top of page

Mind Your Mindfulness: What Science Says About Living in the Moment & How to Start

Mindfulness is a popular buzzword these days, but what does it really mean, and what are the scientific benefits of practising it? In short, mindfulness is the act of paying attention to the present moment without judgement. This might involve focusing on your breath, sensations in your body, or the sounds around you, among other things.

What is mindfulness?

Although mindfulness has its roots in ancient spiritual practices, there is now a growing body of scientific research that supports its benefits for both physical and mental health. One of my favourite authors and expert on the subject of mindfulness Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”. By cultivating this awareness through the breath, you can learn to be more present with your experiences as they unfold. This can help you develop greater resilience and cope with pain more effectively.

How does mindfulness work?

Mindfulness works by helping you become more aware of your thoughts and emotions. Instead of getting caught up in them or reacting automatically, you can observe them without judgement and respond in a more intentional way. Over time, this can lead to greater emotional regulation, increased resilience, and improved cognitive function.

Another way that mindfulness can benefit us is by helping us become more present in our daily lives. We often get caught up in worrying about the future or ruminating on the past, which can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.

By bringing our attention to the present moment, we can cultivate a greater sense of peace and contentment. Jon Kabat-Zinn also talks about the presence of autopilot mode with many of us moving through our daily tasks without being fully present or aware while doing them. He claims mindfulness practice can actually add years onto your life by being able to be present with your loved ones, or in a beautiful setting or even just learning to appreciate your daily routine and being present every step of the way.

It's important to note here that mindfulness is not about making your mind “ blank” or clearing your mind of all thoughts, its rather about being aware of your thoughts, feelings and body and present in any given moment. “ Kabat-Zinn talks about acknowledging your thoughts as they enter the mind, but observing them non-judgmentally, like clouds drifting through the sky.

Here are just a few of the ways that mindfulness can positively impact your life:

  • Reduced anxiety:

Studies have shown that practising mindfulness can reduce anxiety levels to the same degree ( non-inferior ) to that of commercial anxiety medication. The study published in JAMA Psychiatry stated “In this study, mindfulness-based stress reduction was a well-tolerated treatment option with comparable effectiveness to a first-line medication for patients with anxiety disorders.”

  • Improved cognitive function and boost in working memory:

Mindfulness has been shown to improve working memory, attentional control, and decision-making ability. Firstly, being present in any given moment, rather than on ‘auto-pilot’ will automatically mean a greater amount of thought processing will be given to any decision or action resulting in use of more of our cognition. Aside from this however, studies published in the National Library of Medicine have shown that “a variety of meditation techniques may be able to offset age-related cognitive decline and perhaps even increase cognitive capabilities in older adults.”

  • Reduced symptoms of depression:

Mindfulness-based practices have been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of depression, particularly when combined with other forms of therapy. As one study states, “As expected, mindfulness decreased depression and anxiety by increasing reappraisal and reducing worry, rumination and suppression”

  • Improved physical health:

Mindfulness has been shown to have a positive impact on a variety of physical health markers, including blood pressure, immune function, and chronic pain. As well as lowering the prevalence of stress hormones such as cortisol which can have negative effects on ones physical wellbeing. It does so be inducing the relaxation response. According to Alex Haley, MBA and Louise Delagran, MA, MEd “This response engages the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for restoring the body to base levels after a stress response, calming it down by lowering the heart and respiratory rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension.”

Mindfulness practices you can try today

So how can you incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine? There are many different ways to practise mindfulness, but here are a few simple techniques to get you started:

  1. Breathing exercises: Take a few minutes each day to focus on your breath, paying attention to the sensation of the air moving in and out of your body. If your mind wanders, gently bring your focus back to your breath.

  2. Body scan meditation: Lie down or sit comfortably and take a few deep breaths. Then, mentally scan your body from head to toe, noticing any sensations of tension or relaxation.

  3. Mindful eating: Take a few minutes to really savour your food, paying attention to the flavours, textures, and smells. Avoid distractions like TV or your phone while you eat.

  4. Mindful movement: Activities like yoga or tai chi can be a great way to practise mindfulness while moving.

Practical Tips for Mindfulness Practice

If you're new to mindfulness, it can be helpful to start small and work your way up. Here are some practical tips for incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine:

  1. Start with just a few minutes of mindfulness practice each day. You can gradually increase the amount of time as you become more comfortable.

  2. Find a quiet space where you won't be interrupted. This can help you stay focused and present during your mindfulness practice.

  3. Experiment with different techniques to find what works best for you. This might involve focusing on your breath, body sensations, or sounds around you.

  4. Be patient with yourself. Mindfulness is a practice, and it takes time and effort to develop.

  5. Try to incorporate mindfulness into other aspects of your life, such as mindful eating or mindful movement.

Remember, mindfulness is a practice, and it takes time and effort to cultivate. But the benefits can be well worth it, both for your physical health and your overall sense of well-being.

51 views0 comments


bottom of page