“There is something wonderfully bold and liberating about saying yes to our entire imperfect and messy life.” – Tara Brach on Mindfulness
I think we can all agree that the pursuit of a mindful life is an endeavour that greatly benefits the self, as well as the lives of those around us. Mindfulness encourages us to consider our actions and our behaviours and to reflect on and accept the people we are, with all our faults and attributes.
Putting out the care and kindness promoted by mindfulness into the world goes a small way to making our wider culture and communities similarly inclined. In order for this to happen, we first must take care of the self. This endeavour is not selfish, as, in order to bring light into the world, you must first invite it into your own soul. Luckily, mindfulness takes care of much more than just our attitude and state of mind, it actually has various health benefits that you might not have considered.
1. General Health
First of all, and this will come as no surprise, mindfulness significantly increases mental health. As a result of this, many people experience better health throughout their body. This does not happen automatically of course, but better mental health tends to encourage a number of healthy behaviours such as exercising more, eating on a more conscious way, drinking and smoking less and going to the doctor more often. Essentially, a mindful life encourages us to move through unhelpful behaviours that might impact us negatively, and motivate us to put effort into sustaining a healthy lifestyle.
As mindfulness also tends to help reduce tension and stress within the body many people find that they not only have lower blood pressure, but also suffer from fewer muscular complaints. When our mind it not in a good place, we tend to hold tension in various places around the body. These vary from person to person, but my points of tension are my neck and back, for example. These areas become much more comfortable and flexible when my mental health is in a good place.
2. Stress and Anxiety
There have now been many studies to support the claim that mindfulness is a powerful ally when working towards reducing stress and anxiety. Much stress and anxiety is brought on by a trigger which we have yet to identify or understand. Mindfulness, being self-reflective in part, helps us to unravel these triggers and uncover our anxieties. When we better understand ourselves, we are better equipped to understand our emotional and chemical reactions, and what it is that we can do to combat them… or if we even need to feel stressed about a certain situation at all.
At a more sensual level, much mindfulness and meditation practices are about noticing and controlling the breath. Returning to and understanding the breath is also extremely helpful in managing anxiety and stress.
3. Bounce Back from Illness
Mindfulness cannot heal one from a terrible illness, but it has been proven to make dealing with the affects of illness easier. Positivity and a fighting spirit have long been linked to successful recovery. With mindfulness promoting self-compassion and approaching every situation with balance and careful consideration, it goes a long way to nurturing these pillars of the human spirit.
4. Confidence and Productivity
Once we present ourselves as confident or productive (whether we are feeling it or not), the real thing comes along soon enough. Although you may have had to manufacture confidence, if you do this often enough, true confidence will find you. These are much easier things to manufacture in yourself when you are in a good place, mentally. Feeling confident, productive and successful has a knock-on effect to our overall health and wellbeing. It has us feeling like ‘I got this’.
Resilience is that essential life skill that allows us to bounce back from tricky situations and to effectively deal them in a balanced and considerate way. Mindfulness helps us not to put blame on ourselves as well as helping us to see problems from the angle of every involved party. Therefore, resilience is a wonderful side effect of inviting mindfulness into your life.
By Chris Thomson
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