Growing up and working as a journalist with no distinct work hours, an unstipulated job description and no definitely set return on investment, I often found myself overwhelmed but was ambitious enough to keep pushing through. Caffeine and chocolate were my best friends and I barely paused to squeeze in time for exercise, family, a home-cooked meal or friends. I prided myself for having strong work ethics and a drive to build a career for myself that would make me stand out and in turn bring me happiness. However, the pent-up stress and my lack of acknowledging it in time led to a series of health problems – most significantly, my immunity took a severe hit and I had emergency hospital rushes where they ultimately declared me as severely immunocompromised. For years, I was put on immunotherapy and strictly instructed to slow down while practicing de-stressing exercises. This would’ve been easier had I even acknowledged that I was stressed; I never actually felt stress.
My struggle with immunotherapy led me down a spiral and I felt immensely depressed and unable to accept my health condition and restrictive capacity to work. During this time a friend introduced me to the magical world of mindfulness and meditation which helped greatly. After doing comprehensive research, I discovered that there is scientific proof to support the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.
1. Say Bye-Bye to Anxiety
Anxiety can have an intense effect on your mental as well as physical well-being. Anxiety is a natural response to an intense situation where you may feel out of breath or feel an increase in your heart rate; however. long-term anxiety can have drastic and often problematic effects on you – from nausea, dizziness, fainting spells, blurry vision, increase in heart disease, lowered immunity, memory problems and gastrointestinal disorders to name a few.
A study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital determined that when people suffering from anxiety are introduced to mindfulness-based stress reduction, their brain responds positively and feels less stressed over a period of time. The study suggests that meditation over an eight-week period impacts and reduces your anxiety and response to stress.
2. Depressed? Mindfulness Meditation May Help
Depression can impact your life in a dramatic way where a feeling of sadness, loss, numbness and anger becomes your reality. It has a crippling effect on you where even the most mundane of tasks becomes a painstakingly difficult job.
Since mindfulness is centered on the fundamental of being aware of the ‘present.’ A study conducted by the American Psychological Association conducted research by introducing mindfulness to people susceptible to depression by engaging them in mindful exercises and being aware of their daily activities. The study eventually concluded that the relapse rate for depression or maintenance of it was as good as the effect of antidepressant medication. This study shows that mindfulness may present a promise to treating depression
3. Acceptance of Self – Loving Yourself
In a world where standards of beauty are high and multiple industries benefit by commercializing the need to improve your appearance; more often than not people are subjected to notions of negativity towards their body and looks. Mindful exercises and meditation inculcate the notion of accepting and loving yourself as you exist. All your flaws, all your imperfections are what make you the highest expression of who you are so you need to accept yourself for you. Mindful meditations introduce and inspire you to be in the present and since the present you is all you have, you should practice loving yourself.
Mindful exercises and meditation significantly impact how people view themselves, allow them to be more satisfied with their bodies as well as show signs of self-appreciation and a higher self-worth over a period of time.
4. Loving and Accepting Others
Research conducted by Central Michigan University has provided proof that mindfulness and meditation done over a period of time affects peoples’ lives in numerous positive ways. One of these is that they are most likely to denounce previously established notions about others. The research was dedicated to the impact of mindfulness on implicit age and racial bias where participants listened to a guided mindful meditation. This was followed by taking an implicit association test. The findings were that mindfulness meditation resulted in an increase in the state of mindfulness while subsequently resulting in a decrease in implicit race and age bias.
5. Increased Cognitive Ability is Your New Super Power
Cognition is your brain’s process of acquiring knowledge and comprehension through thought, experiences and your senses. A published research study in Consciousness and Cognition Journal concluded that when people are exposed to mindful meditation over a period of 2 months, they observe that their cognitive abilities have substantially increased. Not only did the participants feel that their ability to maintain focus had improved but they were now able to comprehend better. Their memory had also improved with them being able to retain information longer and recall it efficiently.
6. Hocus, Pocus – You’re Better Focused!
Advancement in technology has led to an onslaught of information that is bombarding you from all directions and is merely a click away. Often this information isn’t even sought after, but you spend endless time scrolling through your gadgets which results in a lack of focus and concentration. A Harvard Study concludes that 2 months of mindful meditation can contribute significantly to your ability to focus and concentrate. The study found that mindfulness centered around the notion of being ‘present’ can increase a person’s focus. Using frequencies, the research participants went through a process that made attention-based adjustments to their alpha-rhythm and helped them be more focused in the present and be able to disregard irrelevant distracting information.
Mindfulness revolutionizes your mental health and multiple research studies are being conducted the world over to prove the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. Just like incorporating a healthy diet to boost your physical health, mindful meditation exercises should be a part of your routine where you pause for 15-20 minutes a day and let your mind be healed.