Last updated on September 22nd, 2023.
Mindfulness is the process of actively taking a step back and truly experiencing where you are. It is turning off the auto-pilot. It is the process of existing without looking into the past or planning for the future. It is really, truly, actually being there. Mindfulness is tuning into your senses.
What are the practical benefits of mindfulness? Mindfulness is beneficial for each and every individual. Whether it is taking the time to meditate, or simply un-plugging to assess where you are in the moment, mindfulness can refocus the body and mind. It can relax the shoulders, and ease inner tensions.
More importantly, it is widely understood that mindfulness and meditation can aid depression, anxiety, PTSD, and even chronic pain. Our minds are our cores, our minds are who we are, and our inner turmoil and subsequent physical reactions can be aided by inner explorations.
We are intuitive beings. We can really think, really process, and really understand. Yet, in 2019, this is something we rarely do. We live fast, we speak quickly, and we think thinly. We are nature, we are humans, we have unique thinking capabilities, and it is beneficial to use those to tune into the present.
Mindfulness has the ability to lift your mood and help maximize brain functioning. It relaxes the body and brain. Mindfulness can aid mental illnesses and physical suffering. Even if just for minutes each day, mindfulness can significantly improve your quality of life.
The Practical Benefits Of Mindfulness
We are not meant to be stuck in the past, and we are not meant to worry about the future. How can we best serve ourselves if we refuse to feel the moment. It is practical to be mindful of your current state and actions if you ever hope to live your best life.
The practical benefits of mindfulness:
- Assessing the now
- Aid mental and physical ailments
- Lift your mood, improve your life
It is beneficial to take the time to assess where you are in the present. That can mean taking the time to feel and analyze every part of your body to really tune into how your body feels in a given place and time. It may be cliché, but our bodies are temples, and we need to do maintenance and inspections to operate at our very best.
It is beneficial to know where your aches and pains and numbness and tingling sensations lie. Maybe you have been holding too much tension in your shoulders, and maybe this tells you that you have been holding on to too much stress.
It is so beneficial to tune into ourselves and our environments to gain a holistic understanding of the self.
Depression, anxiety, PTSD, chronic pain, and obesity are all very serious issues. Each and every one of these disorders significantly decreases quality of life.
It is practical to practice mindfulness because research shows that any kind of mindfulness for any amount of time has the potential to aid these issues.
An improvement in such disorders is beneficial to quality of life. We are all looking to live the best life we possibly can, and if you suffer from one or several of these disorders, then you know how big an obstacle poor health can be to reaching the best life you possibly can.
In general, mindfulness promotes a relaxed sense of happiness and contentment. A good mood that lingers without any big event that prompted it.
It feels good to feel good and practicing mindfulness on a regular basis will help increase your good mood. With a better mood and mindset, anything feels possible.
How does mindfulness benefit the brain?
Our brains are fascinating and complicated, highly evolved with near-endless potential. If you truly think about it, you are your brain.
Your brain is divided into different sections with different functions. You are operated by a nervous system, in constant communication with your brain and body.
Mindfulness can benefit the chemical messengers, GABA and serotonin, that promote calmness and happiness.
Mindfulness can also have a positive effect on the activity of different areas of the brain, like the amygdala and prefrontal cortex. Therefore, mindfulness promotes more beneficial brain functioning.
Ways mindfulness can benefit the brain:
- Chemical Messengers: GABA and serotonin
- Amygdala and Prefrontal Cortex
There is an interplay between the brain’s essential chemicals and the environment. An environment can be a location, the people we surround ourselves with, and the situations and moments that we experience.
Everything outside of your head is an environment, and every environment shapes your brain.
Environments shape thoughts and feelings, they shape how deeply we process and how profoundly we think. External environments also shape our internal states, like thoughts and feelings.
Had a bad day because you woke up late and were late to work as a result? Your external environment likely engendered a string of stressful thoughts and left a lingering, uneasy, and unhappy feeling.
Our brains are so in tune with our environment that a singular event can cause such a large chain reaction that the firing of your brain (the brain communicates by firing impulses with chemical messages) can be vastly impacted.
It’s crazy to think that the things we experience shape our thoughts and feelings, and our thoughts and feelings shape our inner communication network. But, think about it a little more, and realize that your existence is a series of internal communication on so deep a level that you do not consciously realize the power of just being.
Taking this into consideration, it is no wonder that using mindfulness to tune into our current environments and corresponding inner states can shape our brains.
The chemical messengers floating around inside and outside of our cells act like executive assistants to the brain. They know their way around the office, and they take on many roles. They keep employees (brain cells) in check, and they send correspondence to other departments (different parts of the body).
These chemicals also do intake: they pay attention to our environment. They take notes and report back to their superior (our brains). These chemicals, also known as neurotransmitters, affect and are affected by our environment, thoughts, and feelings.
Mindfulness can have a mediating effect on the chemical interplay in your brain. Mediating, in this sense, means that mindfulness can step in and alter the relationship between mind and body and soul.
It has been shown that mindfulness increases the activity of GABA and serotonin. These are two neurotransmitters that are known to relax the strain we put on our brains. GABA promotes stress relief, and serotonin increases good mood.
In addition, there are several brain areas that are positively affected by mindfulness. The amygdala is a brain area that dictates emotions like aggression, alertness, and mind and body arousal.
As a result, the amygdala has a large role in activating the “fight or flight” fear response. This response is meant to activate the body and brain to prepare for dangerous situations. Amazingly, our everyday lives are becoming so stressful that the amygdala appears to be constantly activated to some extent.
