By Nicola Lashley
Whether you’re well-versed in the practice of mindfulness or a stranger to the term, it’s integrative nature ensures that not only is it easy to practice during our day to day lives, but the benefits are simple to attain.
But, what is Mindfulness? Tracing back over 2,500 thousand years to Buddhist philosophy, mindfulness is the art of directed focus. Through regular practice it nurtures a state of consciousness that enables our minds and bodies to live in the moment, free from judgment and interference. In turn, this allows our mind and energy system to work to its full potential, improving our physical and mental health. Mindfulness can be found in various strands of meditation and philosophies ranging from Yoga to Tai Chi, providing a perfect gateway to the more in-depth practice of meditation.
While the idea of mindfulness may be appealing, the reality doesn’t always seem achievable. Many of us don’t know where to start when it comes to mindfulness or meditation. As with any new skill, the key is to practice. A guided meditation in a group class or practising alongside a guided audio track are two great methods of introduction, giving you the understanding and confidence that you need to begin independent practice. For some simple tips on how to introduce mindfulness exercises into your daily routine, you can take a look at our 3 easy steps blog post.
There are many benefits to the practice of mindfulness,
here are five…
1. A restful and reparative night’s sleep
Not only do we tend to underestimate our bodies need for a good night’s sleep, too often we find ourselves waking up and wishing that we had had one. Sound familiar?
The practice of pre-sleep mindfulness (or sleep meditation) is an effective method of preparing the body for its nightly cleanse and repair. Although techniques vary, the core intention is to set aside 10-20 minutes before bed, dedicating them entirely to the acknowledgement of your day and mindful breathing. By consciously accepting the good, the bad and the challenges of each day we allow our mind to process and account before releasing them from our minds and anxieties entirely.
Not only does it prepare your body for a good night’s sleep, it’s the perfect way to end a mindful day.
2. Stress reduction
When practised regularly, the act of mindfulness can drastically reduce the stress hormone called cortisol.
Mindful breathing provides the body with the respite that it needs to retune and reset its energy flow. This allows us to not only acknowledge a shift in stress levels but also gives us the ability to control it. Better yet, this ‘no equipment required’ approach to stress-management means that it can be applied to every aspect of your day-to-day life – from the office to the bathtub!
3. Increased focus and concentration
Improved cognitive function and clarity of thought – just a few of the benefits that come from a higher state of consciousness.
The activity in our pre-frontal cortex is drastically increased when in a mindful or meditative state, meaning that not only are you able to think clearer, but you’re able to do so for longer. Mindfulness proves such a great influence on our ability to concentrate and retain information that it’s easy to see why it’s a great incorporation for your work life or school routine.
4. Improved eating habits
Whether it’s breakfast on the go or answering emails during dinner, too often we find ourselves neglecting the time and focus that our bodies require during food intake. Simply put, mindful eating is the act of eating consciously, noting what we digest, when and how. And with benefits such as improved digestion and weight stability, what’s not to love? If you’re new to the practice of mindful eating, try these simple steps…
- Establish a routine
Our bodies thrive on routine, so try and eat your three meals at similar times each and every day.
- Am I really hungry…
Or am I just indulging? As tempting as that second snack may be, understanding the difference between hunger and a craving ensures that our body never has to overwork or drains itself.
- When you’re eating, eat.
Keep distractions minimal. Take time to chew and savour your food, your body will thank you for the time it gains to properly digest!
5. And finally, the gift of self-acceptance and self-reflection
In a world of criticism and stress, what could be better than improved personal relationships and self-acceptance?
Mindfulness improves our cognitive function, enhancing our ability to reason and comprehend. This means that we’re able to operate beyond our reactive minds, decreasing the likelihood of acting or speaking impulsively. Better yet, studies show that those who regularly practice mindfulness found they could control and decrease any unnecessary activity governed by their Amygdala – the section of the brain responsible for fear, anxiety and doubt.
So, there you have it, five wonderful reasons why you should start practising mindfulness today.
Nicola is an English Literature student based in Kent. Natural health and wellness have been at the centre of her growth since her brother introduced her to TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) 4 years ago. Nicola practices yoga and meditation, with her main interest being in Tai Chi – particularly the practice of Qi Gong. As her journey continues, finding every opportunity to combine her learnings into everyday life.