The important aspect of mindfulness is that for a practice to be effective, one needs to tailor it to your personal needs, lifestyle, and how you learn.
There is tons of credible research available to define the benefits of a mindfulness practice. With this research as the basis, here are some of the widely accepted benefits of a mindfulness practice:
1. Reduced rumination. Rumination is the continual replaying of similar thoughts and often associated with worry or even obsession. Typically, the thoughts are focused on the past or the future and the more a person ruminates, the less they are focused on and aware of what is happening in the present.
2. Stress reduction. Stress is often associated with worry and worry typically is related to something in the future. By focusing on the present, you become more aware of what you can influence and manage and what is beyond your control.
3. Boost working memory. The mind can only hold 5 or 6 separate things in working memory. When you add an additional element to be considered, something usually falls by the wayside. Focusing on the present allows you to keep the elements that are critical to the present in front of you and you are less likely to ‘forget’ something. For example, if you are ‘thinking’ about what you are going to do on the weekend, you may overlook something you meant to do on your present shopping trip.
An effective way to stay focused in the moment is to keep a note pad handy to record things that need to be done ‘in the future’.
4. Improved focus. Mindfulness helps notice when an intrusive thought arises – a thinking habit ‘fork in the road moment’ – and makes it possible to let the thought go or record it for attention later.
5. Less emotional reactivity. Emotions arise regularly. This is the mind’s normal response to experiencing life. How you respond to the emotion – how much energy you devote to reacting – can be managed. Mindfulness allows you to recognize the emotion and respond skillfully rather than getting indefinitely lost in the grip of an emotion.
Emotions are cyclical – they have a beginning and an end. The length of the cycle can be heavily influenced by the messages we send ourselves about the emotion. For example, when anger arises, you could think “I am angry” or you could think “There is anger”. Two completely different perspectives about the same circumstance.
6. More cognitive flexibility. We judge so much of what we experience in life and when we judge something, we have already formed an opinion about it. When an opinion is formed, we stop learning. When we stop learning, life begins to close down.
The more mindful we are, the more aware we are of our judgments and can use that awareness to take a more curious approach to the array of people and circumstances we encounter.
7. Greater relationship satisfaction. The quality of our relationships with others directly impacts the quality of our lives and the amount of happiness we experience. One of the simplest ways to improve the quality of our relationships is to be appropriately mindful when we are with someone. Listening mindfully sends an incredibly powerful message to another person.
As a place to start, check out this short piece on mindful breathing. Breathing is something available to everyone and a simple, personal yet exceptionally powerful foundation upon which to build a mindfulness practice.
If the potential for mindfulness appeals to you but you are stuck in getting a practice off the ground, your coach may be able to help you launch.