I already wrote a lot about the benefits of practicing mindfulness. However, they are mostly scattered throughout different articles. That is why I want to create another mini-series which sole purpose is at gathering the benefits of having a regular mindfulness practice.
The key words are regular and practice. Sure, to settle the mind and center yourself you don’t need a regular practice. However, in order to reap most of the benefits, a steady practice is paramount.
Why do I write about the benefits again you might ask? Well, establishing a mindfulness practice is to establish a new habit. This means that it is a change process. We don’t like change =). That is why we always need to have a reason for doing it. What can I get out of changing my behavior? Because the change (at least in the beginning) means an increased energy investment and it means “suffering”. That is why you cannot be successful, if you don’t have a strong motivation accompanied or created by potential benefits. The same is true when giving someone feedback. If you cannot tell the other person what she gains from changing her/his behavior, they are less likely to change.
The benefits I am going to write about stem from various books, articles and I will always try to add my personal experience to give some real-life context.
An active front left-hand side of our brain means that we are more likely to be optimistic and resilient. On the other hand, if our front right-hand side is more active we are more likely to be anxious and caught up in a lot of negative thinking. Most of us will experience a mix. At least that is what I do. Neuroscientists at the University of Wisconsin found that after eight weeks of mindfulness practice, participants experienced a significant change in the activity from right to left. This corresponded with increased feelings of happiness and well-being. I can say that when I practice mindfulness regularly and over a long period of time, I feel way calmer and balanced which is what I understand as happiness. But this is fragile. If I stop practicing for a week or two, then I become more restless. Also, the longer I practiced before, the longer the effect stays even after I stopped practicing. Therefore, the goal is to not stop =).
A different team of neuroscientists from UCLA found out that people who practice mindfulness experience negative emotions less intensely than those who do not practice mindfulness. By labeling the emotions you become more aware of those emotions. This is what reduces the intensity. My experience is that when you start your practice and you become aware of those emotions, it feels like they are more intense. This however is a misconception. It feels like this because we shed light on them. I actually didn’t try to label my emotions. That is why I cannot say something about this. I normally label thoughts but in a broad sense like “planning”. I will give it a try. What I know is that it helps to be more “objective” about this thought and I guess the same happens with my emotions when I label them. It might also help to label them because then we have a better understanding. Often, our emotions are mixed up and we cannot really tell what we feel right now. Labeling might actually help to pinpoint our feelings and become more aware of how we feel.
And, last but not least. Something for the impatient among us =). In a previous article I wrote about the positive effects mindfulness hat on my long-term memory. A different study discovered that practicing mindfulness has immediate effects on our short-term memory. When is this helpful? Imagine you sit in a client meeting and you need to be attentive to what the client says. Sometimes, remembering a word or phrase that has been used a minute ago can help to ask the right question and also to show the client that you are an attentive listener (a valuable but rarely found skill). Also, do you remember all those times you had to remember a number and you just looked at it and already forgot and had to look again? This is our short-term memory and we can improve it with mindfulness. I can confirm this finding. Especially with remembering numbers. I saved a lot of time already by not having to look or read it again.
That is it for today. What do you think about those three benefits?
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