Updated: Jan 30, 2020
In the last few years, mindfulness has become a buzzword there has been thrown around in the mental health and spiritual communities. At some point in your life, you might have found yourself questioning or even doing a Google search to see what exactly mindfulness is and its benefits are. Rest assured, mindfulness is not just a fad; there are actual benefits to using mindfulness. It can seamlessly be incorporated into your daily life and positively affect your mental health to help you have a happier, healthier, and more positive outlook on experiences or situations that can be viewed as negative.
My own experience with mindfulness has positively impacted my mental health. In late February 2018, I discovered that my chronic illness formally known as TA (Takayasu’s arteritis) had reared its head and was no longer in remission. It needed to be treated aggressively. I had two choices. Option A: wallow in self-pity, allow my mental health to further deteriorate, be filled with days and nights of anxiety and depression. Or option B: proverbially put on my big girl pants and deal with it by adding a dose of mindfulness to my daily life. After a few weeks of option A, I decided enough was enough, and I took control of my mental health by incorporating mindfulness into my daily regimen.
Mindfulness is a sure way to improve your mental health. In this blog you will learn what mindfulness is, how it is beneficial to your mental health, and how easy it is to incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life.
What is mindfulness?
So what exactly is mindfulness? John Kabat-Zinn, creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic, describes it as “awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a sustained and particular way: On purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally” in his book Mindfulness for Beginners. In essence, mindfulness is taking in everything you experience and being in the present moment - dealing with thoughts, feelings, emotions without attaching a negative emotion or judgment to it.
Andy Puddicombe expresses in the book The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness that “mindfulness means to be present, in the moment, and undistracted.” When you are present, in the moment, and undistracted you are able to give whatever you are doing or experiencing your undivided attention. This entails not multitasking, avoiding feelings, or being focused on past or future worries.
During my struggles with my chronic illness, I had the choice to distract myself with the work, focus on the negative aspects of my health, or avoid the issues altogether. But, I ultimately chose to be mindful about my health and focused on activities that brought mental peace, the positive aspects of my health, and getting well.
How is mindfulness beneficial to positive mental health?
Overall, society has a negative perception of dealing with mental health, specifically anxiety and depression, both of which are negative factors that alter your overall health. In conjunction with other systemic issues, when left untreated they can cause great mental distress.
There have been a number of studies conducted on how mindfulness and interventions that center around mindfulness positively improve one’s mental health. Specifically, participants of mindfulness-based interventions had lower pre-and post-markers of anxiety, depression, and stress (Ferszt, Miller, Hickey, Maull, & Crisp, 2015). Additionally, participants of programs centered around mindfulness learn skills that help them cope with negative thinking patterns, thus lowering their stress and reducing their anxieties (McCay, et al., 2016).
My health challenges did not magically disappear when I began to incorporate mindfulness, but I was better able to internalize and accept what doctors had to say, make informed decisions, and the anxiety and depression that stemmed from the uproar of TA subsided tremendously.
Ways to incorporate mindfulness into everyday life: