Whether you’re new to mindfulness meditation or a seasoned veteran, you probably know that mindfulness can be a practice that greatly helps our health. From physical benefits like lowered blood pressure to mental benefits like more concentration, a simple 5 minute meditation practice in the morning can make a dramatic difference in our routine of self-care.
Physical Benefits of Mindfulness
Mindfulness practice has been found to help our physical health in many ways. One study found that mindfulness improved health behaviors in participants. Those who practiced mindfulness were less likely to drink and smoke, more likely to use seatbelts, more likely to exercise, and more likely to get regular health checkups after practicing mindfulness meditation. This suggests that mindfulness meditation may help us to make better decisions in relation to our health.
Another study in 2014 found that mindfulness practice can decrease blood pressure. Healthy blood pressure is a great indicator of overall health, as high blood pressure is a factor in many cardiovascular diseases. There is also research suggesting mindfulness can help us eat healthier and maintain a healthy body weight.
Mindfulness and Mental Health
Mindfulness meditation is not just good for our bodies; it can also help us psychologically. Some of the benefits of mindfulness may be found even after short sessions, and may last for quite some time after practicing.
As research continues and we deepen our understanding of the brain, we are learning more about possible benefits of mindfulness practice in the mind.
Listening to Our Bodies
Now onto some more pragmatic pieces perhaps. Mindfulness meditation can help us to listen to our bodies. When we begin practicing meditation, we begin to tune into our present-time experience. By working with practices like body scans, mindfulness of the body, and open awareness, we can familiarize ourselves with the experiences we’re having in the body. This can help us in many ways.
First, we begin to feel pain and discomfort more clearly. Sometimes we just don’t feel right, and we aren’t quite sure what is going on. With more awareness, we can begin to identify where we are feeling the discomfort and recognize that we may need to change something. Whether it’s muscle pain, discomfort from being sick, or an unsafe feeling, we can listen to our bodies and see what they have to tell us.
Cultivating the ability to listen to our bodies also gives us the ability to see emotions arising more quickly. When we’re experiencing anxiety, we can feel it arising in the body perhaps before we notice that the mind is racing. Same goes for anger, sadness, or any other emotion. By tuning into the body, we can train ourselves to notice when an emotion is arising and work with it then, rather than waiting until we are overwhelmed with resentment, worry, or fear.
Finally, listening to the body can help us take better care of it. As we get in tune with the body, we can see how things like diet, exercise, and posture impact how we feel. Although that extra piece of cake may be delicious, we can feel how it makes us feel afterward. Mindfulness with this will help us make healthier choices and take care of ourselves both mentally and physically.
One of the ways I’ve seen mindfulness impact my health is in my eating habits. There are great practices we can undertake in mindful eating. My favorite book on the subject is Savor, a wonderful book on the practice of mindful eating co-authored by a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and a doctor of nutrition. Mindful eating is a practice in which we tune into the habit of eating, how we eat, and what we eat. With mindfulness, we can tune into how we eat and begin to recognize that diet and eating are factors in our happiness.