As with most popular trends, mindfulness also has many admirers and many critics. With its roots in ancient cultures and supported by recent scientific evidence in both the academic and applied realm, there’s quite a lot of information out there about the merits of mindfulness. When it comes to something so popular and widespread, it’s best to gain a broad swath of knowledge from reliable sources and to try it out for a while, observing the effects within yourself before deciding if it’s something that will or will not work for you. Approaching everything with curiosity and healthy scepticism is always better than blindly accepting everything that’s taught to us.
Here, there’s a sampling of information about the benefits of mindfulness collected from recent scientific articles. Check them out and see what you think, doing your own research as it suits you.
By definition, mindfulness is a practice in which your mind is present in the moment, observing what’s happening within yourself or in your surroundings without judgment.
Mindfulness is being in the here and now, accepting your reality without labeling or judging it. Mindfulness can bring balance in our lives and, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t always mean being patient, calm, or positive. It’s being able to practice a kind of self-awareness that helps us tune into our current needs. You’ll still get angry, experience sadness, and have moments of annoyance or irritation no matter how long you practice mindfulness. The goal isn’t to eliminate certain feelings, it’s to remember that all emotions are valid and can inform how we respond to ourselves and others. Mindfulness allows us to accept all of our feelings, creating space for us to experience them more comfortably through a deeper knowledge of self.
Research shows that mindfulness can have a positive impact when it comes to reducing depression, anxiety and stress. We often experience stress, anxiety, or depressive periods when our emotional, psychological, or physiological needs aren’t being met. Mindfulness-based practices have been helpful in reducing the effects of anxiety both in clinical and nonclinical settings, allowing us to recognize and name our needs, thereby releasing the tension we feel.
A peaceful mind sleeps better. Mindfulness-based clinical interventions have shown improved sleep quality and reduced daytime fatigue-related problems among older adults. Further, it’s also been found that there is a positive correlation between sleep quality and overall well-being among university students. Put simply, mindfulness helps to ease our mind and allows us to relax into a deeper, more nourishing sleep.
Practicing mindfulness regularly enables our mind to stay present in the moment. It’s inevitable that our minds will wander, that we’ll get distracted. That’s part of being human. Mindfulness can be a great tool, helping us to notice when we’re distracted and bring our focus back to the here and now. Hence, mindfulness is great for attention.
One analysis reviewed studies that investigated the relationship between mindfulness and attention, summarizing the power and relevance of this relationship. Overall, the results of 87 studies suggest that meditation can improve generalized attention, helping us stay focused and alert.
Recently, many institutions have included mindfulness within the educational context and the practice has contributed to enhanced academic performance. Mindfulness has been associated with better school performance, particularly in middle school, resulting in better grades, better attendances, and fewer suspensions. One study found that mindfulness-based interventions can be beneficial for students with learning disabilities, helping them to navigate school-related anxiety, improving their social skills, and academic performance.
Beyond academics, mindfulness has also begun to take root in other forms of industry, frequently used in industrial-organizational settings to enhance performance. Employees who participated in a self-training mindfulness intervention demonstrated improved emotional regulation, greater job satisfaction, and experienced less emotional exhaustion.
Relationships are all about reciprocity: being able to feel heard when it comes to expressing our own needs and being able to listen when those we’re connected to express theirs. Practicing mindfulness helps to cultivate empathy and compassion toward others by helping us identify and attend to our own needs.
Evidence shows that practicing mindfulness can be associated with greater relationship satisfaction and can foster more supportive communication skills. It’s often said that the components of solid and supportive communication are care, empathy, and encouragement, elements that are especially important when navigating challenging situations and emotions. Mindfulness often encourages this kind of communication because it asks you to be attentive both to internal and external stimuli in the present moment, lessening our reactive and judgmental impulses.
The benefits of mindfulness can also extend to parent-child relationships, one study showing that children evaluated their parents better in terms of empathy and emotional regulation after eight weeks of mindfulness training for families.
Mindfulness practices often encourage a sense of gratitude, allowing us to see and celebrate the beauty of the present moment. One study showed that mindfulness and gratitude together had a statistically significant impact on stressful life events. By engaging in mindfulness-based practices, we’re better able to traverse through challenging emotions, deepening our relationships and overall well-being as we do so. And gratitude is often meant to be shared. It can be difficult to get intimate with others, showing our gratitude, care, and affection for them. We may tell ourselves, “If we’re this close, they should know how I feel about them,” when perhaps saying it aloud is what they need most of all. Don’t we all want to hear how we’re loved? How we brighten someone’s day?
Mindfulness allows us to see the beauty of life more vividly and encourages us both to honor and celebrate it.
Practicing meditation and mindfulness doesn't necessarily mean we’re always at peace, feeling safe and calm. Mindfulness can be especially helpful when we’re experiencing difficult moments. We can even better manage pain through things like body scans, identifying where it hurts, the potential source, and how we’re feeling in that discomfort.
Practicing mindfulness can be related to being better able to cope with chronic pain, as well as more able to manage acute pain. For example, mindfulness interventions have been used as part of treatment for cancer patients, reducing stress and negativity. Additionally, pregnant people who engage in mindfulness-based activities report having a greater sense of overall well-being and a better experience during labor and recovery after giving birth.
We also know that pain isn’t always physical, as we can experience intense emotional pain through loss and grief. What’s often especially difficult when it comes to grief is that it can feel destabilizing. Whether it’s the loss of a person, a relationship, a job, a dream, or that feeling of security, that sense of absence can create a void within our lives that can be hard to accept. Clinical professionals often suggest mindfulness-based practices in cases of loss and grief to help with navigating the shock, sadness, anger, or fear that can come along with grief. Mindfulness can encourage us to acknowledge and accept the loss in time, being patient with ourselves and with the process of feeling all of our emotions. Given that mindfulness is also about acceptance and staying present, even throughout challenging situations and emotions, it can be especially beneficial when we’re experiencing grief. Our pain, the longing, the frustration, and anger can become more bearable as we get to know ourselves throughout this new experience on a deeper level. Eventually, we can come to accept that the acuteness of this emotional pain will lessen over time and you’ll have the strength to move forward.
A positive correlation has been shown between mindfulness-based practices and better overall life satisfaction. When we’re more aware of the different aspects of our lives, our needs, and our current reality, the beauty of the everyday becomes more visible. We’re better able to see, harness, and experience the joy of each new day.
In time, we develop a more positive attitude that’s based on our actual emotions, nothing like the forced and false emotional states often associated with toxic positivity. Mindfulness encourages us to practice being open to anything in time and we become more patient with ourselves, others, and life itself. Being mindful widens our perspective and gives us a more holistic point of view wherein we can appreciate all that we have in the present moment.
Studies have also shown that regular meditation can benefit our overall well-being and psychological health, reducing emotional reactivity and improving behavioral regulation. Additionally, mindfulness helps to alleviate the stress levels in health-related situations like HIV, depression, and inflammation, resulting in better health outcomes.
Not everyone’s comfortable being alone and loneliness can be challenging when lacking social or emotional support as we may feel neglected, our emotional needs going unmet. But, being alone doesn’t always mean loneliness. We are whole and complete just as we are and as much as we need the community of others to survive, we can learn to enjoy being alone with ourselves. Mindfulness can ease feelings of loneliness allowing us to stay present with ourselves more comfortably even if it’s challenging of if we’re having a hard time confronting certain aspects of ourselves, some event, or a feeling.
All of us struggle with self-love from time to time. Mindfulness-based self-compassion can be a great way to love and accept ourselves as we are.