What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is your ability to bring awareness to experiences, feelings, and emotions. Buddhists believed that through prayer or mediation, you can shift your thoughts away from distraction and into intention.
The mind has on average 3,000 thoughts per minute. A Harvard study claims that the average person is ‘lost in thought’ for at least 47% of the day. That’s a lot of thoughts that are running on autopilot!
What’s incredible to me is the thoughts and feelings we have control how we feel and what we believe consciously and subconsciously. Allowing thoughts to run on autopilot is dangerous because you’re not aware of or in control of your mind. The practice of mindfulness will grant you the ability to take that power back. Doing this will strengthen your mental health profoundly.
The Act Of Being Mindful
Bringing your thoughts, feelings and emotions into intentional awareness is only the first step to mindfulness. The second step is choosing how to process those thoughts in a healthy, productive way. I like to view mindfulness as a nurturing lens we can see life through that helps us make the best decision on what to do next. For example:
A mindful person will be accepting of their thoughts, feelings and emotions. They will view them without judgement or fear. They will take time to process and validate their thoughts, feelings and emotions. They will decide how to act on that on that information in a healthy and productive way.
A non-mindful person will usually seek external blame for their problems. They will allow their thoughts, feelings and emotions to run on autopilot, which will create limiting beliefs about themselves and their abilities. As a result, they will react poorly to highly stressful and emotional situations.
Mindfulness systems can include mediation, breathing techniques, guided imagery or other practices that relax the body and mind. I acknowledge that mindfulness cannot be attained with all thoughts all the time, but it is proven that people who do practice mindfulness have a healthier and happier life.
Mindfulness Affects Your Mental Health
The Oxford dictionary defines mental health as ‘a person’s condition regarding their psychological and emotional wellbeing.’
A person’s mental health can be affected by how they think, feel and act. Since we all experience life through our own mental/emotional lens, our own ability to be mindful is directly correlated to our mental health.
More than 450 million people worldwide suffer from mental disorders. As a result, many intervention strategies have been explored by therapists and other mental health professionals. Mindful-based interventions have been very popular in the last decade. There have been many studies showing the impact and success of mindfulness.
Let’s discover 5 proven ways mindfulness will strengthen your mental health.
5 Ways Being Mindful Can Benefit Your Mental Health
1. Better Stress Management
Stress affects everyone in the world. Too much stress or chronic stress can cause depression, anxiety, cardiovascular disease and even suicide. The ability to relieve stress that can make a huge impact on your mental health and wellbeing. Which is where mindfulness becomes an asset.
A 5-year study demonstrated how mindfulness activities, such as meditation, lowered stress in patients. By engaging patients in mindful-based stress reduction activities every single day for 8 weeks, patients were able to manage their stress better than the test group. This shows how powerful mindfulness can be on our ability to manage stress and promote healthier emotional wellbeing.
2. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware and in control of your emotions. In particular, the ability to self-regulate your own emotions can greatly affect your mental health. Emotional regulation is measured by your ability to control strong emotions by not acting on raw feelings in an impulsive way.
Throughout our lives, we experience a lot of strong emotions, from anger and frustration to sadness and fear. When people cannot regulate their emotions, it leads to more conflict, emotional outbursts, stress, and other mental health issues.
A study done by the American Psychological Association showed that mindfulness plays a role in a person’s ability to regulate their emotions. Instead of just experiencing the emotion on autopilot, test subjects began to differentiate their emotions in a different way. As a result, they processed the emotion more productively and was able to self-regulate easier.
3. Decreased Depressive Symptoms
Having depressive symptoms affects much of the population. According to Healthline, 16.2 million people struggle with depressive symptoms in the U.S. alone. Depression is huge in the mental health world, and the numbers only seem to be going up.
Studies show how mindful-based interventions are efficient at decreasing depressive symptoms and depression relapse in patients. It demonstrates how mindfulness-based treatment allows patients to process and regulate their emotions in a different way from those who did not receive the treatment.
This proves how important mindfulness is to our mental health and overall emotional wellbeing.
4. Less Anxiety
Anxiety occurs when we feel nervous and/or worried about a certain event or outcome. In psychiatry, anxiety is known as a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension typically with compulsive behavior or panic attack.
Controlled trials were performed on patients with anxiety disorders in which they had patients participate in regular mindful-based activities. The trials showed that mindful-based intervention was effective in decreasing anxiety symptoms in patients and lasted longer than other techniques.
Prolonged anxiety can control people’s life. I personally suffer from anxiety and it can be a very scary and stressful thing to experience. I started practicing mindfulness exercises regularly and found that the anxiety symptoms disappeared.
5. Better Coping Skills
Coping is a response we use to process our emotional or psychological stress. Our coping skills are measured by how we choose to respond to highly stressful situations. Most people think of coping when they experience a death in the family. This tragedy adds lots of emotional stress on a person and can test their ability to be emotionally strong and resilient.
An article published in 2012 demonstrates how using a mindful approach to coping strategies helped their patients. In this mindful-coping study, doctors used mindful strategies including meditation, cognitive therapies & empathy exercises to improve their patients’ coping abilities.
Patients reported having fewer negative emotions and felt more constructive about the situation. This shows the power that mindfulness has on our ability to cope with stressful situations.
Incorporating regular mindfulness exercises into your life can be very beneficial to your mental health. Mindful-based interventions have been proven through scientific research to strengthen your mental health in many ways.
These benefits include managing stress, developing emotional intelligence, decreasing anxiety and depressive symptoms, and strengthen your ability to cope.
The power of the mind belongs to you. Whether you choose to exercise it or not, this power will always remain in your hands. Take a dive into mindfulness. You may be surprised to see where it may lead you. Regular practice will let you discover the above effects of mindfulness on your own mental health.
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