Mindfulness is the practice and experience of being fully in the moment, whether that moment contains excitement, pain, boredom, mild interest or curiosity. It’s the act of paying attention, and mindfulness training is the cultivation of that attention.
With roots in the Buddhist tradition, it’s only been in recent decades that mindfulness has begun to seep into Western consciousness, but as it has done so, it has begun to attract a lot of attention for the positive benefits it bestows on practitioners. From easing stress to assisting in overcoming addiction, here are seven contemporary woes that mindfulness training can help almost anybody tackle.
Stress is considered to be at least a partial culprit in scores of diseases and the symptoms associated with them, including stroke, hypertension, irritable bowel syndrome and cancer to name a few.
While there are a number of known ways to reduce stress in addition to mindfulness, such as exercise and talk therapy, mindfulness training is particularly helpful in protecting against stress-related mental and physical health woes, because it lessens stress by disrupting patterns of over-identifying one’s self with one’s problems and increasing self-compassion.
Addiction is one of the most debilitating contemporary health problems in the world. Mindfulness training has been shown to be an effective tool in working to overcome it, particularly because mindfulness is a tool that anyone can practice anywhere.
When challenges and triggers arise in the life of a person working to overcome an addiction, as they most certainly will, mindfulness training can ground a person in her immediate experience so that she can attend to and withstand the discomfort that’s arisen.
Roughly 15 million adults suffer from depression throughout the United States, and their lives, work, relationships and health are strained considerably because of it. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, depression is the primary cause of disability for people between the ages of 15 and 44. It’s no small accomplishment, then, that mindfulness training can help alleviate it and its symptoms.
From performing seemingly small tasks like brushing one’s teeth or tying one’s shoes with focused attention, as well as practicing mindfulness in time that’s been set aside, depression’s grip on the mind and body is lessened, which allows the depressed person the room to make even more gains against the illness.
Poor physical health
Poor physical health can take many forms that range from high blood pressure and diabetes to poor circulation, insomnia and chronic pain. Mindfulness training can greatly aid in alleviating these physical maladies, their symptoms and other health woes.
Even though Americans’ increasingly sedentary lifestyles make getting enough exercise on a regular basis more and more difficult, mindfulness training can be done at any time. Being able to practice mindfulness in the office, on the commute and at the dentist is one way to shore up and prevent otherwise failing physical health.
One of the most unpleasant and common experiences of 21st century American life, anxiety can make ordinary occurrences, like running into an acquaintance at the grocery store, nearly unbearable. Marked by physical, emotional and mental discomforts, anxiety is often treated with medication.
Tending to anxiety via mindfulness training is remarkably effective as well. Because mindfulness practice encourages people to accept their experiences without judgment, even the presence of painful emotions or anxious thoughts can become tolerable instead of a reason why anxiety worsens.
Defined as paying compulsive attention to the experience of one’s distress, including the causes and effects of that distress, rumination is a pattern of negative thoughts and feelings that can lead to depression, binge eating and drinking, gastrointestinal troubles and even post-traumatic stress disorder.
Because mindfulness training brings attention to what is really happening in the mind and body, it’s particularly effective at breaking this negative cycle. By disrupting the thoughts that fuel rumination through focused attention, the perpetuating energy of rumination is lessened.
Dissatisfaction with one’s lot is so commonplace that, to many people, it barely registers as a problem. However, because mindfulness training can enhance your sense of well-being, it deserves to be listed as a problem that can be overcome.
Simply becoming more satisfied with one’s self, one’s situation, and the world in general can and does have far-reaching, positive effects, and it’s one of the most readily discovered benefits of mindfulness training.
From five minutes a couple days a week to a devoted hour each morning, mindfulness training has the potential to help transform a life from the inside out, banishing everything from depression and anxiety to addiction and poor health.