Mindfulness Is Revolutionizing the Way We Think about Health

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:

  • What mindfulness is
  • The benefits of mindfulness
  • How you can practice mindfulness

What Is Mindfulness?

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.  

Meditation is more difficult than you might think. Many struggle during their first attempt at meditating. But don’t fret—like anything, meditation takes practice to get better. Begin with brief 5- or 10-minute sessions if you’re having trouble, and you’ll get there!

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.

The Health Benefits of Mindfulness

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: 

  • Reduced rumination: Rumination, a symptom of both anxiety and depression, is unhealthily, repetitively contemplating a thought or problem with no solution. Mindfulness helps individuals better deal with such intrusive thoughts and ruminate less overall.
  • Stress reduction: fMRI data has suggested that mindfulness meditation helps process stress differently in the brain and reduces the effects of stress overall.
Mindfulness has incredible cognitive benefits that have been proven with substantial empiricla data.

  • Focus: Mindfulness is directly correlated with cognitive flexibility and attentional functioning, meaning that individuals can focus better and suppress distracting information.
  • Other benefits: Improving introspection, intuition, relationships, and more are all connected to mindfulness.

How Do I Practice Mindfulness?

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.

There are plenty of opportunities to be mindful that don’t involve meditation. Just look at your daily routine, and you’ll find space for mindfulness, like during your daily shower or bath.
  • Walking: Instead of mindlessly walking, take a walk in which you focus on your physical movements and breath. Pay attention to these small details. 
  • Eating: Eat without distractions: no smartphone, no TV, no laptop. Merely eat—chew slowly, and with intention. 
  • Showering: Showers are great opportunities to be mindful, no matter what time of day you prefer to take them. Notice how the warm water feels on your skin and be grateful for your body as you wash it. 
  • Yoga: Yoga is an excellent way to practice mindfulness through exercise. Styles of yoga vary greatly depending on your needs—for example, hatha yoga focuses on calmness, whereas vinyasa focuses on building heat in the body, but both value the breath and mindfulness.

Mindfulness Could Change Your Life: And You Can Start Today

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. 

For questions, partnerships, or to get covered on the GRW blog, click here.

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