The Bounty of Your Own Making - The Benefits of Mindfulness
Eight out of 10 Americans are stressed and find it difficult to relax. Chronic stress puts us at higher risk for heart attack and stroke, and can contribute to insomnia and fatigue.
A common pattern that many face is stress affecting sleep quality. When we aren't able to relax after our stress response has been stimulated, it can offset the balance of our hormones and decrease the quality of our sleep. Fragmented sleep in turn raises cortisol levels, aka. our stress hormone, and leading to a frustrating cycle!
Mindfulness however, can turn this vicious cycle into a virtuous one.
Studies have shown mindfulness to be beneficial for:
Improving focus and attention
Improving happiness and sense of well being
Part of the reason we become so stressed out, depressed, and anxious is because we are living our lives too rigidly. We run around, checking off lists, and sticking to our self-created regimes. When we don't follow our rules, we beat ourselves up about it. While this mentality can be helpful in achieving our goals, constant and widespread application to every aspect of our lives (ie. leisure) causes unnecessary stress.
It's our wills that bind us in this dogmatic, intolerant way of being.
In other words, we've often created our own misery.
So try mindfulness. It's a practice that allows our minds to be more flexible, more tolerant, letting us feel more at peace, happy, and ultimately satisfied for each choice, and who we are.
"Our minds wander all the time, either reviewing the past or planning for the future."
-Dr. Suzanne Westbrook
Mindfulness teaches us to let our mind rest in the present. It helps us build resilience and awareness so we are better able to ride the ups and downs of life, and ultimately enhance our feelings of satisfaction and happiness.
It allows for focused relaxations and thoughts to come and go without over involvement or judgement. Step off and simply just observe what is going on. You may notice something new from this alternate vantage point, and can change your experience of it.
"Mindfulness is taking care of the mind."
Another reason mindfulness can be so helpful is that it asks us to participate in self-care. Our mind is the most valuable and precious resource. It governs our emotions, focus and creativity. We need to take care of our minds the way we take care of our physical selves as well.
When we spend a disproportionate amount of time looking after our clothes, hair, cars etc. we can easily be lost in thought and forget about or minds. Being lost in thought is known to be a direct cause of unhappiness.
Meditation is scientifically proven to help us to be positive, practical, healthy, mindful, and less distracted. In less than 10 minutes a day it can change your life.
Use every moment of stress, anxiety, and insomnia as a moment of opportunity to strengthen this practice. Happiness and satisfaction are not in the distant future, it's available for all of us in every moment. It blooms from a mind that's calm, and peacefully present.
Keng, S.L., Smoski, M.J., Robins, C.J. (2011). Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: A review of empirical studies. Clinical Psychology Review, 31(6), 1041-1056. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S027273581100081X
Hempell, S. et. al. (2014). Evidence map of mindfulness. Evidence Based Synthesis Program. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0071639/
Mineo, L. (2018). With mindfulness, life's in the moment. Health and Medicine The Harvard Gazette. Retrieved from https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/04/less-stress-clearer-thoughts-with-mindfulness-meditation/