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10 Benefits of Mindfulness Backed by Science

10 Benefits of Mindfulness Backed by Science


Mindfulness is the ability to notice and accept your thoughts and emotions without judgment. It’s an important skill that helps us deal with stress and negative emotion, which is why it’s so beneficial for our health.

The practice can decrease pain sensitivity, help people cope with chronic illness, and even increase the density of brain regions associated with memory and empathy. Read on for more benefits of mindfulness, backed by science.

1. Reduces Stress

Practicing mindfulness helps you focus on what’s important and let go of unhelpful worries. It also encourages you to engage in activities that reduce stress and anxiety, such as taking a walk or doing physical exercises. These behaviors activate the parasympathetic nervous system, a response that decreases stress and promotes relaxation.

Mindfulness can help you avoid destructive and automatic habits, such as reaching for a bag of chips in the evening instead of going for a walk. In fact, research shows that the part of your brain associated with fearful responses — called the amygdala — is smaller in meditators.

If you’re concerned about getting bored with a mindfulness practice, try changing up your routine, like sitting in a different seat at work or walking somewhere new for lunch. Just remember that mindfulness isn’t about stopping your thoughts, but noticing them with a little distance and responding thoughtfully.

2. Improves Memory

Mindfulness meditation trains your brain to be present, which can help you recall important information like names or numbers. It also helps you learn new skills more easily by allowing you to focus and keep your thoughts clear.

Stress can impair memory, and mindfulness is known to lower levels of cortisol. In fact, researchers have found that people who practice mindfulness often have a larger hippocampus, which is associated with memory and learning.

Research also shows that mindfulness training can improve working memory, the ability to remember temporary information, such as a phone number. This may be due to a reduction in proactive interference from older memories, as well as the hippocampus’s increased size. Interestingly, mindfulness has also been shown to improve the ability to identify and accept emotions—a process that can be especially helpful for those suffering from depression or anxiety.

3. Increases Self-Awareness

Mindfulness is a form of focused attention that allows us to observe our thoughts and feelings with non-judgmental awareness. It can help us understand our automatic responses to stress and anxiety, which can lead to negative habits.

It can also increase self-awareness, which is helpful for overcoming irrational fears and limiting negative biases. In one study, participants who were mindful were less likely to have a negativity bias when viewing images that evoked strong positive or negative emotions while having their brains scanned.

Being mindful can also help you identify unhealthy patterns of behavior, like going to the refrigerator after a stressful day and picking up a bag of chips to calm yourself down. It can help you break free from that trance, instead opting for some healthy vegetables. Practicing mindfulness can also decrease your cravings and make it easier to stay on track with your diet and fitness goals.

4. Increases Empathy

Mindfulness is the practice of consciously paying attention to your thoughts, feelings and emotions. It can also involve accepting your uncomfortable emotions without judgement, which can help you feel less overwhelmed and engulfed by them.

In a recent study, researchers compared a mindfulness program with a waitlist control group to see how it affected participants’ levels of empathy and self-compassion. They used a paired sample t-test research design, which reduces variability between groups.

The results showed that a short mindfulness induction was associated with increases in cognitive and affective empathy, and that personality traits moderated the effect. In particular, Neuroticism predicted lower empathy scores, while trait mindfulness was linked to higher levels of openness, conscientiousness, and extraversion. This suggests that mindfulness may increase empathy through improvements in emotion regulation and equanimity. It can also improve emotional regulation and promote self-compassion.

5. Reduces Anxiety

The practice of mindfulness, which involves being fully aware and accepting of one’s moment-to-moment experiences, can help reduce anxiety. This is because it helps people learn to be with their challenging thoughts and emotions without judging them as “bad” or “bad for you.” Mindfulness can also help individuals unhook from unhealthy behaviors and addictions, manage pain, soothe insomnia, reduce high blood pressure and more. Meditating can also lead to the opening of your third eye chakra.

A recent study examined the effects of a 20-minute body scan meditation from the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program on people with chronic back pain. The study found that meditating for eight weeks significantly reduced their levels of perceived pain and stress, as well as their heart rates. Moreover, the meditation also led to boosts in working memory capacity.

6. Improves Sleep

Insomnia and a troubled mind often go hand-in-hand, but mindfulness can help improve sleep. It trains you to focus on the present moment and be less easily distracted, so your thoughts won’t keep you up at night.

It can also help you become more accepting of your sleep problems, which may make them less stressful. And when you do struggle to sleep, it can help you recognize that the problem will likely solve itself if you give yourself time to relax.

During mindfulness meditation, you observe your thoughts and emotions without judgment. This helps you accept your feelings and gives you a new perspective, which can be beneficial for those who have chronic pain or illness that interferes with sleep. Mindfulness also helps you better manage pain by reducing stress and anxiety. A number of studies have shown that it can also help you control your blood pressure.

7. Boosts Immune System

Boosting your immune system is one of the most important reasons to practice mindfulness. Studies show that mindfulness reduces inflammation, improves immune cell function, increases natural killer cells, and decreases inflammatory cytokines.

Mindfulness can also impact telomeres, which are found at the end of chromosomes and can become damaged when we experience stress or disease. Researchers have discovered that mindfulness meditation appears to slow down the rate at which telomeres degrade.

Another study found that people who take a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course showed increased levels of CD-4 cells, which are immune system helper cells. In addition, MBSR participants had lower levels of the protein C-reactive protein, which is associated with inflammation and heart disease. Various other studies have shown that people who practice mindfulness can benefit from reduced levels of inflammation, higher natural killer cells and lymphocytes, improved mood, serenity and optimism, and better quality of life.

8. Helps You Deal With Pain

Mindfulness may reduce pain by changing the way your brain processes it. It’s also been shown to lower emotional reactivity and stress, which can help people better deal with their discomfort.

Mindful meditation helps individuals gain control over their pain by allowing them to reframe their thoughts about it and focus on breathing and other physical sensations. It can help people find a place of acceptance and even gratitude for their pain, which can improve their overall quality of life.

In addition, mindfulness can help individuals better cope with cravings for addictive substances like drugs and alcohol, as well as help them to manage symptoms of depression and anxiety. In fact, it has been found to be as effective as antidepressants in certain cases. It can be used on its own or as a complement to other treatments for chronic pain.

9. Helps You Deal With Anger

Anger is a normal emotion, but when it gets out of control it can be harmful to your mental and physical health. Mindfulness can help you manage anger through guided meditation and other techniques that promote emotional balance and self-compassion.

One technique for managing anger is cognitive restructuring, which involves identifying negative thoughts that contribute to anger and replacing them with more rational ones. Another is progressive muscle relaxation, a type of meditation that involves tensing and relaxing each muscle group in your body, starting with your toes and working your way up to your head.

Finally, try embracing your anger with compassion by noticing the sensations it creates in your body, such as tension or tightness in your chest, clenching of your fists, or heat in your face. Then, try cradling those sensations like you would a newborn.

10. Helps You Make Healthy Decisions

Mindfulness can help you make healthy decisions by teaching you to notice when your thoughts stray from the present moment and to refocus on the here and now. This practice helps you learn to separate your emotions from the decision-making process and makes it easier to think clearly and flexibly.

Research shows that mindfulness practices can thicken the prefrontal cortex of your brain, which controls future planning and helps you make efficient decisions. It also shrinks the amygdala, your brain’s fight or flight center that administers stress and anxiety. This reduces reactivity, panic, and overwhelm, allowing you to make decisions and engage with the major factors in your life.

Being mindful also helps you recognise the limits of your knowledge and objectively assess uncertainty. It also encourages you to link your decisions to your own values and priorities.