Mindfulness is a set of practices that increase happiness and enhance general wellbeing.
As a practice, mindfulness is the purposeful directing of attention to the present moment, and observing thoughts, one’s own body, or events non-judgmentally. It has positive, long-lasting effects on mood, so prevents depression, anxiety and irritability. Mindfulness also improves memory, increases creativity and generally, increases brain power. But it’s not all about the mind, mindfulness benefits the body as well, strengthening the immune system, increasing physical stamina, and alleviating pain. Not only that, but mindfulness is said to slow down the aging process, working at a cellular level by improving chromosomal health. Cool huh?
Benefits of mindfulness:
- Increases brain power
- Reduces stress
- Improves mood
- Improves the immune system
- Slows ageing
- Improves memory
- Increases creativity
- Reduces pain
One aspect of mindfulness is that it helps develop the ability to turn off the ‘automatic pilot’ mode that people commonly function in. An example of automatic pilot is when you drive or walk to work and get there without remembering the trip, without being fully aware of what you pass by. Maybe your head is somewhere else, planning the days tasks or thinking about a conversation or event from the past. Mindfulness enables people to tune into the present moment with full awareness. The reason this is important is that much of the stress and anxiety people experience is due to negative rumination on past or future events, and so developing the ability to be fully in the present moment enables one to disengage from this habitual way of thinking. This increases happiness.
So, what are mindfulness practices? Mindfulness can be developed through several practices, including meditation, yoga, body scans, breath work, mindful eating and mindful listening, to name a few. However, the core practice of mindfulness is meditation. Meditation is simply a method of mental training. It is a practice that is both simply and hard. It takes time, patience and perseverance. However, the benefits are well worth it – that’s if you want to be healthier, happier and live longer.
Article posted 8 September 2015
Maree is a professional counsellor in Wellington.