Lately we’ve been reading a lot about the benefits of something called mindfulness. Maybe it’s because our lives have grown so hectic in this new digital age – and age where we are constantly bombarded with emails, texts, Facebook messages and phone calls. It’s when we feel like we’re actually losing our mind, that mindfulness seems more important.
Mindfulness is essentially the act of stilling your mind to momentarily focus on the here and now. It requires suspension of all thought, and is the complete opposite of the frantic, frenzied world we live in. From a health standpoint, it is considered a powerful and healing antidote to the information and activity overload many of us are experiencing in today’s crazy world. This overload can easily lead to stress, anxiety and even depression. Stress can lead to physical ailments. So practicing mindfulness may be one of the most powerful forms of medicine that we have – it’s free, and its right at our fingertips.
At US Health Plan – a TRICARE PRIME health program – we keep our members informed on how to lead healthy and happy lives. Mindfulness and its potent health benefits are something that we thought we ought to look into further. And here is what we found out.
What is mindfulness?
With today’s frantic pace, many of us find it extremely challenging to just slow down for even a minute. Try this experiment. Try to still your mind for just a few minutes and sense how you feel. Do you find this challenging or easy? As you can probably see, practicing a real state of mindfulness can be pretty hard to accomplish, even for short periods of time. In our high speed information laden world, it can be difficult connect with our inner self, and just be still. But this is actually where the magic happens and the dividends of these few quiet moments can pay off in deuces.
What are the key benefits of mindfulness?
When we intentionally focus on just the present moment, while suspending any form of thoughts or judgement, we build space from which real life solutions arise. When we realize that the present moment is the only real moment we have, we stop worrying about the past and the future, and begin to create solutions that can have a real positive impact on our lives. If we fail to make time for these important small moments, we can rush frantically through life overlooking some of the valuable thoughts and solutions that are right inside of us.
On a physical level, mindfulness meditation has also been proven to increase the ‘caps’ at the end of our genes (called telomerase), which in turn, can reduce cell damage and thereby lengthen our lives. Recent research has also demonstrated that mindfulness bolsters our immune system and helps our bodies battle conditions like flu or even cancer. Mindfulness improves our concentration and reduces ruminative thinking that contributes to the high levels of stress that is so prevalent in our society. Stress and ruminative thinking are not only mental health hazards, but they quite often lay the groundwork for physical disease as well.
How do we get started?
The best way to start mindfulness techniques is to do your research or even start taking classes in yoga or mindfulness, now available almost everywhere. With mindfulness, you can take control of your thoughts, feelings and sensations, with an objective view. When we release judgment and learn to live in the moment, we increase our mental agility. We can also better regulate our emotions, our decisions, and the health of our bodies.
The reactive thinking that we all commonly practice, causes us to fall victim to our immediate circumstances or emotions. This way of thinking sometimes works against our own best interest. Mindfulness provides a great tool for developing a more thoughtful, self-accepting approach for addressing life’s problems. I can also help us to build more compassion for others. It allows us to take back our power and be more strategic in terms of our goals. It can bring us closer to the people we care about and interrupt self-sabotaging patterns we’ve adopted throughout our lives.
What are the results?
Teaching ourselves to calm down and to be less reactive is achieved through mindfulness techniques. Whether by learning to meditate or by merely tuning in to our inner selves at various times throughout our day, we will enhance our ability to feel more integrated, more productive and better able to act with integrity.
We improve our ability to focus our attention as we begin to slow the racing thoughts that lead us to engage in self-sabotaging behaviors. We strengthen our resilience and enhance our capacity to experience the joys of everyday life. Mindfulness gives us the permission to slow down and be present, to experience life as we live it and to discover who we really are in the process.
Mindfulness is on the top of everyone’s radar today because as we move deeper into this new information age, we are bombarded with more and more things that our mind has to process at once and that have the ability to take us out of balance. We need a path to inner peace and the ability to re-connect with ourselves.
US Family Health Plan believes that health and wellness are holistic. They include our physical and mental well-being. Mindfulness appears to be good for both, so we feel it is good medicine.