May 23, 2022

What Is Mindfulness & What Are Its Primary Benefits?

Written by Rachel Eddins

Posted in Anxiety, Emotional & Mental Health and with tags: mindfulness

What is mindfulness? woman being mindful self meditating

Everyone talks about mindfulness. It could be psychology professionals, New Agers, or the person sitting next to you on the bus. For a concept that has gained so much traction, it’s not easy to define. Or, perhaps, it’s too easy to define.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness describes the non-judgmental act of staying present.

We all do so much time traveling to the past or future in our minds. On an intellectual level, we understand that all we have is now.

Emotionally, however, it can be tricky to live out that reality. Mindfulness guides us to embrace the present moment. In the process, it offers some other valuable benefits.

Some Common & Effective Mindfulness Techniques

Meditation

Frequently called “sitting,” meditation can be performed in many settings. When first practicing, sitting is a good way to learn. The idea is to sort without judgment and remain present with whatever you feel or think.

Breathing Exercises

Shifting into a mindful state is a challenge in and of itself. Breathing exercises are a popular entry point. Sure, we breathe all day long. But when you focus on and control your breath, you are embracing the present moment.

Visualization

Through the use of apps or videos, you can try out such guided imagery. There is so much to gain from visualizing your worries or stress or pain or whatever as something you can see and control. This empowers you to move from your present reality into your desired reality.

Movement

Whatever movement you choose can be done more mindfully. You may practice while walking. Another time, it could be the basic act of doing the dishes.

Notice each and every facet of the movements. After settling into such awareness, expand it to include the feelings, thoughts, and sensations that may arise.

Read more: Mindfulness Exercises 

benefits of mindfulness woman in field

The Primary Benefits of Mindfulness

  • Reduction of Stress and Anxiety
  • Less Overthinking
  • Improved Emotional Regulation
  • Better Focus
  • Decrease In Depression Relapses
  • Memory Boost
  • Deeper Self-Insights
  • Healthier Relationships
  • Emotional and Intellectual Flexibility

Simply put, all of the above requires a commitment to be right here, right now — without judgment. The overstimulating world in which we dwell aims to keep us distracted and not present. Left unchecked, it can lead to mental and physical distress.

What so many people are realizing is that mindfulness practice is a powerful counterbalance to the frenetic demands of modern life.

In addition to the above benefits, mindfulness has been found to offer some physical bonuses, e.g. stronger immune function, healthier heart, fending off cognitive decline, and slowing down the aging process.

This combination of incredible physical and emotional perks helps explain how and why “mindfulness therapy” has become a growing field.

What is Mindfulness Therapy?

As the name implies, therapists are finding ways to help clients increase their self-awareness. A mindful person is someone who can better identify and explore their own behaviors, thoughts, and feelings.

This important skill is a portal of sorts to a new perspective and mindset. Problems that had you feeling stuck suddenly become more obvious and thus, more manageable. When you avoid clinging to the past or fearing the future, the present is a more palatable place.

Types of Mindfulness Therapy

Whichever approach you choose, mindfulness therapy is proven to help with a wide range of mental health concerns. This includes anxiety, addiction, depression, and more.

Meanwhile, the physical problems associated with your emotional distress will also be soothed.

Embracing a mindfulness practice is a major positive step for your mental and physical well-being. Mindfulness therapy just may be the ideal avenue to lead you to such outcomes.

mindfulness can become transformational woman meditating quietly

How Mindfulness Helps with Anxiety Symptoms

Anxiety can turn you into a time traveler. Even the most mundane moments of stress, nervousness, or worry can remove us from the present moment. We might be transported to the past where we dwell in regret or guilt. Just as easily, we may end up in the future — a space of apprehension or dread.

When dealing with a diagnosed anxiety disorder, these time-traveling tendencies become chronic. They can hamper your daily functioning and change how you make life choices. If only there was an accessible and safe method that could root us in the present moment…

Have You Tried Mindfulness?

I’ve been writing a lot about mindfulness because of its simple power. When you are mindful, you activate other essential traits, like:

  • Awareness: You are in tune with yourself and your surroundings
  • Focus: The past and future cannot distract you
  • Acceptance: You embrace how you feel right here and right now
  • Empathy: You do all of this without judgment or self-judgment

Mindfulness counterbalances anxiety. It reminds us that all that stuff — from the past or future — is not happening at the moment. You can observe and assess from a detached place. Such distance is often the antidote to anxiety. It’s why so many people have taken up meditation.

What is Meditation?

This is no singular correct way to meditate. The term is used to cover a diverse blend of techniques and tactics. What they usually have in common is a goal of focusing your mind on:

  • An activity (this includes breathing)
  • A thought or series of thoughts
  • An object
  • The act of focusing

Committing to a regular routine of some form of meditation is a proven path toward mindfulness. In turn, mindfulness is a proven path toward the easing of anxiety symptoms.

