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There is a long list of comprehensive benefits of mindfulness. Incorporating a regular mindfulness practice into your life can boost your mood, improve your relationships, drive creativity, improve working memory, and improve your overall quality of life. Mindfulness practices can also improve your overall physical health and mental health. The practice of mindfulness may come in the form of formal meditation, or simply bringing greater awareness to everyday tasks.
Numerous studies have found that mindfulness can help people achieve lower cortisol levels in their brains than non-meditators. To get science-y, when the mind or body is stressed or in fear, the body releases cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal gland. In the short term, elevated cortisol levels are necessary to help the body focus through temporary emergencies, but can wreak havoc on the body long term — harming memory, immunity, blood pressure and more. Now more than ever, we need ways to prevent the long term impacts of chronic stress. Mindfulness meditation is one of the best practices to calm the nervous system and give cortisol an outlet for release. By returning to the present moment, meditators give the body and mind a chance to disengage from the body’s natural fight or flight response and gain resiliency in the face of heightened anxiety. This mindfulness practice will slowly but surely begin to change how you feel on a daily basis.
Research suggests that people who practice mindfulness regularly either felt a reduction in their pain, or were otherwise able to better cope with the emotional effects that often accompany such experiences. Consistent meditation enables the brain to create new neural pathways that may allow us to better process our experience with and relationship to the sensation of pain. Adopting a daily meditation practice, or engaging in other mindfulness practices such as journaling or mindful breathing, may support a greater tolerance for those dealing with chronic pain. Going for a mindful walk and observing your surroundings is another great option!
In my experience teaching my mindfulness students, many new practitioners feel uncomfortable sitting in stillness with their thoughts. As their mindfulness practice deepens, students are able to separate themselves from their thoughts and feel more comfortable simply being with themselves. Meditation practice has helped my students detach their identity from passing thoughts and feelings, helping them to realize they are not any one single belief, accomplishment or role. Meditators know that no matter what a mental landscape looks or feels like on a given day, a greater sense of underlying sense of worth and purpose lies beneath.
One study from the National Institute of Health found that meditation can lead to improved self-image and a more positive outlook on life. Meditators experience fewer negative thoughts and images toward themselves as the relationship with themself deepens. The more you practice mindfulness through meditation, the easier it becomes to separate personal identify from any one thought and not let it define who you are — it becomes easier to let go of self-criticism, comparison, or judgement. As meditators change their relationship to their thoughts, they build self-esteem and increase their self-confidence.
Another benefit of mindfulness is its ability to cultivate self awareness. Meditation allows you to slow down and become a witness of your thoughts and feelings. By doing so, you learn more about these internal parts of yourself. When living our regular day-to-day lives, we can lose sight of the present moment and our feelings in certain situations. Mindfulness meditation builds this capability within us, helping us get to know ourselves more deeply. Through regular mindfulness practice we can uncover parts of ourselves we may not normally interact with.
According to PositivePsychology, self-awareness theory is the belief that we, as people, are separate from our thoughts. It is no wonder that meditation fits in well with this philosophy. The practice of mindfulness helps us lead more self-aware lives by allowing us to notice our thought patterns and improve upon them.
If you are looking to take better care of yourself, connect more deeply to your internal thoughts and feelings, and even boost your physical health, now is the time to try to practice mindfulness. Whether it is meditation, journaling, mindful eating or walking, your mental health will benefit from the practice. Try four mindfulness practices in one with our Liberate Method classes that blend mindful movement, journaling, conversation, and meditation, together for a dynamic and empowering workout.