Research shows that the study of mindfulness can have myriad benefits to our mental and physical health, as well as our productivity. Motivational speaker, author and productivity expert Chelsea Pottenger explains why.
We often hear words such as ‘calm’ and ‘mindful’ being thrown around when discussing wellbeing. A quick Google search displays a ‘calm and mindful person’ as one meditating at the top of a mountain, outlooking the vast horizon. But unfortunately, we don’t all have the time to head to our closest mountain range to experience peak zen.
What we do have is the ability to experience the benefits of calm and mindfulness within the comfort of our own minds.
The science of mindfulness
I want you to take a moment and think about a typical day in your life. From the moment your feet hit the floor in the morning to the time your head hits the pillow at night (and you finally put down your phone), how much information do you think you receive and process? How many new faces do you see? How many names are you trying to remember? How much are you reflecting on the past? How much are you worrying about the future? How much are you expressing gratitude for your present moment?
Mindfulness is our ability to maintain a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surrounding environment. Mindfulness operates on multiple levels, with the foundational level being meditation. Meditation is the groundwork and maintenance you do in order to become and stay more powerful than your thoughts.
Research has shown that consistent mindfulness practices, like meditation, can change how your brain physically looks and communicates.
For example, in a study* about mindfulness, scientists saw a decrease in the size of the amygdala, which is your brain’s stress centre and alarm system. With a smaller, less reactive amygdala, you’re more likely to remain calm in stressful situations and be more in control of your emotions and actions. In another study** into mindfulness, practices including meditation, mindful yoga and body scans showed an increase in the size of the hippocampus, which is your brain’s memory centre within eight weeks of following a structured plan. When you have a larger, better performing hippocampus, you’re more likely to have more mental stamina, a quicker reaction time and improved memory and learning skills.
Meditation can even help you become better at focusing. When looking at a group of meditators versus non-meditators, scientists saw differences in the part of the brain responsible for spontaneous thought. The meditators had more stability and were able to focus better.
Practising mindfulness calms the mind, improves brain function, helps you focus and reduces stress. In addition, it makes people happier, less irritable and more engaged with others.
Benefits of practising mindfulness
The practice of mindfulness can:
- Help you find clarity in a world full of distractions.
- Help you make values-based decisions.
- Help you calmly and rationally respond to thoughts that may otherwise be distressing.
- Help you transition to and from the different moments in your day.
- Increase your compassion for yourself and others.
The second part of mindfulness is putting what you practise during meditation into action in everyday life to move, breathe, work, love, eat, drink, speak, and most importantly, think.
As we continue to live in a world with the number of stimuli growing exponentially, we can easily feel like our unconscious mind is overloaded to the point of (almost) no return.
By practising mindfulness, you’ll not only program your brain’s cruise-control mode to keep you in the present moment, but you’ll also put yourself back in the driver’s seat.
Chelsea’s new book, The Mindful High Performer is available from May 31. Order your copy here.
Looking to improve your self-efficacy, grit and resilience? Come and have a Cuppa with Chelsea Pottenger! In this conversation, you will learn the simple yet powerful shifts to recharge your mental health and perform at your best in work and life.
- *Taren, A., et al. ‘Dispositional Mindfulness Co-Varies with Smaller Amygdala and Caudate Volumes in Community Adults’, 2013, PloS ONE 8(5): e64574.
- ** Hölzel, B., et al. ‘Mindfulness Practice Leads to Increases in Regional Brain Gray Matter Density’, Psychiatry Research, vol. 191,1, 2011, pp. 36–43.
This article originally appeared on Kochie’s Business Builders, read the original here.
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