do so many different things at once. As the world gets more and more distracting, it’s harder than ever to stay focused on what matters most and hold our attention there, whether it’s work, relationships, or our studies. The ability to control and regulate our attention is as a powerful tool. We can teach ourselves to maintain focus and concentrate for longer, to resist procrastination, and to keep our most important priorities front and centre in our minds. And mindfulness, it seems, is one of the best ways to practice and strengthen our attentional muscle. Mindfulness meditation can help enhance brain power, memory and cognitive recall. The zen practice of ‘thinking about nothing’ has been shown to boost people’s attention span by liberating the mind from distraction. Researchers found that brief meditation training (four days) can lead to enhanced ability to sustain attention. People’s ability to focus and hold attention even on boring stimulus improves significantly with mindfulness.
Reduces Chronic Pain
Millions of people suffer with chronic pain, including most of my clients. Managing chronic pain is the focus of much current research, as it’s been found that mindfulness can help increase our pain thresholds so our perception of pain is greatly reduced. A 2011 study published in the April issue of the Journal of Neuroscience found that just 80 minutes of mindful meditation could cut pain perception nearly in half. This study is backed up by another study conducted at the University of Montreal that studied 13 Zen meditators, all of whom had at least 1,000 hours of practice, compared with a group of non-meditators to see whether regular meditation practice would affect perception of pain. The results were overwhelming—the Zen meditators had a higher pain threshold than the non-meditators. I really recommend to my clients who suffer from chronic pain as a tool to help cope with illness!
How to practice mindfulness
You can practice mindfulness at home simply by focusing on the present moment, bringing awareness to your body and how you are feeling and accepting your thoughts without judgement. It can actually be really difficult at first as we are so used to our minds being ‘busy’ so it takes a lot of practice! It gets easier over time though. I have some app recommendations and book recommendations to share with you if you would like to learn more or prefer more of a guided meditation!
Headspace – I use Headspace where you can sign up and do 10 sessions for free but then I signed up for the full programme, it’s well worth it for the yearly subscription!
Insight Timer –
This is a great app to use because it’s free! It has lots of guided meditations to choose from that come from different spiritual traditions. It also comes with a timer so you can personalise your own meditation practice. It creates a record of your practice and also let’s you know how many people are meditating when you are so it offers a real sense of connection with others.
The Mindfulness App –
This is an amazing app for anyone looking to improve their mental health and overall wellbeing. It’s perfect for those starting out with meditation and on a journey to a more relaxed and healthier state of mind. It’s also a great app for the more advanced! My favourite is the five day guided meditations which I find helps improve satisfaction with my day to day life. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for a discount code to sign up! So excited to have teamed up with The Mindfulness App.
Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World (includes free CD with guided meditations) which you can buy here.
Mindfulness for Health: A practical guide to relieving pain, reducing stress and restoring wellbeing which you can buy here.
The Little Book of Mindfulness which you can buy here.
A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled which you can buy here.
The Headspace Guide to Mindfulness and Meditation which you can buy here.
As someone who strives to be present in the moment, minimize stress and appreciate the beauty and preciousness of life, I really encourage my clients to learn about the scientifically proven health benefits of mindfulness so then they can begin to incorporate mindfulness into their everyday life as a tool to help improve their emotional, mental and physical wellness. The best part is that anyone can practice mindfulness, anywhere, anytime and unlike most of the techniques and treatment available in this world, mindfulness is absolutely free! I hope you enjoyed this blog post and will find benefits from Mindfulness Meditation just like I have. To get you started I’ve teamed up with The Mindfulness App to give you a discount code for subscription to their app! Head over to my Instagram @hellohealing and message me – the first 25 people will receive the code!