You arrive home from a long, stressful day at work. It feels like you’ve gone 13 rounds against life, and you’re barely holding on in round 14. You collapse on your coach, close your eyes, and a torrent of negative thoughts comes rushing in like waves on a windy day. Despite this, a glistening smile forms on your face.. You close your eyes and begin to breathe in deeply… letting yourself be completely enveloped by the emotions and thoughts as they come in and as they move through you. You feel at rest, a newfound sense of joy resting tenderly on your heart. Despite the chaos of the day, you gladly move forward regardless of the challenges that await. As you lay to rest, you find yourself smiling once more, knowing a new journey is going to begin shortly tomorrow.
Described above is but one application of a wonderful skill known as Mindfulness. By reading this article, you will discover what mindfulness is, how you can harness the power of mindfulness, and the known effects of mindfulness on the individual as seen in scientific studies around the world.
Mindfulness. What is it?
Well, Mindfulness is quite an encompassing term, however put simply the main essence of Mindfulness concerns the art of being here, now, in the present moment as it unfolds. To acknowledge the various aspects of life that occur around you, and how you in turn impact those aspects of your life as well. You accept them for what they are, and find a lesson from those moments in order to grow a little bit each time. Now, this may seem like a daunting task, but in all actuality being mindful only takes a few minutes out of your day. A few minutes that can change the way you see the world and live your life. “Mindfulness” in recent years has become the buzz of our modern era, and is perceived quite differently from person to person, depending on where they were introduced to the topic. Although in this case, Mindfulness will be defined as the sense of inner and present awareness that is achieved through a variety of ways. So, let’s begin, shall we?
Getting Started With Mindfulness
There are numerous ways mindfulness can be applied to an individuals life. We’ll be exploring a few tools of the trade and how they can be implemented into one’s daily or weekly routine. One such method is through meditation, and yes, mindfulness and meditation have become synonymous with one another within recent years, but in truth meditation is a tool for one to achieve a state of mindfulness.
Meditation is simply a way for an individual to develop a greater inner awareness, and from this awareness, many changes can occur. To demonstrate, psychologist Dr. Richard Davidson demonstrated the potential of mindfulness in the documentary Free The Mind, where a group of war veterans suffering from PTSD underwent a week-long trial of meditation-based techniques. The hope of this trial was to alleviate their afflictions as much as possible, and to say they simply had “results” would be an understatement. One veteran, who was battling insomnia and anxiety, having to take medication in order to function in the normal world, had a near full turnaround from his previously hectic lifestyle. After the week long trial, his anxiety levels drastically decreased and he was even able to discontinue his use of sleep medication(1). This is one of many cases where meditation-based techniques have had a profound impact on the well being of an individual. If such a change can be expressed in a case of PTSD, just imagine what a few minutes of meditation can do for your life and wellbeing.
“Breathe, smile, and go peacefully”
Now lets begin with the simplest method of meditation. A simple breathing exercise, in which you quiet your mind as best as you can, developing a deeper sense of inner awareness. If you’re just starting out with meditation, this may be a bit of challenge since we have a tendency to shift our mental focus from one thing to another. Through continuous practice however, you’ll find yourself zeroing in more and more as time goes on! Find somewhere comfortable and simply breathe, slowly and surely. Throughout the process, try your best to focus on the way the air gently enters in to your lungs with each inhale, and how it softly exits with each exhale. Whenever you find yourself shifting focus to something else, reel your mind back in and refocus on the feeling and movement of your breath. The amount of time you take in this process is entirely up to you.
Once you have reached this inner state of focus, begin to expand your focus on the present moment. With this newfound awareness, you can begin to tackle various areas of your life, be it good or bad, and thus you can uplift yourself in a number of ways. Lets say, for instance, you had an awkward conversation with a loved one and you’re feeling down and out about the situation. Using your new found state of inner awareness you can assess the scenario in a different light. You can then re-approach your loved one and clear the air about the situation, showing both you care for the relationship and your maturity in looking for a solution to the problem. This is just one of many examples concerning mindfulness and its application. Meditation-based techniques are still being looked into in order understand the depth of their application in daily life. Through continuous use, you will begin to explore capabilities of meditation in your own life.
