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Anxiety disorders. Depression. Addiction. These are all symptoms of poor mental health. Studies have shown that one in every five U.S. adults suffers from a mental illness. While medications, psychotherapy, and brain treatments are quite effective at treating mental health disorders, they can be expensive and could leave you with unpleasant side effects.
Mindfulness offers you the best of both worlds. It’s a tested and proven natural approach to improving your mental health, and what’s more, it doesn’t cost a dime.
What Exactly Is Mindfulness?
So, I’m going to take a wild guess here. You’re scrolling through this article but at the same time, a thousand and one things are running through your mind. You can’t stop worrying about the pile of bills on the coffee table, the deadline you missed yesterday, or the presentation next week.
As humans, our minds are programmed to ruminate on past events and our expectations for the future. Our minds get occupied with fears, worries, and concerns.
Mindfulness brings all that whirring in our brains to a juddering halt. It is a process of grounding yourself in the present without judging yourself on past actions or decisions. You accept that something has happened or will happen, then simply move on. When you practice mindfulness, you deliberately keep your mind centered on the now; what is happening to you, your feelings and thoughts, the sensations coursing through each part of your body, and your surroundings at the moment. Not the past nor the future. Only NOW.
More mindfulness techniques are constantly being developed but the most popular ones include:
- Mindfulness meditation
- Tai chi
Always remember that mindfulness is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on your breathing, observing when your mind wanders, and bringing it back to the present moment. Many other mindfulness exercises involve some sort of movement. You can experiment with several of these techniques before settling on what works best for you.
4 Ways Mindfulness Boosts Your Mental Health
- Helps you relate differently to your thoughts and feelings: Learning from your past helps you plan better for the future. But mental health problems creep in when you can’t stop thinking about the past. Thoughts spin out of your control and assume a life of their own, and your mind is dominated with uncertainties and fears. Practicing mindfulness helps you break free from that unproductive cycle.
For each thought that crosses your mind, notice it, assess it, and decide whether it is worth focusing on. Never judge it as good or bad or let it cloud your mind. Simply focus on your breathing. You’ll notice that rather than being overwhelmed by your thoughts, you are gradually beginning to manage them.
- Improves your concentration levels: Studies have shown a significant relationship between mindfulness and improved concentration. Subjects who practiced mindfulness meditation noticed an increase in their ability to concentrate on a task or activity. Mindfulness exercises help students learn better, reduces attention problems at work or in school, and improves memory retention.
- Restructures your brain…in a good way: The human brain is very adaptable. Its structure and function can change over time. The prefrontal cortex is the seat of positive emotions in the brain while the amygdala houses negative feelings. People struggling with depression or other mental disorders have larger amygdalas and an almost-dormant prefrontal cortex. Continuous practice of mindfulness shrinks the amygdala and increases activity in your prefrontal cortex.
- Eliminates mood swings, depression, and anxiety: Mindfulness de-stresses you. It relaxes your mind and drains away negative thoughts of criticism and self-flagellation. You can regulate your emotions and your moods won’t suddenly swing from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other.
You don’t have to be suffering from mental ill-health to practice mindfulness. You can do it to simply improve your general mental wellbeing.
Anyone can practice mindfulness; children, adults, college students, stay-at-home moms, lawyers. All you have to do is be consistent. Mindfulness works only when you practice it continually. Be disciplined and committed and you would reap the rewards.
Contact New Connections Counseling Center for help.