Meditation: The Benefits of Mindfulness
By engaging in mindfulness practice, you’re essentially utilizing an innate tool to help manage and improve your mental, spiritual, and emotional health.
Due to recent its recent upsurge into mainstream popularity (thanks to the likes of Jimmy Fallon, respectfully) chances are, you’ve at least heard of meditation. And although it may seem like a new-age trend, meditation has been practiced around the world for centuries as a tool to improve health and overall well-being. Unfortunately, meditation is still woefully unappreciated in today’s world* with only 8% of the US population reporting participation in the activity. So as a result, there are many misconceptions surrounding the topic. A couple being that meditation is a pretty much a ‘waste of time’ (which is far from the truth) or that ‘you’re not really doing anything’ (the latter being true to an extent).
Although there are many forms of meditation, this article will focus on the practice of mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation is essentially a focus on non-reactivity (that is, to your thoughts and emotions) while using the breath as an anchor to help stay in the present moment. The idea behind mindfulness practice is learning to be fully present and aware of what you’re doing, while not over-extending your attention towards thoughts or things happening around you.
So while on the surface it may appear that you’re doing nothing, by engaging in mindfulness practice, you’re essentially utilizing an innate tool to help manage and improve your mental, spiritual, and emotional health.
With the stressful, fast-paced pressure of modern-day life, tools like mindfulness meditation are needed now more than ever! And with all the benefits meditation has to offer it’s a shame that more people aren’t on board.
The Benefits of Meditation
Meditation doesn’t just have a spiritual backing alone, tons of scientific research have proven the simple practice of meditation can offer a myriad of health benefits. Including:
- Increased immune function
- Increased empathy and compassion
- Decrease in stress levels
- Decrease in symptoms of anxiety and depression
Research has also shown that over time, there was a much larger volume of gray matter in the area of the hippocampus (which positively correlates with learning and memory) in meditators compared to non-meditators.
Where to start
At first glance, this all may seem like much, which is understandable. Thing is, in actuality meditation is incredibly simple! Personally, when I first began meditating about a year ago, I started with the guided meditation app, “Calm” that I highly recommend for beginners. They offer 7-day program that walks you through the ins and outs of meditation with a bunch of extra features that make the experience relaxing and enjoyable. The meditation sessions are only 10 minutes long, so they’re easy to squeeze into any routine.
The Calm app is available for iOS /Android and is free to download. Calm also works via internet browser as well.
If you’re ready to try to incorporate mindfulness practice in your life or just want learn more information about it, a great resource to check out is Mindful.org. They offer lessons on how to start meditating, breathing exercises and techniques as well as other information that might help you understand mindfulness better.