You may have heard the term ‘mindfulness’ bounced around in mental health discussions and forums, especially in recent times. But what is ‘mindfulness’ and how does it work for improving your mental health?
Let’s take a look.
What is ‘mindfulness’?
Mindfulness is the practice of calmly and attentively focusing our awareness inward, to everything we’re thinking, feeling, sensing with our bodies, and the environment surrounding us on a moment-to-moment basis.
By doing this, we divert our attention away from the past and future, instead tuning into everything happening in the present moment to better process and accept what we’re thinking and experiencing, free from distraction or judgement.
How does mindfulness work?
Mindfulness can work in a number of ways from working through emotional pain and fear, to physically helping your body relax and develop a better stress response.
Changing harmful mindsets
By allowing us to thoroughly unpack and explore our thought patterns and the emotions attached, mindfulness can provide us the space to reorient our mindsets and challenge harmful or limiting beliefs.
Lowering our brain’s frequency
Mindfulness can help shift our brain’s frequency from high to low, activating different areas of the brain that control emotions and sensations such as fear, anxiety, and empathy. When our brains are operating on a lower frequency, we can gain the ability to rationalise our thoughts and sensations while slowing down our body’s stress response to situations.
Changing the shape of our brains
A significant number of neuroimaging studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can increase the density of ‘grey matter’ in our brains, which is essentially our brain’s executive manager of functioning. It is involved in the regulation of emotions, problem-solving, rational thought, and planning. The more matter, the better!
Improving our physical health
Mindfulness techniques not only affect our brains, but also our ‘fight or flight’ response. By focusing on breathing, reducing muscle tension, and relieving stress, the long-term physical health benefits speak for themselves. When our bodies aren’t working overtime producing stress hormones, responding to fear and anxiety, or losing sleep, we can improve our blood pressure, heart health, cholesterol, sleep quality, and digestive health.
What are some mindfulness techniques?
Be still, and focus
If you can, find somewhere to sit in silence and begin focusing on slowing and regulating your breathing while paying attention to the other physical sensations in your body and allowing their presence.
Let thoughts and feelings pass without judgement
With each thought that arises, acknowledge, and accept it regardless of its nature, and simply let it pass without judgement or focusing obsessively on it. Allow yourself to feel the emotions you’re feeling, then let them go without dwelling or judging.