You sit stiff-legged in your testing chair, a thumping headache resting itself lazily on your brain as the sound of rain rattles painfully in the background. You feel your heart race faster and faster with every passing second.
badum badum badum…
then slowly coming to an ease badum………..badum……….badum only for the process to repeat again. You feel your palms break out in a cold sweat, and the goosebumps on your arms come into full bloom. “Breathe” you whisper softly, the sound of your peers aggressively scribbling on the midterm is like a hurricane inching closer by the minute. You take a deep breath, hold in all your worries and anxiety, and slowly breath out with a reassuring “aaah”. The sound of the rain against the window becomes softer now, and a tranquil pitter patter cools your nerves. With that, you pick up your pencil and begin your test with a newfound sense of peace.
Peace of Mind, Strengthening of Will
As time continued from mindfulness’ initial investigation, the application of mindfulness has been observed in a wide variety of fields. These areas concern one’s neurology, physiology, or as described previously with an individual’s mental well being. These are just some areas where mindfulness-based techniques have been used and studied within the past few decades. For instance, with Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, doctors, scientists and other medical institutions have utilized mindfulness to help individuals undergoing various degrees of stress. A meta-analysis of scientific studies suggested a positive correlation in stress level reduction exhibited by individuals where mindfulness based techniques were applied (2).*
Simply put, mindfulness based techniques are becoming paramount in the development and recovery of individuals within areas of their lives. A recent discovery demonstrated the application of mindfulness in controlling what was otherwise perceived as uncontrollable, and by previous scientific analysis, deemed impossible. It has been shown that through mindfulness based techniques, individuals can tap into and control their own nervous system. This phenomenon wasn’t even in the mind space of scientists until it was quantified and expressed through numerous studies(3). The areas of application continue to grow as mindfulness is being utilized in a variety of ways. We can only begin to imagine just how powerful our conscious efforts are, and mindfulness is simply an avenue of such development.
Although all of these discoveries are exciting to see, it still leaves us wondering how exactly mindfulness can benefit us in every day life. Below is a list of the scientifically proven effects we can receive with mere minutes of mindfulness practice each day.
- Greater will power
- Deeper sense of spatial awareness
- Deeper levels of focus
- Prolonged levels of focus
- Decreased stress levels
- Facilitation of medical recovery
- Increased cognitive function
Some of these benefits do come with time, but through consistent practice you will indeed find yourself improving in numerous areas of your life (2-6).
Mindfulness in Its Entirety
Meditation is a powerful technique to achieve a state of mindfulness, but the actual process of being “mindful” is completely up to you! Go out into the world with fresh eyes, a calm heart and a present mind. Note who you are and how you affect the world as it is affecting you. You’ll find yourself becoming more conscious of your feelings, your body and your mind. All of these factors can propel you forward into higher heights as you begin to understand little by little where you should move towards, what you should be thankful for, and what needs to be worked on along with many other things. Stay mindful and start your journey one step at a time.
Scientific Backing & Resources
- Ambo P. 2013(USA), 2012(Int). Free the mind Dyejaer S. . Documenary. Online
- Grossman P, et al. 2004. Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits: A meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research 57(1):35-43.
- Kox M, van LT, Zwaag J, van J, Sweep FC, van JG, Pickkers P. Voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system and attenuation of the innate immune response in humans. Current neurology and neuroscience reports. 2014 May 20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24799686
- The 23 Amazing Health Benefits of Mindfulness for Body and Brain ( PDFs). Positive Psychology Program – Your One-Stop PP Resource! 2019 Jan 10 https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/benefits-of-mindfulness/
- Cho J. 6 Scientifically Proven Benefits Of Mindfulness And Meditation. Forbes. 2016 Jul 14. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeenacho/2016/07/14/10-scientifically-proven-benefits-of-mindfulness-and-meditation/#420bc26363ce
- Research on Mindfulness in Education. Mindful Schools https://www.mindfulschools.org/about-mindfulness/research/#reference-12