Practicing mindfulness – whether that be in the form of meditating, taking a mindful walk, or just being aware that you are living in the present moment – has become an increasingly popular form of stress relief.
Not only does mindfulness have positive effects on mood, but it also improves health and slows aging. If that hasn’t convinced you to try it out, I have provided evidence from both scientific articles and my own personal experience, along with some tips for beginners.
A meta-analysis on mindfulness-based stress reduction has shown positive effects on depression, anxiety and pain. It reduces stress reactivity, facilitates stress recovery, and even increases antibody response. In a study done by Creswell et al. in 2013, lonely older adults who practiced mindfulness showed decreased loneliness and inflammation at the genetic level. Additionally, practicing mindfulness improves attention and prevents aging: a 2005 study by Lazar et al. on advanced meditators showed that they had thicker cortical areas, including the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in planning, decision-making, attention, memory, and complex thinking.
If that makes no sense to you, this might resonate a bit better 🙂
My personal experience:
I have been practicing mindfulness for about two months now, and for part of that time I kept a daily log on my productivity, mood, and experiences. Comparing my baseline before meditating with 10 days of daily meditation, I had 61% higher productivity during the 10-day meditation period! Subjectively, I felt a greater sense of calmness and control, and I felt that I lived in the moment more often. It can be easy to get caught up in work, school, and the monotony of daily life, but practicing mindfulness is a great way to combat that by being aware and seeing the beauty in even trivial experiences.
Tips for beginners:
- I use the app Stop, Breathe, and Think. Using an app that guides you through meditations helps you learn the basic techniques, and it provides you with a ton of content so you never get bored doing the same meditation.
- You can start with just 5 minutes every day, and increase the amount of time as you feel ready. It is so easy to set aside a small amount of time to meditate; even if you are extremely busy, anyone can pause and take a 5-minute break.
- Practice every day in the morning when you wake up. Having a routine will help you make a habit of keeping a daily practice, and meditating in the morning starts your day off on a good note.
- If you don’t see results right away, that’s okay! It typically takes at least a couple weeks to notice any big changes. Meditating can be extremely difficult at first, but if you keep practicing, it will get easier and become second nature. Plus, you’ll start to look forward to the time you spend in a completely relaxed, peaceful state.
Invest in your happiness and health by starting a mindfulness/meditation routine. It is an incredibly easy change to make in your life, and it has so many positive benefits. You might even adopt other positive lifestyle changes thanks to your newfound self-awareness.