The practice of mindfulness linked to meditation has obtained good results both in the effects produced on physical health and mental health. It is related to a lower risk of showing a pathology and greater brain development.
Mindfulness, also called full awareness, consists of focusing attention on the “here and now” in the present moment and accepting the experience and ourselves without judging or making any kind of assessment.
Thus, we get to know ourselves better, allowing us to regulate our emotions, reduce stress, and improve our attention span, memory, problem-solving, and even relationships with others.
There are so many benefits that have been obtained from the practice of mindfulness that it has been introduced as a complementary technique to other interventions in psychological treatment sessions such as third or new-generation therapies, to treat patients with different pathologies, but above all linked to emotional disturbance or affectation.
In this article you will learn about the benefits of mindfulness on health and mind, what is its origin, what are its most relevant characteristics, and practices that have been observed in different investigations.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness, also known as full consciousness, has its origins in Buddhist meditation, reaching the West driven by medicine professor Jon Kabat-Zinn who introduced it as a strategy used in psychotherapy.
The technique consists of focusing attention on the present moment, without making any kind of assessment of the thoughts that arise, just contemplating them. In this way, we must accept our thoughts without judging them.
The fundamental components of mindfulness are: as we have already said, focus attention on the present; be open, and receptive, to different experiences; radical acceptance, that is, we will not judge or value the experiences, we will not even reject those that are negative; we are the ones who choose what we focus our attention or consciousness on but without trying to control what we feel or what these experiences provoke in us.
Likewise, we must remain patient, we must not force any reaction, as we said, we will simply contemplate; we will avoid forming expectations or comparing with previous experiences, remember that you should only focus on the present; and we will not give importance to achieving immediate results either, we will let them arise when necessary.
On the other hand, the observation of the experience must be participatory, that is, we cannot perceive it as something foreign to us, but we will contemplate it as something that is part of ourselves. Another important factor is accepting our present selves.
To change and improve, we must first accept ourselves as we are, to know what our starting point is and what aspects we must work on to improve. Acceptance is the first step to being able to change.
10 Benefits & Positive Effects of Mindfulness on Health and Mind
Reduce Stress and Increase Emotional Control
As we have mentioned, mindfulness is linked to the practice of meditation, in this way it is easy to deduce that the results achieved will be similar. In different studies, it has been observed that the mindfulness technique, carried out regularly, is related to a decrease in the hormone cortisol, which in small doses has positive effects on the subject.
Since it helps to regulate the metabolism to obtain energy, cope with stress, reduce infections, regulate blood sugar and blood pressure, control sleep-wake cycles, and is also involved in memory and concentration.
In this way, when an alteration of this hormone occurs, all the previous functions will be affected, also increasing the risk of presenting mood disorders such as anxiety or depression. Mindfulness helps us relax, thus reducing stress and thus the level of cortisol.
Improves Ability to Concentrate
As we already know, one of the fundamental factors of mindfulness is to focus attention on the present, on the here and now, and be fully aware of what is happening. Thus, although achieving the objective of this technique may be difficult at first, with continued practice we will be able to improve our ability to concentrate, achieving better control and management of our attention. We work so that the results obtained during the mindfulness sessions can be generalized and applied to different areas of our lives.
About the first point, we know that mindfulness helps reduce stress, thus keeping us calmer and calmer in our day-to-day lives even when difficult situations arise. It allows us self-control and emotional control that benefits rest.
In addition, it has been observed that individuals who perform this practice show a lower cortical activation during the night, remember that the waves of lower activity during sleep are linked to the phases of greater brain rest.
Related to the improvement of concentration, we will also observe a better memory capacity. Being able to focus our attention on a stimulus, on something we want to remember, makes it easier for us to better encode, store and retrieve it when necessary.
Various investigations have been carried out where it has been observed, that in subjects who practice mindfulness, better functioning of working memory, which is a type of short-term memory that allows us to manipulate and operate with information for a certain period, is essential for the proper functioning of complex cognitive processes.
Likewise, results have been obtained in different studies that indicate that full consciousness helps to increase the volume of the gray matter, neuronal bodies, of our brain, at the same time that an increase in the hippocampus, one of the regions of the brain more linked to memory.
Helps Protect the Brain from Damage
Research carried out on people who practice meditation, which, as we already know, is one of the bases of mindfulness, concluded that these individuals showed longer telomeres, this is the name given to the sequence of nucleotides that form the ends, points, of the chromosomes and which have the main function of protecting against possible damage, also related to aging, telomere shortening is one of the causes of this process.
It has also been observed that this practice is linked to an increase in the density of the axons and the myelin that covers them, this consists of an insulating layer that allows the information, the nerve impulse of the neuron, to be transmitted better and more accurately. most effectively throughout the year.
An increase in creativity has been verified, understood as the ability to create or come up with new ideas. The reduction of stress and the improvement of the capacity of attention and concentration help to enhance this capacity since if we feel more relaxed, we will have a clearer mind and with it, an easier time focusing on creating.
On the other hand, the improvement in the focus and control of attention allows us to remain focused on a task for a longer time, thus favoring being creative.
Promotes Greater Self-knowledge
Ultimately, mindfulness is a technique that allows us to dedicate a moment to ourselves, to connect and be aware of our thoughts and feelings, thus favoring us to get to know each other better. Knowing and facing what we feel is not always easy since they remove emotions and thoughts that can harm you, but it is better to face them as soon as possible to avoid worse situations.
Knowing yourself better allows you to know the reason for your reaction in different situations, favoring the resolution of the different problems that may arise in your life and what is the best way to face the facts.
Improve Social Relationships
Likewise, benefits already presented such as self-knowledge, stress reduction, or emotional regulation, that is, a better state of oneself, also facilitate a more favorable relationship with others. The subjects have a greater ability to express how they feel, communicate and understand the feelings of others, and have greater empathy.
Development of Emotional Intelligence
Linked to the greater self-knowledge and greater self-awareness generated by the practice of mindfulness, the individual manages to understand, use, and correctly manage their emotions to reduce stress, be more benevolent and empathic with oneself, as well as reduce conflicts and deal with problems more optimally. Similarly, emotional intelligence is also related to a better relationship with others, increasing empathy towards others.
Strengthening the Brain
As we have seen in previous points, mindfulness favors brain development. Neuroplasticity, which consists of the formation of new neuronal connections, and neurogenesis, which is the creation of new neurons, have been observed. In this way, there is a restructuring, a change in the brain, and with it new learning, allowing greater flexibility and better adaptation.
Now that we know what the practice of mindfulness consists of, it will be easier for us to understand its benefits and what are the reasons why this technique is being used as strategies in psychological therapy.