Mindfulness Can Reduce Anxiety Symptoms

The awareness, focus, acceptance, and empathy mentioned above work in tandem. They teach us to “sit” with our feelings without judgment. This practice helps reduce anxiety symptoms in a few ways, e.g.

  • You identify and name the anxious sensations. This is done without any need to repress such feelings. Analyzing is not necessary when you can instead just watch them fade.
  • In a state of mindfulness, you are better positioned to recognize root causes. Your energy is not used to fight off the anxiety. Rather, you can dig deep and learn its source.
  • The more mindful you become, the less powerful the worries are. You see them without the need to confront them. You are identifying underlying causes. From there, you regain a sense of control that can be lost when anxiety rises.

how to be mindful mindfulness

The Science of Mindfulness

All of the above is not conjecture. According to research, mindful meditation changes your brain for the better.

For example, one part of your brain (amygdala) reduces its activity. Meanwhile, two parts of the brain (hippocampus and prefrontal cortex) increase activity. This combination of factors enhances your ability to regulate emotions.

In addition, other studies have garnered findings like:

  • It only takes 8 weeks for mindfulness practice to create the brain changes you need to improve your emotional regulation.
  • College students who engaged in just 5 to 12 minutes of daily guided meditation reported experiencing less stress and anxiety.
  • Therapists who integrate mindfulness-based techniques have witnessed a reduction in anxiety symptoms in their patients.

How You Can Practice Mindfulness Simply & Practically

Sometimes, the easiest way to understand mindfulness is to contemplate its absence. Your alarm goes off in the morning but you hit snooze. By the time you get out of bed, you realize you didn’t prepare for your day the night before. You don’t have time for a slow, healthy meal — never mind a few minutes of quiet contemplation. As you rush out the door, you feel frenzied and vulnerable.

Right on cue, something happens that sends you into an emotional spiral. Maybe you get stuck in traffic or perhaps someone else triggers you. You look around and wonder why your day is off to such a terrible start.

how to be mindful

What is Mindfulness?

As described in a recent post, mindfulness describes the non-judgmental act of staying present. It guides us to embrace the present moment. Staying present can alter how we see our world. In turn, this shift in perspective can lead to shifts in how you think and behave.

Mindfulness is not an activity, so to speak. It’s a lifestyle choice that requires commitment. Like almost any lifestyle change, it will take a little time to see and feel the results of your mindfulness practice. This explains why so many people urge you to create a daily routine.

Set an Intention For Your Day

You do not have to be stuck in the scenario detailed up top. To prevent this, it helps to be intentional. Your brain and your body want you to operate in a conscious manner. It enables everything to turn more smoothly. What better time to set this intention than upon waking each day?

Suggestions:

  • The night before, organize what you’ll need for the following day.
  • Get to bed early enough to allow for a healthy amount of sleep.
  • Don’t jump out of bed in the morning — even if the alarm is ringing. (Or put the alarm close to your bed.)
  • Engage in some deep breathing as you consciously ask yourself what your intentions are for the day.
  • Check in with yourself throughout the day to make sure your choices are aligned with your intentions.

Again, this isn’t a quick fix that brings instant results.

Commit to having intentional mornings while exploring ways to introduce mindfulness throughout the day.

mindfulness therapy woman meditating in field

Mindfulness in Basic Daily Activities

Reframe your perception of chores, errands, etc. It requires an intricate amount of internal connections to allow you to walk, talk, drive a car, or simply wash the dishes. Mindfulness teaches us to not take anything for granted.

Be as present as possible in all you do. Witness as your day takes on new meaning and power. To follow are but two examples:

Meals

In our hectic culture, meals are often consumed without much thought at all. It should come as no surprise that this can result in epidemics of preventable disease and digestive trouble. Instead, try approaches like this:

Interactions

Here is where your mindfulness can become transformational. Your interactions with others don’t have to be mundane or transactional. It is well within your power to be as present as you choose to be, as much as you choose to be. You do not have to take any conversation for granted. This change can result in deeper connections and richer experiences.

Speaking of interactions, therapy too can be a useful avenue toward a more mindful life. It’s not always easy to create such changes. We’d love to help you along this journey.

At Eddins Counseling Group, we have therapists who can help. A counselor can be a supportive guide. We’re here for you.

Speaking of Science and Therapy

Find yourself a mindfulness-based therapist. A meta-analysis of 209 studies showed how effective such approaches are in addressing stress and decreasing anxiety symptoms. This is why we use such techniques when treating someone with anxiety. If such relief — no medication, no side effects — interests you, give us a call!

At Eddins Counseling Group, we have therapists who can help. A counselor can be a supportive guide. We’re here for you.

mindfulness-based therapist

Book Your Appointment Today

Eddins Counseling Group offers in-person in Houston, TX, and online therapy in various states, including Florida, New Jersey, Indiana, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Virginia, Massachusetts, among others.

Contact us at 832-559-2622 or book an appointment online.

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