Our knowledge of health is constantly in flux. Take the example of smoking—Gen Xers and younger may have grown up in a world where it was mere common knowledge that tobacco harms you, but baby boomers didn’t. It wasn’t until the 1950s that serious studies were conducted on the harmful effects of smoking and this knowledge was brought into the political sphere.
Even our stance on exercise, which is now generally praised as a near cure-all and health-booster, hasn’t remained consistent throughout human history.
So, what’s the newest public health phenomenon? It may not be your definition of “putting in hard work” to be healthy, but is still difficult.
You might’ve guessed it—it’s mindfulness.
In this article, we’ll discuss:
As a starting point, we’ll begin with mindful.org’s all-purpose definition: “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
A core element of mindfulness is the practice of meditation. There are many ways to meditate, but common “mindfulness meditation” involves observing thoughts as they come and go. The aim here is to avoid extremes—one shouldn’t fixate on or judge thoughts as much as one shouldn’t aim to have no thoughts at all—but rather to calmly observe thoughts and then simply let them go.
Luckily, if you hate the thought of meditation, there are countless other ways to be mindful in your daily routine. Scroll down to our section on ways to practice mindfulness to find out more.
Most importantly, mindfulness isn’t “only in your head”—as mindful.org states, “meditation begins and ends in the body,” meaning that we must be just as intentional with our body as our thoughts. It alternatively means that mindfulness has serious physical benefits, which we’ll get to in the next section.
It may be tempting to think that mindfulness isn’t as beneficial as exercise or medication, but you’d be wrong to assume that.
There is plenty of empirical evidence that shows the physical and psychological health benefits of mindfulness, including:
Like we mentioned, a popular mindfulness practice is meditating, which has powerful benefits. However, there’s more to mindfulness than sitting in silence, if that’s too intimidating or unappealing to you. Keep reading in this section to find out more.
One of the amazing parts of mindfulness is that it hardly costs a thing, so you can start as soon as you want. While it might be tempting to splurge on a meditation cushion or yoga gear, as we’ve discussed, mindfulness doesn’t require any of these material possessions. And you don’t need extra time, either—you can incorporate mindfulness into your preexisting routine while brushing your teeth or walking your dog. Give mindfulness a go today—and you’ll see the benefits.