With the hustle and bustle of modern life, it’s all too easy to get swept up into a continuous cycle of worry, anxiety, and stress.
When life gets busy and we get pulled in a million different directions, taking time out of our schedule to meditate, do yoga, or even take a few mindful breaths can seem impossible. Yet it is precisely when we feel most overwhelmed that we stand to benefit the most from engaging in mindfulness practice. But don’t just take our word for it- here are four scientifically proven benefits of mindfulness
1) Reduce Stress
Stress is no joke. Nearly half of Americans report that their personal and professional lives have been negatively affected by stress. Stress also impacts the body– with many Americans reporting stress-related symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, upset stomach, and muscle tension.
Although stress has just become a part of life for many, it doesn’t have to be that way. A recent meta study reviewed the work of over 200 research teams and determined that mindfulness meditation is especially effective at reducing symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. Taking just ten minutes a day to sit quietly with our thoughts and feelings, process them, and let them go can provide the spark for a happier and more sustainable life both at home and at work.
2) Increase Focus
Although we may sometimes worry that taking time out of our busy lives to practice mindfulness may decrease productivity, in fact the opposite is true.
A recent study examined how mindfulness meditation affected participants’ ability to focus attention and suppress distracting information. The researchers found that those who practiced mindfulness meditation not only performed better in sustaining attention, but also had greater cognitive flexibility in tackling difficult tasks.
By training our minds to ignore distractions, set aside worrying thoughts, and deal with negative emotions as they arise, we can be more productive than ever.
3) More Satisfying Relationships
Mindfulness also allows us to former deeper, more authentic connections with those around us. Several studies have found that mindfulness is directly related to a person’s ability to respond positively to relationship stress and allow us to communicate our emotions more clearly to our partners. The same studies also found that high levels of mindfulness also predict relationship satisfaction.
When we practice mindfulness, we embrace ourselves, our partners, and our relationships completely and unconditionally. We shed our expectations and embrace each other exactly as we are, flaws and all. By letting go of our fears, our insecurities, and our desire for things to be anything other than as they are in the present moment, we are able to open our hearts and meet each other with an unparalleled level of openness and love.
4) Better Empathy, Compassion, and Connectedness
Although humans are a fundamentally social species, we oftentimes get so wrapped up in our own pursuits and desires that we sometimes struggle to act kindly to those around us– oftentimes without even realizing the harm we are causing. Mindfulness offers the key to embracing a more empathetic and kind life.
One recent study found that those who practice mindfulness are less concerned with “selfish” goals (fame, recognition, and attention) and more directed towards compassion-oriented goals (helping others grow and preventing harm to neighbors). Other studies have found that those who meditate have both increased “prosocial emotions,” like compassion, and also lower “rejection emotions,” like disgust and contempt.
Mindfulness allows us to step outside of our own limited perspective and recognize the unity and connectedness of all life. When we do this, it becomes impossible to not act with a little more kindness and compassion as we recognize that our neighbor’s struggle is also our own.