How Does Mindfulness Improve Mental Health?

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How Does Mindfulness Improve Mental Health?

Did you know that nearly one out of every five Americans has an anxiety disorder? And did you know that depression affects roughly 8% of the population? These figures hint at an increasing need for ways to help us all cope as we approach May, mental health awareness month.

The good news is that simple lifestyle adjustments can lead to more excellent mental health and happiness. One such technique is mindfulness, beneficial for people suffering from anxiety, depression, or simply everyday stress.

These days, mindfulness is a buzzword that is employed in various ways, which can be confusing.

Research has found that mindfulness helps people reduce stress and cope with chronic illness. It has also been shown that a study in which people suppress their emotions during a CO2 challenge found that participants who practiced mindfulness were more resilient to the condition. When these studies were conducted, they found that the benefits of mindfulness training were not just limited to reducing stress. While the effect of meditation on the brain is still unknown, it has been demonstrated to help those with chronic illnesses cope with anxiety symptoms.

1. What Is Mindfulness?

 The term “mindfulness” has been applied to a psychological state of awareness, methods that foster this awareness, a way of information processing, and a personality attribute. We define mindfulness as a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment, which is consistent with most of the studies discussed in this article. Mindfulness is a state, not a trait, in this sense. While specific techniques or activities, such as meditation, may foster it, it is not the same as or synonymous with them.

Mindfulness meditation, according to researchers, develops metacognitive awareness, reduces rumination by disengaging from perseverative cognitive activity, and improves attentional skills by improving working memory. As a result of these cognitive advancements, effective emotion-regulation tactics are possible.

2. Does Mindfulness Work?

There are no intensive studies that show the actual results of mindfulness scientifically. Still, there are substantial records of people saying that it has changed their lives as it helps reduce stress and anxiety and even in cases of depression.

Mindfulness-based techniques have been shown in studies to reduce anxiety and depression symptoms dramatically. They can also assist persons who have previously been depressed in staying well and avoiding relapse.

A study of college students in China showed that practicing mindfulness improved their mental health. It decreased depression and anxiety and improved social functioning. It also reduced turnover and reduced burnout, two of the most common causes of mental illness. In a recent study, researchers looked at the impact of mindfulness on PTSD and the effects it has on chronic conditions.

3. Origins of Mindfulness

Mindfulness has its origins in Buddhism, but most religions contain some prayer or meditation that can help you shift your focus away from your daily concerns and toward an appreciation of the present moment and a broader perspective on life.

 Professor emeritus Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder and former director of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center’s Stress Reduction Clinic, helped to bring mindfulness meditation into mainstream medicine and demonstrated that it could improve physical and psychological symptoms as well as positive changes in health, attitudes, and behaviors.

4. Two Types of Mindfulness Components

Mindfulness affects attention. They focused on two primary components of the practice, which are called self-regulation and orientation to experience.

 They proposed two types of mindfulness: one is a general type of awareness, which is a process of focusing on an experience. The other is a specific kind of focus, which is how we pay attention to something. The second component is a kind of self-regulation that enables us to control our attention and change our thoughts.

5. Mindfulness Techniques

Mindfulness can be practiced in various ways, but the goal of any mindfulness technique is to develop a state of attentive, focused calm by paying attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment. The mind can refocus on the current moment as a result of this. Meditation is a term that encompasses all mindfulness approaches.

Simple Mindfulness Meditation – Sit quietly and concentrate on your natural breathing or a word or “mantra” that you silently repeat. Allow your thoughts to come and go without judging them, then restore your attention to your breath or mantra.

Body Sensations – Allow delicate body feelings such as itch or tingling to pass without judgment. From head to toe, pay attention to each aspect of your body in turn.

Sensory – Pay attention to the sights, sounds, aromas, tastes, and textures around you. Without judging them, call them “sight,” “sound,” “smell,” “taste,” or “touch,” and let them go.

