This is the 4th part of the series which discovers the benefits of having a regular mindfulness practice. I try to add my personal experience regarding the benefit I write about. Those advantages stem from books, articles, videos, and my personal experience.
I recommend to read the 1st part which you can find here.
Researchers found a link between meditation and self-control. After only 5 days of meditating for a very short time, participants showed increased blood flow to the area of the brain that helps to control emotions and behavior. Even more fascinating, after eleven hours of meditation, actual physical changes in this part of the brain had occurred. This makes sense as mindfulness has been shown to be effective in the treatment of drug addiction, smoking (I always wonder why they separate drugs and smoking and alcohol…), and eating disorders. From my experience it takes a little longer than 5 days to gain a level of self-control where you really feel a difference. Last year, I had several “breaks” in my practice and looking back now, I realize that I had almost no self-control. I wrote my ex-girlfriend constantly although I KNEW it is a bad idea. Now, having a more stable practice I am way better at controlling myself. It gives me the seconds or minuets to really think about how I want to act and what the consequences of my actions would be for me and for the other person.
The next benefit of a regular mindfulness practice is one of the main motivators why people start to practice. Neuroscientists at the University of Pennsylvania showed that mindfulness can help to offset the loss of mental performance of Marines in stressful situations. Building “mind-fitness” with mindfulness training can help anyone who must maintain peak performance in the face of extremely stressful situations. Firstly, yes, I do get stressed. I feel it when my neck and back are tensed or when I get a headache. However, I am very good at performing under stress. That is a difference. We all experience stress, the question is how we deal with it? Mindfulness helped me to be able to analyze a situation and also to step out of a situation to get a meta-perspective. This helps me to make better decisions.
The last benefit for today might sound a bit odd. A regular mindfulness practice, meaning sitting in stillness leads to an increased desire for calm moments. The more I practice the more I realize how fast the world is we live in. People walk so fast they are almost running (I know I can be the same), If you live in a city, you might already be used to the constant noise. When you establish your practice, you will be aware of all those sounds and you will cherish those moments when it is still. I walk more slowly, I take more breaks, I often just sit in silence (even without meditating), and my thoughts take me to nature and how nice it would be to just spend time hiking or lying in the sun at the sea (the second one is more attractive for me, although at the moment I miss the time I spent hiking in Ireland).
Take care, Stephan