How Mindfulness Can Make You Healthier

Presented by BetterHelp

When you think of mindfulness, you probably think of meditation, quiet time and supporting your overall mental health. And you’re not wrong. In recent years, a robust body of research has indicated that practicing mindfulness can help us feel happier and improve our mental health. But did you know that mindfulness can also have a strong connection to your physical health? It’s true – the regular practice of mindfulness may actually make you physically healthier. Let’s take a look at how.

What is Mindfulness?

The practice of mindfulness traces its roots to Buddhist meditation – the practice of stilling the mind and focusing intently on the present moment. Mindfulness involves increasing your awareness of what’s currently going on around you: your breathing, the sensations you’re feeling, what’s happening in the present moment within your environment. Beyond noticing these things, mindfulness challenges us to approach them with genuine curiosity and a lack of judgment. The practice can steer our frantic minds away from what we’re planning for the future, along with what we’re fixated on and unable to change from our past.

Many people practice mindfulness on their own, while others may find success working through mindfulness practice as part of talk therapy, including online therapy. Others may find the greatest benefit when practicing mindfulness as part of a walk in nature. There’s no one right way to practice mindfulness – and the way that’s best for you is the method that gives you the best result.

The Mind-Body Connection

Scientists are just beginning to understand the relationship between our brains and our bodies – but it’s clear that they influence one another. Studies have indicated that the practice of mindfulness can improve symptoms of both anxiety and depression. And further research has shown positive effects of mindfulness on both high blood pressure and insomnia. Mindfulness may even be able to help people manage chronic pain. And some promising research indicates that practicing mindfulness could help stave off cognitive decline like that associated with Alzheimer’s.

It’s important to remember that research into the physical effects of mindfulness remains early, and it’s unlikely that mindfulness would take the place of traditional treatments for many physical conditions, but it may prove to be an effective adjunctive therapy for some patients.

What This Means for You

Practicing mindfulness is an easy way for you to start protecting both your mental and your physical health. And there’s nothing stopping you from beginning this practice today. You can begin with a simple seated meditation, closing your eyes and focusing on nothing more than your breathing, making sure to breathe slowly in and out through your nose. When distractions, stray thoughts or other sensations sway your focus, simply acknowledge them and return to focusing on your breathing. Choose a time limit that seems attainable for you and set a timer so you know when you’re finished. Try this every day for six months and see what kind of difference it makes for you. To boost your chances of sticking with it, try reporting in to an accountability partner or talking through your progress with a trusted therapist. Over time, you may be surprised at how much mindfulness improves your mental – and physical – well-being.