In our go-go-go society, it’s hard to slow down. We pride ourselves on being busy and at the same time we are severely over-stimulated. Between our never-ending to-do lists and the various messages being broadcast to us 24/7 across multiple platforms, it’s no wonder our minds are cluttered, stressed and exhausted.
It’s easy to become unaware and detached, but living mindlessly and on auto-pilot is not the best thing for our mental or physical health. Mindfulness exercises are designed to help you become more aware of yourself, your feelings and your surroundings. These types of therapy exercises not only improve your mental health but your physical health too.
Science has dived deep into researching the potential benefits of mindfulness exercises and meditative practices in all areas of our wellbeing. Here are just a few of the most amazing benefits of practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness exercises are most commonly associated with a reduction in stress. But this isn’t just a hearsay phenomenon. Science actually backs it up.
In 2010, a meta-analysis of 39 studies examined how “mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy” measured up. The conclusion? Mindfulness exercises are effective at treating several mental health issues, especially those brought on or made worse by chronic stress.
Several studies even breakdown how mindfulness is effective at reducing stress in particular groups of people and situations such as:
Across the board, these studies have found incredible results in the power of mindfulness exercises in reducing stress and other symptoms of mental illness– many of which led to a better overall quality of life.
According to the American Psychological Association, “these findings suggest that mindfulness meditation shifts people’s ability to use emotion regulation strategies in a way that enables them to experience emotion selectively and that the emotions they experience may be processed differently in the brain.”
Decrease Depression Symptoms
It’s not just stress and anxiety reduction that mindfulness exercises can treat effectively. Even patients with diagnosable depression symptoms can benefit from meditative practices.
A meta-analysis of 23 studies on the effects of mindfulness exercises on depression found that overall, while more quality studies need to be done, the effects on reducing depression were moderate.
One 2016 study found that a brief mindfulness training helped participants who struggled with depression reduce their symptoms through improved emotion regulation.
The idea is that by practicing mindfulness exercises regularly, one can gain more control over their emotional responses and even manage intrusive thoughts more effectively. By achieving this power in one’s mind, mental health drastically improves.
Improved Overall Health
Practicing mindfulness exercises regularly won’t just improve your overall mental health, it will boost your physiological health too.
One 2015 study found that mindfulness exercises were correlated with improved cardiovascular health. Those who routinely practiced mindfulness exercises had a lower incidence of smoking, increased physical activity, and a healthier BMI. In fact, when tested on people with obesity or binge eating disorder, mindfulness exercises were highly successful in reducing harmful behaviors that perpetuated weight gain issues.
Researchers have also found that mindfulness has a positive impact on lowering blood pressure. The American Heart Association has gone as far as to conclude that there is sufficient evidence that mindfulness exercises can be used as an “adjunct treatment” for coronary heart disease. Not only that, several studies have determined that mindfulness exercises also improve your overall immune system and reduce inflammation. So, improving your mind with meditation practices will have a positive impact on your whole body.
Improve Quality of Sleep and Reduce Insomnia
It is estimated that severe sleep issues affect 10 to 25 percent of the population worldwide. Notably, extreme lack of sleep has been revealed to affect mental and physical health negatively.
One meta-analysis covering 18 sleep trials found that mindfulness exercises did improve the overall quality of sleep in participants but suggested more research be done.
In this case, mindfulness exercises aren’t just for mitigating mental health symptoms that prohibit sleep, there is a physical reaction to meditative practices that can have a positive impact on sleep.
According to the Sleep Foundation, “At a biological level, meditation slows the heart rate and breathing and lowers levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Over the long term, the relaxation response reduces stress-related inflammation and oxidative stress and improves insulin resistance.”
All of these physiological reactions promote better sleep.
In a recent article on the Harvard Health Publishing blog, Dr. Herbert Benson, director emeritus of the Harvard-affiliated Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine, said that he isn’t surprised by recent study results revealing the link between better sleep and meditation. He recommends people do mindfulness exercises for 20 minutes a day to achieve this sort of effect.
“Mindfulness meditation is just one of a smorgasbord of techniques that evoke the relaxation response,” he said. “The idea is to create a reflex to bring forth a sense of relaxation more easily.”
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Fight Cognitive Decline in Elderly
Your mind is everything. It’s what makes you — you. So taking care of your brain is top priority, especially as you get older. Mindfulness exercises are efficient for helping older people maintain their cognitive health.
A 2016 study on patients with Alzheimer’s disease followed participants for two years while trying several methods and therapies. Overall, the mindfulness exercises group had significantly more improvements in their cognitive scores than any other group.
And this isn’t the only study to find this kind of fantastic result.
In fact, mindfulness exercises can also improve cognitive function in healthy brains. Another study in 2017 found that people between the ages of 55 to 75 who spent eight weeks practicing “focused breathing meditation” had significantly better attention than those in the control group.
Maintaining healthy mental health isn’t just about reducing symptoms related to disorders. It also includes taking care of your brain and all of its functions.
Amazing Improvements Among Children
Mindfulness exercises aren’t just for adults. Children of all ages can glean benefits from these practices. Recent studies have discovered that mindfulness exercises can even improve the likelihood of academic success in students of all ages.
- One 2016 study found elementary students could improve their academic performance, emotional regulation and overall behavior.
- One 2014 study revealed that children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds improved their focus after participating in a five-week mindfulness program.
- A 2016 study focusing on children diagnosed with ADHD discovered that once participants were exposed to mindfulness therapy, they demonstrated an improved ability to focus and displayed less aggression.
It is fair to say that these academic improvements are a side effect of overall stress reduction– the main symptom often felt through routine mindfulness exercises.
However, it is further proof that the benefits far extend past the improved mental health aspect. Promoting healthy mindfulness will genuinely improve all aspects of someone’s life and overall health– regardless of age.
Ready to Start Mindfulness Therapy In Pennsylvania?
When it comes to managing stress, focusing on your mental health and improving your overall quality of life, mindfulness exercises may be one of the types of therapy you want to explore. If you’re located in Pennsylvania, our therapists would love to discuss our approach to mindfulness therapy and see if it’s a good fit for your needs.
At Native Clinics, we have a team of highly trained and dedicated therapists who specialize in mindfulness therapy and are ready to provide you with quality, individualized care.
Contact us today and find out how mindfulness therapy can improve your life.
To view all of the services offered at our Pennsylvania clinic, visit our website.