“Mindfulness is the act of being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling at every moment without interpretation or judgment”-Mayo Clinic
Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.
Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.
Listed below are some of the benefits associated with a practice of mindfulness.
1. Improved Working Memory
According to a recent study, mindfulness has been linked to enhanced working memory capacity. Comparing samples of military participants who practiced mindfulness meditation training for eight weeks with those who didn’t, evidence suggests that mindfulness training helped ‘buffer’ against losses to working memory capacity.
2. Heightened Metacognitive Awareness
This term describes being able to detach from your feelings and mental processes—to step back and perceive them as transient, momentary occurrences rather than ‘who we are’. In the Buddhist sense, this would relate to ‘knowing’ and ‘freeing’ the mind.
3. Lower Levels of Anxiety
Mindfulness has been examined in a wide host of randomized, controlled trials that find support for its impact on alleviating symptoms of anxiety. It’s also been proven to ease depression symptoms and increase self-esteem.
4. Reduced Emotional ‘Reactivity’
Additionally, there is support to show the role of mindfulness meditation in emotive ‘reactivity’. In an emotional interference task conducted in 2007, participants with wide-ranging experience in mindfulness meditation were asked to categorize tones that were given either 1 or 4 seconds after a neutral or emotionally upsetting picture was presented.
Those with more experience practicing mindfulness meditation were better able to disengage emotionally, meaning that they showed a greater focus on the task at hand even when emotionally upsetting pictures were shown.
5. Enhanced Visual Attention Processing
Another study compared the performance of ‘meditators’ and ‘non-meditators’ on visual attention processing tasks. Those who practiced mindfulness meditation showed greater attentional functioning through better performance on tests of concentration, selective attention, and more.
6. Reduced Stress
Mindfulness training has also been linked to lower stress levels. One example found that cancer patients who took part in mindfulness training had significantly reduced self-reported stress than those who didn’t. They also displayed greater positive states of mind and fewer post-traumatic avoidance symptoms, such as loss of interest in activities.
7. Managing Physical Pain
There is also research that suggests mindfulness may have a role in helping to manage subjective pain. There are numerous examples of studies on how mindfulness may help to manage chronic pain and help patients improve their quality of life.