Many years ago, I stumbled across the Jon Kabat-Zinn book, “Wherever You Go, There You Are”. I was just beginning my journey in mental health and something about the book called out to me. Something just kept bringing me back to mindfulness in mental health. Later, I understood why the book resonated and the roots of my practice grew. Helping people overcome very difficult circumstances and challenges in my work, people found mindfulness practice could often raise their awareness to the subtle and automatic habits we embody. It can help support creating space between what happened to us and embracing our present and therefore, our future. Mindfulness is a skill that can be practiced by anyone, regardless of age, culture, or religion. Its principles are universal and can be incorporated into various aspects of daily life. There are two important components that come to mind when people ask me about why mindfulness can be beneficial. One is the attentional training that is inherent and the second are the attitudes that we learn to embody and embrace towards ourselves. The attentional training aspect I discuss more on this podcast episode (https://player.captivate.fm/episode/18ca539a-20e0-4057-add4-5e37884880fe) The attitudes come from the brahma viharas in Buddhist philosophy and include loving-kindness, compassion, appreciative joy and equanimity. One does not have to be religious or even spiritual to embrace these qualities in our lives and towards other living beings.
Here are several reasons why people may consider weaving mindfulness practice in their daily lives:
- Regular mindfulness practice has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. It can support individuals to better understand their thoughts and emotions and react to them in a more balanced and constructive way. Numerous studies, including meta-analyses, have shown that mindfulness-based interventions, like Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), can be effective in reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.
- Mindfulness may help in training the mind to focus on the task at hand and resist distractions, which can boost productivity and effectiveness.
- Through practice we can learn to observe emotions without getting swept away by them. This leads to better emotional regulation, enabling individuals to respond rather than react to challenging situations. Neuroimaging studies have shown that mindfulness practice can lead to changes in areas of the brain associated with emotional regulation, like the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala.
- Mindfulness fosters a deeper understanding of oneself, helping to identify patterns of thought and behavior that may not be serving one’s best interests.
- Some research suggests that mindfulness can have positive effects on the body, such as lowered blood pressure, improved sleep, and even a boosted immune system.
- Mindfulness may help manage chronic pain by shifting the way one relates to pain and decreasing the associated distress.
- Being present and attentive in interactions with others fosters better communication, understanding, and empathy, leading to deeper and more fulfilling relationships.
- Our brains naturally have a tendency towards a negative bias and mindfulness helps to counteract this by fostering an attitude of acceptance and curiosity.
- Mindfulness can support in building resilience against adversities.
- By being in the present moment, one can develop a greater appreciation for life’s simple pleasures. While this is more of an inferred benefit from general mindfulness practice, gratitude and mindfulness are often closely linked in positive psychology literature.
- Research indicates that mindfulness can be beneficial for substance use disorders, eating disorders, and other harmful habits, potentially by increasing self-awareness and reducing impulsive behaviours.
Bringing mindfulness into daily routines doesn’t necessarily require significant changes. Over time, adding mindful practices in our daily lives can lead to profound shifts in one’s perspective and overall well-being. While there’s a substantial body of evidence supporting these benefits of mindfulness, it’s also essential to approach the topic critically. Not every claim made about mindfulness is supported by robust scientific evidence and individual experiences can vary. Moreover, mindfulness might not be suitable or beneficial for everyone in every situation. As always, it’s essential to consult with professionals and carefully consider personal needs and circumstances.