With over 2 billion (!) results coming up on a quick google search, it’s safe to say that mindfulness has officially entered public consciousness. It seems it’s not just a hippie-weed-consuming-kind of thing anymore (was it ever, though?) but a lot of people still seem to believe that its effects and benefits are only for the mind, not the body.
Mindfulness vs. Meditation
Mindfulness and meditation are commonly used as synonyms. However, there are some important differences. As outlined here, mindfulness is essentially about living and acting in a way that includes awareness of oneself, the present moment and the surroundings in a non-judgemental way while meditation is a kind of practice, one of the ways to achieve mindful living and in fact, mindfulness is only a part of meditation.
Effects on the body
Talking about awareness, attention and attitude, it might seem reasonable to assume that mindfulness is all about the mind. And to a certain extent that is true. However, the benefits reach far beyond that. Here are some bodily effects that have been found:
The attentive reader might notice that a lot of these physical struggles that have been shown to improve with mindfulness practice have one thing in common: stress. Of course this is one of the central objectives of mindfulness. The idea is not to entirely ban stress from our range of emotional experiences but rather the contrary - learning to acknowledge, even embrace it.
Effects on the brain
Our brains are incredibly busy all day. Planning your meals, your meetings, handling your To-Do list, worrying about your loved ones, getting some work done, meeting that deadline, … you know the story. Giving your brain the opportunity to take a break from all that, even if it’s just for 1 minute, can go a long way. Here are some benefits of mindfulness on the brain:
Is mindfulness the ultimate solution?
Not really. The good-old ideas about a healthy diet, physical exercise and social connection still stand. Some research even suggests that too much mindfulness can backfire. The bottom line is the same as with so many other things - all in moderation.
A little goes a long way
So, how can you start harvesting some of those benefits? The answer is about patience, consistency, and a bit of bravery. It doesn’t matter when or where you start, whether you are at home or at work, just start somewhere.
At first, it might not be easy to “do nothing”, to just sit and observe your body and your mind. Some people (okay, a lot of people) are not used to acknowledging their emotions in a non-judgemental way. Allow yourself to try it out, even just for moments. The next step is being consistent - stick with it for a couple of days, let them turn into weeks. And with a little bit of patience, I am sure you will soon start noticing results.
Written by Johanna Perschl, Intern Psychologist at AntiLoneliness
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