Allow emotions to be present without being judged. Practice naming emotions in a steady and relaxed manner: “joy,” “anger,” and “frustration.” Accept the feelings’ presence without judgment and then let them go.

Survive cravings (for addictive drugs or behaviors) by coping with them and allowing them to pass. As the need hits, pay attention to how your body reacts. Replace your desire for the craving to go away with the assurance that it will.

6. Benefits of Mindfulness

Mindfulness Improves Well-Being: Many attitudes that contribute to a happy existence are aided by increasing your ability for awareness. Being mindful allows you to relish the pleasures of life as they arise, to get thoroughly engaged in activities, and to cope more effectively with negative occurrences. Many people who practice mindfulness find that by focusing on the present now, they are less likely to be consumed by worry about the future or regrets about the past, are less distracted with worries about achievement and self-esteem, and are better able to develop strong connections with others.  Practicing mindfulness involves being aware of your thoughts, body sensations, and the environment around you. You can begin by picking a regular time each day to practice mindfulness. You can also try a new activity to help you become more aware of the world around you. Some people find this difficult at first, as their minds tend to race through thoughts, making it challenging to stay present. Some people suffering from addictions can use the technique to help them cope with these conditions.

Mindfulness Aids Physical Health: If the prospect of improved mental health isn’t enough, scientists have discovered that mindfulness methods can aid physical health in various ways. Mindfulness can aid in the relief of stress, the treatment of heart disease, the reduction of chronic pain, the improvement of sleep, and the relief of gastrointestinal problems.

The benefits of practicing mindfulness have been widely recognized. A study of cancer patients who practice mindfulness therapy showed that their levels of stress and anxiety decreased significantly. The study also found that patients who practiced the practice could cope with their physical symptoms and reported more incredible energy. Among the many other benefits of the practice, it is possible to reduce chronic pain. In this case, a person who practices mindfulness can be more resilient and cope with a longer lifespan

Mindfulness Improves Mental Health: In recent years, psychotherapists have begun to utilize mindfulness meditation to treat various issues, including depression, substance misuse, eating disorders, couples’ conflicts, anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. People with mental illness often tend to dwell on past problems and painful memories. They tend to worry about the future and have trouble coping with stress. However, mindfulness helps people anchor themselves in the present. It encourages people to pay attention to their breath and other physical sensations.

Another essential way to improve your mental health is to increase the frequency of positive behaviors. A study conducted on homeless middle school students found that mindfulness improved their physical well-being and increased their mindfulness in school. In addition to this, researchers have shown that it can protect against the depressive effects of bullying. This is reflected in a dissertation by Sandra McCoy, who examined the effectiveness of mindfulness as a coping strategy for children who experience bullying

7. Things to Keep in Mind while Practicing Mindfulness

1. Using a trained professional to practice mindfulness is highly recommended. It can help you to improve your mental health in a variety of ways, as an expert’s advice will make you believe more in the process.

2. The practice of mindfulness does not give you the same feelings as experiencing joy. It is a gentler way to be in the present moment, which can be beneficial for dealing with stressful situations.

3. Allow yourself to go with the flow. Once you’ve established concentration, you can observe the flow of inner thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations without judging them as good or bad in mindfulness meditation. 

4. Keep your eyes peeled. External experiences such as sounds, images, and touch are also part of your present-moment experience. The goal is to avoid being fixated on a single thought, emotion, or sensation or dwell on the past or future. Instead, you observe what goes on in your head and figure out which mental habits cause you to feel good or bad.

 5. Don’t give up. This technique may not appear to be soothing at first, but as you become more familiar with it, it will lead to increased enjoyment and self-awareness.

At the End

The effects of mindfulness meditation are usually dose-dependent, meaning that the more you perform it, the more influence it has. Most individuals find that settling their minds takes at least 20 minutes, which is an excellent place to start.

You practice this technique every day and making it a part of your daily routine will undoubtedly yield results. There is so much negativity around us; reflecting on your thoughts will give you the clarity you need in your life. Focus on positive things and give your brain the relaxation it needs.

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