MRI scans of the average person’s brain continue to shock scientists because the amygdala is consistently more activated in individuals today than in the past.
This is where the miraculous mediator mindfulness comes in. The same MRI scans also show that mindfulness can decrease this “fight or flight” response. So, not only does mindfulness refocus our minds, it literally relaxes our brains.
Why is it good for our brains to relax? As our brains relax, our amygdala begins to shrink. This may sound counterintuitive but it as actually a good thing. The smaller the amygdala, the less aggression, fear-based alertness, and fear-based arousal we feel.
There is a negative correlation between prefrontal cortex activity and the amygdala. As the amygdala shrinks and works less, the prefrontal cortex works more. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for what is called ‘executive functioning.’ These are the functions that make humans unique.
The prefrontal cortex allows us to think deeply in ways that other beings cannot. So, mindfulness lowers our stress, which in turn decreases the size and activation of the amygdala. As the amygdala shrinks, the activity of the prefrontal cortex increases. And, this increase in activity makes us act less primal and more human.
Does mindfulness have exercise benefits?
For some, the idea of taking the time to just be is stressful. It feels too inactive to be beneficial. Often, men take this point of view by virtue of the fact that men are conditioned to be more physically active.
Luckily, there is an interplay between aerobic exercises and mindfulness. Mindfulness enhances the effects of aerobic exercise and aerobic exercise enhances the positive effects of mindfulness.
This is great news for people who feel that regular mindfulness techniques are not an option for them. It is not fun to think that something so beneficial just will not suit you.
It is becoming common knowledge that mindfulness is beneficial, and it can be stressful for people who love to be active to feel they are missing out.
Mindfulness has exercise benefits:
- Aerobic exercises are exercises like running
- Enhances mindfulness
- Great for men and active populations
A lot of aerobic exercises involve cardio exercises. Simple running and jogging are considered forms of aerobic exercises. Cardio is one of the most active forms of exercising because it truly requires every ounce of the body to keep pushing past fatigue and soreness.
Research shows that people who do not benefit from the standard passive mindfulness techniques get the same mindful benefits when they perform aerobic exercises. However, this effect is only found when the person performing the aerobic exercise makes a conscious effort to feel and focus on every part of his or her body.
Like more conventional mindful techniques, aerobic exercises help refocus the mind and get the body out of auto-pilot. Aerobic exercises allow for the same cognitive and emotional benefits, as well.
In our modern age, there are so many people who have the ‘go go go!’ mentality. If you are one of those people who can never justify taking a break, or if you cannot tolerate being passive, then try coupling mindfulness with aerobic exercise. Especially, if you are a male, this can completely change your view of mindfulness.
How can I start practicing mindfulness?
We are the product of our society, and our modern society does not condition us to live in the now. We are taught that the past informs the present, and we are taught that we need to plan for the future to have a peaceful present.
I, for one, do not take the time to assess my body, I do not take the time to truly think. I think simply and broadly, not profoundly. But, I believe in my ability to do so. And, I believe that baby steps and gradual changes are the best methods to begin to practice mindfulness.
You can start practicing mindfulness by making a commitment to yourself to do this for yourself.
How to start practicing mindfulness:
- Make a promise to yourself
- Do the research
- Believe in the journey
You can start practicing mindfulness by training your brain to believe that mindfulness will be beneficial, not harmful.
You can do your own research to convince yourself that taking this first step is the beginning of your journey to an improved self.
A committed and convinced mind is key to success if you want to properly practice mindfulness.
You need to believe in your conviction and believe in the efficacy of mindfulness in order to start practicing.
Start by getting comfortable with sitting or laying absolutely still. Then move on to getting comfortable sitting or laying with your eyes closed for long periods of time. Get comfortable with really thinking and exercising your brain.
Be prepared and commit gradually if you want to successfully begin to practice mindfulness.
How to Practice Mindfulness Daily
On a daily basis, it is not necessary to constantly tune into every internal and external sensation all the time. If you want to reap the benefits of mindfulness, you need to find a common ground.
Prioritize the present, active mind for a period each and every day, without being consumed by the here and now.
How to practice mindfulness daily:
- Start in the morning
- Do it again before bed
- Extra stressful day? Practice again
If you want to practice mindfulness every day, start in the morning. When you wake up, stay in your bed and lay flat on your back with your palms up. Start an abbreviated version of the body scanning technique or do the 3-minute breathing exercise if you are in a rush.
Our days are long and stressful and a good way to incorporate mindfulness into our daily lives is to end the night with a mindfulness technique, as well. It is good to reset your body and mind after a long and stressful day.
Doing this will set you up for success the following day. You will sleep better and wake up refreshed with a sharp mind.
It is important to assess when you are under more stress than usual. If you have a busier-than-normal week, then it will serve you to take extra time to practice mindfulness techniques.
If you need to focus and produce top-quality work, then practicing mindfulness is the best way to maximize your potential on important days.
It is important to be active and aware on a daily basis, but there needs to be a happy medium. You do not need to constantly put your focus on your body or exact thoughts and motivations, but it will serve you to take steps to relax your body and sharpen your mind on a daily basis.
In conclusion, mindfulness can exponentially benefit our daily lives. We live with such preoccupied minds, that we lose sight of who we are, what we feel, and what we think in the present.
You are here. You affect things, and things affect you. You are a mind and a body and a soul. By incorporating mindfulness into your daily life, even if that just means taking five minutes to meditate in a dark and quiet room, you can significantly improve your life.