Health

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a kind of meditation that is growing in acceptance in recent years.  Many people are drawn to mindfulness due to its straightforwardness – but what health benefits could it bring? Determine in my own blog post!

What’s mindfulness?
Mindfulness has been rising in popularity lately. Its roots can be traced back again to both Hinduism and Buddhism and is considered to have been practised for a large number of years.

Lately, the West has begun to consider advantage of the energy of mindfulness and mediation, and as a result its popularity has been rapidly increasing.

Just what exactly exactly is it?

In essence, mindfulness is a kind of meditation that targets a knowledge of your body and the mind. While some forms of meditation try to completely bare the mind of most thoughts, mindfulness targets allowing thoughts to come and go widely without ‘judging’ any of them.

In this manner, you are allowed to cherish thoughts and feelings which may not have been previously obvious, such as a fear or anxiety about something you didn’t appreciate was bothering you. You are also better able to identify pains and aches in the torso – like a sore neck stemming from poor good posture.

What exactly are the benefits associated with mindfulness?
Much like any form of meditation, the key target is to quiet and relax your brain. By allowing thoughts to come and go as they seem, this allows your mind to offload the things it’s been concentrating on or blocking out all day long. It can also train you to cope better with the regular bombardment of thoughts that fly around our imagination all day long.

This has a few specific benefits including reducing stress, improving focus and easing anxiety.

Reducing stress
Life is full of stressful situations nowadays: commuting in busy traffic, caring for demanding children, getting together with deadlines or aiming to make ends meet financially. Even when you aren’t thinking about them, the mind can be subconsciously ticking them over, triggering low level stress that you may not notice, besides that slight uneasy feeling in the back of your mind.

Mindfulness allows you to identify what is leading to this uneasy feeling so as to package with it and then can get on with your day stress free!

Reducing and managing stress is so important because stress has a huge impact on your body, and is even considered to donate to serious problems like cardiovascular diseases.

Essentially, when your brain is stressed, it sends the body into a primal ‘fight or flight’ response. This heightens muscle function, heartrate and cooling mechanisms (which is why we sweat whenever we get pressured) whilst also shutting down permanent survival systems, like the disease fighting capability, digestive system and reproductive system. As a one off, this doesn’t have long-term effects, but continual stimulation of the strain response can commence to impact your current health, contributing to cardiovascular disease, mental medical issues and even the development of an enlarged prostate.

Improves concentrate and cognitive function

A decrease in stress often gets the knock-on effect of improving concentrate and concentration levels.

A mind free from clutter and stressful thoughts is a lot more in a position to focus on the jobs that are actually important. Big reaching coming up at the office? Preparing for an interview? Looking to get a task finished? Practising mindfulness when you feel your brain getting a lttle bit jumbled up and consumed with stress is a superb way to clear the mind and discover some focus.

Inside the long-term, mindfulness can provide you an elevated ability to concentrate on one thought at a time, making it more difficult for your brain to become cluttered and distracted.

Not only this, but meditation is also considered to increase blood circulation to the mind, not just during the practise of meditation, but long term as well. A 2010 review discovered that “CBF [cerebral blood stream] in long-term meditators was significantly higher in comparison to non-meditators in the prefrontal cortex, parietal cortex, thalamus, putamen, caudate, and midbrain.”1

All this extra blood circulation should enable you to feel more started up, targeted and clear.

Preserves brain function with age
Meditation may help to keep the human brain healthy as you get older. First of all, the increased blood circulation can help keep problems like brain-fog or poor storage at bay, but meditation can also change the framework of the human brain in the long term. A 2015 study from the UCLA discovered that age-related gray matter decline was significantly low in those who meditate compared to a control group who does not2.

While it may well not prevent age-related cognitive or neurological problems indefinitely, it seems that it can simply slow them down.

Easing anxiety
Anxiety can be a huge problem for men – even if we don’t prefer to talk about it! Sometimes this may stem from stressors like work, small children or financial problems, and sometimes it is merely an issue that appears to develop out of nowhere.

Whatever the cause, mindfulness can be considered a huge help. Not merely can each practise help clear and sooth the mind, letting you identify what is actually causing you panic, but as time passes the exercise can help to strengthen the head against stress and anxiety, turning it into easier to manage your usual causes.

One study discovered that an 8 week course of mindfulness showed ‘statistically significant improvements in subjective and purpose symptoms of stress’, and also that these results were still seen in those patients still practising mindfulness 3 years later3.

Do women and men react differently to meditation?

There is certainly some argument that mindfulness only works on women but does not have any influence on men. A 2017 review discovered that while mindfulness helped women overcome low spirits, it actually worsened mood in men.

However, I think there are many things to take into account here. We realize that, as a wide generalisation, us men will bury mental problems or route them into poor behaviours. This may mean that something similar to meditation could talk about these thoughts and thoughts again, which could, of course, affect disposition initially. However, as time passes, chances are that mindfulness may help to re-train your brain to cope with these issues better.

There is also some argument that in primitive times men generally fulfilled a protective role, and therefore right now they find it harder to switch off. However, much like any new skill, over time and regular practise, mindfulness should become easier and for that reason more effective.

The only path to really see if it will work for you is to provide it a go!

How to get started on mindfulness
So how would you get started?

Well, I’d really recommend signing up to Headspace, an application which provides guided mindfulness practises. Each practise is merely ten minutes long so it’s quite simple to squash into your day – before work, on the commute, throughout your lunch break or in the evening. It’s also filled with useful videos and information to help you with your practise.

The basic pack is free which means you can give it a try to see if you want it. Then you can pay to up grade to other, more customized, packs if you like.