If you’re looking to make a positive impact on your mental health, mindfulness, and meditation are great places to start. Worldwide, around 200-500 million people practice mindfulness and meditation. It’s easy to see why. These practices boast a wide range of emotional and physical benefits with many ways to incorporate them into your everyday life.
In this blog post, we’ll cover the impacts of mindfulness and meditation on your mental health, including 10+ ways to bring mindfulness and meditation into your daily routine.
What is mindfulness and what is meditation?
While meditation and mindfulness are interrelated and often used interchangeably, there are some key differences between the two.
Meditation is a practice and an activity with intentional focus and formal structural techniques. All meditation involves mindfulness.
Mindfulness, on the other hand, is a state of being. In a mindful state, your mind is focused on attention and openness to the world around you. It can be done at any time through a formal practice (meditation) or informal practice (while doing regular daily activities).
The Neuroscience Behind Meditation and Mindfulness
How do mindfulness and meditation impact mental health? Why do these practices make such a big impact? The emotional and physical benefits of mindfulness and meditation are explained largely by their influence on the brain.
Mindfulness and meditation involve focused attention, which creates structural changes and alters activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain associated with increased focus. These practices also engage the fronto-limbic networks, which decreases stress levels and improves emotional flexibility.
Not only this, but mindfulness and meditation alter areas that are associated with mood regulation, stress, sense of self, memory, empathy, and brain degeneration by stimulating the plasticity of gray matter in the brain. Low gray matter is commonly associated with the development of mental health disorders like low mood, depression, and anxiety. People with higher volumes of gray matter have shown greater rates of recovery from poor mental health.
10 benefits of mindfulness and meditation on mental health
Mindfulness and meditation have physical and emotional benefits including:
- Decreased anxiety, stress, and depression
- Improved cognition
- Increased focus
- Reduced rumination
- Improved working memory
- Better emotional regulation
- Lowered blood pressure
- Decreased chronic pain
- Improved sleep
- Improved gastrointestinal health
6 WAYS TO PRACTICE MINDFULNESS IN DAILY LIFE
Mindfulness is a state of being you can engage in at any point in your day. To help you get started, here are a few ways to practice:
- Practice mindful eating. During your next meal, focus your attention on your food. Eat slowly without distractions and notice the taste and texture of what’s on your plate.
- Go on a mindful walk or do some mindful exercise in nature. Turn off your phone and take a stroll in a park or trail. Take in the small details around you such as the shape of the leaves, colors that draw your attention, the sounds of birds, passing scents, the feeling of the sun on your face, etc.
- Take deep breaths. Notice your breathing at different points of the day and pause. Breathe deeply from your belly and place your attention on your chest rising and falling.
- Engage all your senses. Practice openness by taking in what’s around you with all five senses. This can be done at any time, whether it be while you’re working or while you’re relaxing at the end of the day.
- Do a body scan. Close your eyes and release tension from the top of your head to your toes. Key points can include your eyes, jaw, shoulders, stomach, hips, legs, and feet.
- Practice gratitude. Start a gratitude journal. It can make a meaningful difference to take time during the day to remind yourself of what you’re thankful for.
TYPES OF MEDITATION
While there are different forms of meditation worth exploring as you develop your mindfulness and meditation practice, there are two core types:
- Concentrative meditation - Involves focused attention on a singular thing while allowing the world around you to pass through. Focus can be on the breath, a phrase, a sound, an object, or an activity. Examples include:
- Breath awareness meditation
- Mantra meditation
- Tea meditation
- Repetitive movement meditation
- Mindfulness meditation - Involves openness and awareness of the present moment and the world around you while accepting your current state. Examples include:
- Body scan
- Loving-kindness meditation
- Observing thought meditation
- Mindful movement and activities (exercise, reading, eating, driving, etc)
A STRONG FOUNDATION FOR BETTER MENTAL HEALTH
Practicing mindfulness and meditation can be an effective part of maintaining good mental health. There are many long-term benefits that come with engaging in these practices on a regular basis, including improved emotional well-being, greater satisfaction with life, better cognitive health, and decreased brain degeneration.
Your mindfulness and meditation routine will be ongoing. It won’t always be perfect but can be a flexible part of life, with many opportunities to engage and incorporate into your day.
Want to learn more about relaxation for better health and well-being? Read more here.
For more tips on mental health and brain wellness, check out the recommended reading and blogs on The Virtual Vine.
Transform Stress into Strength: 3 Keys to Building a Resilient Brain
- Meditation and Mindfulness: What You Need To Know
Brief Mindfulness Meditation Induces Gray Matter Changes in a Brain Hub
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