What is mindfulness, and why is it so important? In recent years it may seem like a buzz word on everyone’s lips. However mindfulness practices have solid science backing them. They’re a great way to get a handle on stress and anxiety, and should be part of any healthy living toolbox. With this in mind, today we take a sneak peek at everything you need to know about mindfulness to live your best life possible.

Is mindfulness religious, weird, or ‘woo’?

While it’s easy to hear the word ‘meditation’ and think of monks up a mountain, that’s not what lies at the heart of mindfulness techniques. While mindfulness meditation is a part of some religions, you don’t have to practice anything at all to use the same techniques to help ward off stress and anxiety in your daily life.

Mindfulness is simply a basic human ability- being fully ‘present’ at the moment. In other words, not reacting to or overwhelmed by the world around us. It’s super-common for us to spend a lot of time dwelling on the past or thinking about the future, or worrying about things that might happen, and forgetting to actually be ‘present’ in the here and now.

By training our brain to be mindful, we can actually alter the physical structure of the brain, teaching it to put the brakes on runaway anxiety, thoughts, and fears, and focus on the reality around us instead.

Does mindfulness really have tangible benefits?

Whether you call it ‘meditation’, ‘grounding’, ‘awareness’, ‘journalling’, or just ‘mindfulness’, let’s look at how it can help us. Mindfulness has a positive impact on both the body and mind. By taking control of an unruly brain, you help decrease ‘always on’ stress signals in the body, reducing cortisol, lowering heart rate, improving sleep, and helping to offset other physical effects of stress.

Taming a racing mind, meanwhile, brings a host of positive mental effects to the table.  While issues like depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and chronic stress won’t be cured just through mindfulness, it’s a valuable tool that helps you take back control of aspects of your treatment, calm down the brain’s ‘panic signals’, and practice better mental health.

Lastly, mindfulness is a great way to boost your overall well-being, supporting a healthy lifestyle. It’s easier to enjoy life’s pleasures when you’re not distracted by yesterday’s regrets and tomorrow’s problems. You also become more resilient and able to cope with setbacks. Some even claim they can make deep connections with others more meaningfully. 

How can I be mindful?

You can bring mindfulness into any activity you enjoy by returning yourself to the present moment and focusing just on the here-and-now. Don’t make a cup of coffee thinking about tomorrow’s to-do list, just focus on the beans, the water, and the cup!

If guided meditations aren’t your cup of tea, try simple deep breathing exercises and focus on your breath, tuning out intrusive thoughts. Or try the classic grounding exercise of thinking of 5 things you can see, 4 you can touch, 3 you can here, 2 you can smell, and so on. A regular gratitude journal habit is another way you can bring more mindfulness into your life. Even just sitting for a few minutes, focusing on your breath calmly, will help develop a mindfulness habit that will pay dividends for your health.

Developing mindfulness is one of the best ways you can help fortify your body against the adverse effects of our stressful modern lifestyles – and it couldn’t be easier, either.