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The Importance of Mindfulness & Meditation

By Bree Spencer

Mindfulness, meditation, living in the present…all things we’re told we should be doing on a daily basis to improve so many aspects of our lives from disease and pain management, to quality of sleep, to controlling our emotions and reducing stress and anxiety. Meditation has been practices for thousands of years, and while the academic research isn’t quite as robust around this as say, nutrition and exercise, for your overall health, there’s no denying that incorporating mindfulness exercises into your life is something worth considering. Here are a few reasons why…

  1. It really does lower stress: Studies show that daily meditation doesn’t just make you feel less stressed; it actually can be linked to lowering amounts of the stress hormone – cortisol – in your body.
  2. It makes us more self-aware: Mindfulness can be broken down into four different elements; body awareness, self awareness, regulation of emotion and regulation of attention. Mindfulness can be used to help us see beyond either those rose-coloured glasses, or the negative filters we place on our lives, it can allow you to see personal ‘blind spots’ and bring awareness and knowing to the true version of yourself.
  3. Integrative mind-body training has been show by University of Oregon researchers, to protect the brain against mental illness. This particular meditation practice was linked to increased signalling connections in the brain – a process called axonal density – as well as increasing the myelin (protective tissues) around the axons in the anterior region of the brain.
  4. It helps to control your reactions: Meditation can act as a ‘volume dial’ to help you turn down the emotional reactions you might have to feelings, people, or the world around you. Regular practice helps the brain have better control over things like processing pain and emotions. A study in the journal of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that specifically, meditation can help control cortical alpha rhythms, which play a role in which senses our minds pay attention to.
  5. The benefits of meditation can kick in even when you’re not doing it: Just like strength training keeps your metabolism firing hours after you’ve stopped exercising, so too when you’re not meditating, the effects can keep on regulating your brain throughout the day even when you’re not actively in a meditative state.
  6. Meditation could make you a ‘better’ person: Sounds a little far-fetched right? According to a study in the journal Psychological Science, researchers from North-eastern and Harvard universities found that meditation can make us more compassionate and is linked with more virtuous, do-good behaviour.
  7. It helps you sleep better: Not only does mindfulness practice and meditation help to lower your levels of cortisol and regulate emotions and moods, but a University of Utah study also found that higher levels of mindfulness is linked to lower activation at bedtime which, in a nutshell, means that your mind wont be racing as much at bed time! Great for a good night’s sleep.

Watch the video above to see why I personally use meditation and mindfulness in my life…