What is mindfulness exactly? It’s a state of open awareness and acceptance of whatever is going on for you internally and externally in the present moment.
Some people tend to be more naturally mindful than others. But mindfulness is also a set of skills that can be practiced, say, through mindfulness meditation – the practice of continually bringing your attention back to the present moment, as our minds naturally drift from thought to thought. The goal of mindfulness is not to rid your mind of thoughts; instead, the goal is to notice when you are pulled away from the present moment and practice bringing your awareness back to the here-and-now without judging or criticizing yourself for getting distracted.
With practice, your natural tendency toward mindfulness can improve, and this orientation toward life can come with some surprising changes. Here are 3 life-changing benefits of mindfulness:
1. Slows down time
Maybe you’ve had the experience of feeling like time is slipping away from you. The days blend into months, and before you know it, you find yourself asking where has this year gone?
Of course, we know that time itself hasn’t changed since we were kids and summer days seemed to stretch out infinitely in front of us. What has changed is our perception of time. As we become more familiar with the world around us, our experiences become less novel, and we have little need to pay attention to the details. In turn, we can slip into something like autopilot – getting through the day well enough without really paying attention or having committed much of it to memory.
So what’s the secret to slowing down time? Switching up your routines, seeking out novel experiences, and paying attention to the little details that you’ve come to take for granted through the practice of mindfulness.
2. Promotes joy
Mindfulness has been linked to the experience of more positive emotions. A 2018 study found that acceptance in addition to attention was essential for the maximum mood-boosting potential of mindfulness practice. In other words, it’s not just paying attention to our internal and external worlds that promotes wellbeing, it’s also accepting our experiences as they are without judging them or trying to change them.
When you practice really paying attention to the little details of the world around you and within yourself, and accept them just as they are, it’s likely that you’ll feel a sense of wonder and gratitude for being here to witness it all. In all, this approach helps to promote a good mood, a sense of well-being, and joy.
3. Improves physical health
Considering all these benefits of mindfulness, it’s no surprise that a mindful approach would improve mental health. But the benefits of mindfulness don’t stop at the mind; mental health and physical health are intricately linked.
Mindfulness has also been linked to lower stress, a healthier heart, lower blood pressure, reduced chronic pain, improved sleep, and gastrointestinal health. In all, learning and practicing mindfulness skills has the potential to promote overall health and wellness, and it doesn’t require any special equipment or materials. If you’re new to mindfulness and would like some guidance, try starting with a free mindfulness app like Insight Timer.