The benefits of Mindful Awareness
Mindfulness has been around for thousands of years. It dates back to the time of the Buddha and probably beyond. Although this gives it an air of mysticism, Mindful Awareness has always been a very practical tool for everyday living. It enables you to live your life in this moment here, as you are reading this, and not being continually lost in the swirl of worries, and emotions carrying on in your head.
You don’t have to sit cross-legged for hours, or go round grinning at trees (although you might choose to after the 3A emotions start to fade). You can start this practice with ten minutes sitting and noticing, twice a day, and then transfer those skills (because they are skills, have no doubt) into your everyday life.
The whole point of Mindful Awareness is to make it much easier for you to stay in your present moment, your ‘here and now’. Why does this matter? What makes being ‘here and now’ so important?
Because Right Here and Right Now is the only place you are alive. It is the only place you can embrace your life, experience it and enjoy it to the full. It is your ‘living space’ and it is better without all the thoughts, memories and fears cluttering it up.
Being focused on your ‘here and now’ means you can:
- Worry less about the past and the future
- Recognize patterns and habits in your life, good and bad
- Be more aware of your emotions and moods
- Be more aware of your body, and how you feel physically
It can also help you:
- Move away from being ‘stuck’ in a mood
- Restore your energy levels
- Regulate your emotions
- Monitor your physical health
- Get a better perspective on your life
As a result, this has benefits in our daily lives. Many people who practice mindfulness report:
- Feeling less overwhelmed by everything
- Improved length and quality of sleep
- Changes in the way they think and feel about life experiences
- Clearer thinking and better decision making
- Increased ability to manage difficult situations
- Reduced levels of anxiety, depression and stress
And there is no shortage of scientific research to back this up. In a recent feature on the American Psychological Association’s website, psychologists Daphne M. Davis, PhD, and Jeffrey A. Hayes, PhD published a review of the research on mindfulness. Among a whole list of benefits which people reported, the most frequent ones were as follows:
Reduced rumination – Less brooding on negative emotions and also a reduction in symptoms of depression.
Stress reduction – Many people reported decreased stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and negative affect, along with a reduction in the physical symptoms associated with stress.
Focus – an increased ability to maintain one’s attention on a particular activity or task, whilst being less susceptible to distractions.
Less emotional reactivity – In short, being calmer when unexpected things happen, allowing you do deal with them better.
More cognitive flexibility – Being able to develop better, more appropriate ways of thinking about things and solving life’s problems, instead of staying stuck in old thinking habits.
Relationship satisfaction – Studies showed that Mindfulness practitioners enjoyed better relationships with their partners and others. These were reported within marital, domestic and working relationships. Many stated they felt more able to ‘get along’ with people generally
Improved health – This included recovery from illness, managing long-term conditions and, of course, mental health. Indeed, the report stated: “The researchers concluded that mindfulness-based therapy may be useful in altering affective [i.e.emotional] and cognitive processes that underlie multiple clinical issues.”
Better working – Mindfulness practitioners found it easier to concentrate, enjoyed better performance and experienced much less stress in their jobs.
All of the above contribute one way or another to much improved well-being, and being able to cope better with events in our lives. Gestalt Therapists call this being ‘Response-able’, and it simply means being more able to deal with all the “Lifestuff”, big or small, because we are more able to engage with ourselves and our environment.
And the greatest effect of this will be the ability to change. Not forced changes brought about by ‘I should’ and ‘I ought-to’, but change which is right for you. Authentic and lasting change based on insight and understanding about yourself and your needs.
How this happens will be individual to you, depending on what you need. Just try Mindful Awareness for a fortnight and you will see a difference. In fact, you’ll hear, taste, smell and feel a difference, too.