Mindfulness can be described as the ability to be fully present and aware of where we are and what we are doing.
This means being conscious of our thoughts, feelings, movements and our surrounding environment. Sounds simple enough, right? But the truth is more often than not we find our minds wander off, we lose touch with our bodily emotions, and pretty soon we end up filled with overwhelming thoughts about the past or the future. It’s a rare thing nowadays to be able to focus only on the present moment.
There are different ways to achieve mindfulness. A great and easy way to approach it is through meditation. You can just sit for a few minutes in a quiet place, close your eyes, and start focusing on what you’re feeling in every part of your body. You can also find great guided meditations online to help you concentrate and achieve a more mindful state of mind.
Practicing mindfulness can help you in many ways. From being more productive at work to overcoming difficult emotions. In my case, it helped me a lot through my addiction recovery. I started consuming drugs and alcohol from a young age, and when I finally accepted to get treatment, my life was a mess. I found this outpatient rehab center in Bellevue, where they helped me get back on my feet. And mindfulness was a big part of it. I have been sober for almost a decade now, and mindfulness is still a big part of my life. Today, I would like to share with you 3 ways in which mindfulness helped me improve my mind.
1. It Improves Your Mental Health
Studies show that mindfulness can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. People who practice mindfulness have shown increased activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This is the part of the brain associated with positive emotions, and it is usually less active in people who suffer from depression.
In my particular case, I started suffering from depression and anxiety when I was a teenager, but since there wasn’t much talk about mental health back then, I never knew what was going on in my head. In fact, those feelings were one of the reasons why I started consuming drugs and alcohol in the first place. When I finally understood that I had these mental conditions, meditation and mindfulness helped me become more in control of the emotions they produced.
2. It Improves Your Focus and Productivity
One of the greatest challenges we face nowadays is to stay focused on so many distractions. Text messages, social media notifications, unread emails, etc. All of these distractions make it harder to get things done on time. If you can relate, then mindfulness is just what you need. When you’re completely aware of what you’re doing at the present moment, there’s no space for distractions. Whether it’s a negative emotion or a notification from a group chat, mindfulness jumps in the way of all these distractions and pulls you back to earth when your mind starts wandering. As a result, you’re able to get things done in a more productive way.
When I got my first job after finishing my treatment, I constantly found myself thinking about alcohol and drugs when I was feeling overwhelmed with what I had to do. I soon realized how dangerous it was to let myself think about this stuff. With the different techniques I had learned in rehab about meditation and mindfulness, I was able to put off those thoughts and focus on my work.
3. It Promotes Empathy
A study conducted at Northeastern University College of Science showed that mindfulness and meditation can increase your ability to feel compassion and empathy. In this study, after a brief meditation intervention, participants showed to be 50% more compassionate than before.
In my case, before I started practicing mindfulness I was completely isolated from everyone (drugs and alcohol tend to cause that). I wasn’t able to feel compassion at all. I didn’t care about anybody but myself. Group therapy was an important part of rehab. At first, I couldn’t connect with anyone’s stories or struggles. But after I started meditating, that slowly started changing. Being aware of my surroundings helped me realize that all those people were going through the same situation as me, and I could feel compassion for the first time in a very long while.
Today it’s easier than ever to learn the basics of mindfulness. There are plenty of tips and techniques to start practicing it and sticking to it. The best part is that there are many different ways to approach this lifestyle. You can try yoga, tai chi, mindful breathing and other types of meditations.
It can be difficult at first to make meditation and mindfulness a daily habit. In my experience, the first few days were the hardest because I didn’t feel like it was helping me relax or be more focused. It’s normal to feel this way at first, but don’t give up. Mindfulness changed my life. It helped me go from a drug addict and alcoholic to healthy and successful entrepreneur. And I’m sure that if you give it a chance, it can change yours too.
Do you know any other ways mindfulness can improve your mind? Please let us know in the comments below.
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