Surprising health benefits of Mindfulness
According to thousands of years of tradition, Buddhists meditate to understand themselves and their connections to all beings. By doing so, they hope to be released from suffering and ultimately gain enlightenment.
In recent decades, researchers have been gaining insight into the benefits of practicing this ancient tradition. By studying more secular versions of mindfulness meditation, they’ve found that learning to pay attention to our current experiences and accept them without judgment might indeed help us to be happier.
Stress Reduction – Many studies show that practicing mindfulness reduces stress. In 2010, Hoffman et al. analysed 39 studies that explored the use of mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. The researchers concluded that mindfulness-based therapy may be useful in altering affective and cognitive processes that underlie multiple clinical issues.
Decrease in anxiety, negative affect, and emotional reactivity – The researchers found participants who experienced mindfulness-based stress reduction had significantly less anxiety, depression and somatic distress compared with the control group. Mindfulness meditation shifts people’s ability to use emotion regulation strategies in a way that enables them to experience emotion selectively, and that the emotions they experience may be processed differently in the brain.
Helps banish negative feelings – Sitting all day at a desk or computer is not good for your overall health and well-being. The often-recommended advice to get up and move is well-founded in research. A study assessing college students’ daily waking movement-based behaviours found less memory negative effect from movement with mindfulness in mind and suggested that incorporating mindfulness into daily movement may lead to better overall health benefits.
Mindfulness helps improve immunity response – When we encounter viruses and other disease-causing organisms, our bodies send out troops of immune cells that circulate in the blood. These cells, including pro- and anti-inflammatory proteins, neutrophils, T-cells, immunoglobulins, and natural killer cells, help us to fight disease and infection in various ways. Mindfulness, it turns out, may affect these disease-fighting cells.
Improves Attention – Researchers found that brief meditation training (four days) can lead to enhanced ability to sustain attention. Other improvements from brief meditation training included working memory, executive functioning, visuo-spatial processing, reductions in anxiety and fatigue, and increased mindfulness.