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The Many Benefits of Mindfulness

Mindfulness and focus on the greater mental have been a commonly discussed subject in recent years, as the connection between mental health and physical health become better understood. As the wealth of benefits from mindfulness become better and more widely known, more and more people have taken up practices such as meditation to help develop this part of themselves.

Photo by Artem Bali

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the act of being fully aware of our situation, what we do, where we are as well as our thoughts. By being aware of these things, mindfulness allows us to not overreact to a situation or be overwhelmed by it. Without it, we can find ourselves worrying about the future or overthinking situations that happened in the past, creating a negative feedback loop that can result in more of these “mindlessness” traits. It is by no means some fancy new technique, as it is something we all do, but by doing it more consciously, we can extract more of the benefits from it. Here are some of those benefits.

Reduced Stress

Some experts have said that it is not the situations we find ourselves in that are stressful but how we react to them that creates this feeling. That’s not to say that some situations are not more stressful than others, but it is helpful to think that no matter what external factors affect us, we’re able to have some control over how stressful we find them. Studies have shown that mindfulness can reduce stress by improving the way we regulate our emotions, which leads to improved moods and a better ability to react to stressful factors.

Photo by Samuel Silitonga

A practical example of this could be assessing the worst-case outcome from a scenario and then either working to prevent this from happening (understanding this outcome is not likely, and the reality will likely be better) or accept that this outcome is inevitable, and there’s nothing to do about it. Such could be useful to business people if they find themselves involved in a dispute, as the worst-case outcome could be the maximum amount it will cost to resolve the issue in court, but better, more acceptable outcomes are likely available in settling out of court. In this case, it can’t be worse than the worst case, and therefore, the situation can be much better.

Thinking Under Pressure

Being more mindful can provide benefits in your ability to think under pressure. That’s critical in most people’s lives, whether it is part of their work and therefore, a daily routine or whether thinking under pressure is a less frequent occurrence, being better at it can lead to enhanced decision-making. The reductions in stress that come from the techniques that help to achieve mindfulness can help to lower levels of stress and increase cognitive abilities. An example of this is in poker players, as the consideration of “mindful balance” has been around for several years by employing a perceived high level of calmness in a player can lead opponents to guess that they have a better hand.

It is also thought that mindfulness can be helpful to students in achieving academic success. Thinking under pressure in exams is one of these areas, but the lower levels of depression and anxiety achieved from mindfulness can also help to improve academic performance in both the classroom and the exam hall.

Improved General Well-being

Mindfulness itself may not provide physical health benefits, but those more aware of their body and surroundings are more likely to be physically active, get regular health checkups and avoid bad habits that can be harmful to their health.

As you can see, there are many benefits to mindfulness, some of which are direct like having better control over emotions to reacting better to stressing factors. Other benefits are indirect, such as better overall well-being and health, which links to mindful people being more likely to have more regular health checkups and healthier lifestyles. After all, if you are aware of how different you feel after eating three doughnuts compared to a fruit salad, you’ll likely choose the one that makes you feel better.

 

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