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We all claim to be too busy and distracted but there we are, choosing to be on Facebook, on Pinterest, on youtube, watching Netflix.
The numbers don’t lie. Our attention spans are short by default.
But you don’t need to to stop taking in news and entertainment in order to learn mindfulness.
The question is: a) how can mindfulness help you be a better you and b) help you achieve what you want?
In a nutshell: don’t you want to be as happy as you can possibly be?
What does Mindfulness Mean?
Mindfulness is simple. Or it should be. An antidote to media, especially social media (don’t freak out – you can still indulge!). It refers only to being aware of what you are doing, sensitive to your body and your actions.
If you watch a particularly gripping film without distractions, whether it’s Little Women or The Bourne Identity, you become enmeshed in the film itslef. You are transported.
Mindfulness is both the same and the opposite. You are ‘transported’ to yourself. You hang out with you, mind and body, the whole package.
We will explore what it is, what it does and how it can quite literally change you, benefiting you in oh so many ways : )
What Does it Do To Me?
Mindulness Changes Your Biology – for the better
Mindfulness practice appears to increase gray matter in the brain. Researchers have found that increases in gray matter concentration occurred in the regions involved in memory and learning processes, regulation of emotion, self-referential processing and taking perspective.
With meditation, your brain is actually being rewired: As your brain is transforming, it creates new pathways, makes new thoughts processes and a happier, calmer way more of a default. “We can see that the relationship between these self-reported behavior changes correlate with the changes in the brain,” says Zeidan. The more your brain changes from meditation, the more you react to everyday life with that same sense of calm, compassion, and awareness.
How long Before I Feel the Effects?
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Research also suggests that these and other changes translate to lower levels of stress and anxiety and greater well-being. And you don’t need to meditate for years on end to start reaping the benefits: One study showed brain transformations after just 8 weeks of regular meditation.
Over time, mindfulness will take a lot less conscious thought—it’ll become automatic. And, according to research, this can translate to greater levels of happiness and self-satisfaction.
“That place where being mindful becomes more second-nature is where the plastic change in the mind happens,” says Zeidan. “It’s not effortful. You don’t say you’re going to be mindful, you just are. But if you don’t practice it’ll go away. Like training a muscle. If you stop, over time that muscle is going to deteriorate.”
What are All the Benefits?
One of the more overlooked health risks is poor sleep. The recommended number of hours is 6-9, the sweet spot is 7-8, some tiny percentage of people are OK with 5 hours. I’m being a little flip here, because I used to work in sleep research, but the CDC claims, 1 in 3 Americans do not get sufficient sleep.
And sleep deprivation manifests the same signs as intoxication.
Research finds that mindfulness practice resulted in significant short-term improvement in sleep quality by remediating sleep problems.
- Lose weight!
Nope, mindfulness is not a solution but it’s an aid: in fact, there is a renowned clinic / method (Mayr cure) recently popularized by Rebel Wilson (sheesh, when a celebrity loses weight…such attention!), which focuses in part on mindful, deliberate chewing, which helps people:
- listen to physical hunger cues and eat only until sated
- Tell the difference between true hunger and non-hunger triggers for eating
- Spark your senses by noticing colors, smells, sounds, textures, and flavors
Think of a dog with a bully stick, ………Now think of how you usually eat…..
If you stabilize your sleep, you are also more likely to stabilize your weight. Remember, mindfulness reduces your distractions – oh, look, a bird! Oh, wow, a new ice cream diet! Oh, no, I’m fat! – and helps you to focus, while the very act of mindful eating ensures you are self-aware
A survey of American Psychological Association licensed psychologists by Consumer Reports found that mindfulness, along with cognitive therapy and problem-solving, are “excellent” or “good” weight loss strategies. That’s because the focus of dieters should be more on the role their emotions play in weight management, rather than solely on exercise and calorie control or eating less.
Meditation and mindfulness are almost synonymous with relaxation. Learning how to control or minimize the effects of stress on body and mind is important in overall health and well-being. Indeed, studies show that focusingsing on the present through the practice of mindfulness can reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Manage chronic pain.
Millions of people suffer with chronic pain. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), a therapy that combines mindfulness meditation and yoga, has been found to result in significant improvements in pain, anxiety, well-being and ability to participate in daily activities.
Help prevent depression relapse.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), according to a growing body of research, may prove beneficial in preventing depression relapse. A particular strength of the mind-body technique is how it shows participants how to disengage from the kind of highly dysfunctional and deeply felt thoughts that accompany depression. A 2011 study found that MBCT is an effective intervention for depression relapse in patient with at least three prior episodes of major depressive disorder (MDD). Another study found that MBCT provided significant relapse protection for participants with a history of childhood trauma that left them with increased vulnerability for depression.
Feeling anxious? Researchers have found that even a single session of mindfulness meditation can result in reduced anxiety. For the study, researchers focused on the effect of a single session of mindfulness meditation on participants with high levels of anxiety but normal blood pressure. They found measurable improvements in anxiety following the single mindfulness meditation session and further anxiety reduction one week later. Researchers suggested that a single mindfulness session may help to reduce cardiovascular risk in those with moderate anxiety.
Along with the well-documented benefits of mindfulness meditation, another surprising finding of the mind-body practice is that it appears to increase gray matter in the brain., as mentioned above. Researchers found that increases in gray matter concentration occurred in the left hippocampus, the posterior cingulate cortex, temporo-parietal junction, and cerebellum. These are the regions involved in memory and learning processes, regulation of emotion, self-referential processing and taking perspective.
Of course, mindful exercising is also about adjusting your exercise sessions to suit your body’s needs at any given time. Be mindful of these needs, giving yourself a day of rest or choosing a less challenging session when you’re tired, for instance. Be aware of and listen to your body. See here.
Finally, as you exercise, you may find your mind wandering – perhaps getting swept away by thoughts about how well or badly you think your session or training plan is going. When your mind wanders like this – it will, naturally – gently and kindly bring it back to the sensations of movement in your body, the feel of your feet on the ground or the air moving in and out of your lungs as you breathe. Stay present and enjoy your exercise!
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