Mindfulness is a mental state that has its roots in Buddhism and involves being in the present moment with a nonjudgmental awareness of one’s thoughts, feelings, sensations, and environment (Hofmann & Gomez, 2017). Therefore, when we are mindful, we perceive what is happening in the present moment instead of rehashing the past or worrying about the future.
Although we can practice mindfulness anytime and anywhere, it can be tough to achieve initially. The good news is that anyone can become better at being mindful, and one of the best ways to cultivate it is by practicing mindfulness meditation. Simply put, mindfulness meditation is a mindfulness-based meditation technique that systematically guides your attention. This systemic guidance allows you to be aware of your breath, bodily sensations, and thoughts you have at that moment without judging them. Mindfulness meditation can improve your well-being in many ways when practiced regularly. Let’s discuss some science-backed benefits of this practice.
Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
1. Improved attention span
Mindfulness involves focusing on what is happening at each moment. Therefore, cultivating mindfulness helps our brains better focus on tasks. Researchers tested this idea by comparing the brain activity of subjects new to meditation before and after an eight-week mindfulness meditation training. They found that the post-training brain activity of these subjects was associated with an improved ability to tune out distractions and focus their attention (Kerr et al., 2011).
2. Increased brain function
The effect of mindfulness meditation on brain function seems to reach beyond focusing well. In another study, researchers looked at the mindfulness-associated changes in gray matter (the brain layers that contain the bodies of neurons) in several brain areas of participants. They observed that an eight-week training of mindfulness meditation resulted in increases in gray matter density in brain areas associated with learning, memory, and emotion regulation (Hölzel et al., 2011).
3. Better sleep quality
4. Relieves stress and anxiety
Are you looking for a way to deal with your daily stress and anxiety? Mindfulness may be of help. Practicing mindfulness can reduce your stress and anxiety by allowing you to become less reactive to unpleasant situations (Kabat-Zinn, Massion & Kristeller, 1992). In fact, a meta-analysis has found that mindfulness-based interventions exhibited efficacy in lessening anxiety and depression symptom severity in a wide range of patients and consistently outperformed non-evidence-based treatments and active control conditions (Hofmann & Gomez, 2017).
5. Treating chronic pain
Mindfulness-based interventions have also been increasingly incorporated into therapies for treating pain. A systematic review of randomized controlled trials suggests that although mindfulness meditation has a limited capacity to reduce pain, it seems to be quite effective in improving the quality of life of chronic pain patients (Hilton et al., 2017).
Mindfulness meditation can be challenging at first. However, when done regularly, it can help us stay present in the moment and become aware of our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and everything else happening in our surroundings. Although mindfulness isn’t a cure for everything, cultivating mindfulness through meditation can offer numerous benefits for our bodies and minds and increase our well-being. The key is to turn this practice into a habit. We hope this article provided you with tips to incorporate mindfulness meditation into your daily routine.
- Hilton, L., Hempel, S., Ewing, B. A., Apaydin, E., Xenakis, L., Newberry, S., Colaiaco, B., Maher, A. R., Shanman, R. M., Sorbero, M. E., & Maglione, M. A. (2017). Mindfulness Meditation for Chronic Pain: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Annals of behavioral medicine : a publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, 51(2), 199–213.
- Hofmann, S. G., & Gómez, A. F. (2017). Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Anxiety and Depression. The Psychiatric clinics of North America, 40(4), 739–749.
- Hölzel, B. K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S. M., Gard, T., & Lazar, S. W. (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry research: neuroimaging, 191(1), 36-43.
- Kerr, C. E., Jones, S. R., Wan, Q., Pritchett, D. L., Wasserman, R. H., Wexler, A., … & Moore, C. I. (2011). Effects of mindfulness meditation training on anticipatory alpha modulation in primary somatosensory cortex. Brain research bulletin, 85(3-4), 96-103.
- Rusch, H. L., Rosario, M., Levison, L. M., Olivera, A., Livingston, W. S., Wu, T., & Gill, J. M. (2019). The effect of mindfulness meditation on sleep quality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1445(1), 5–16.