New Findings on the Mental Health Benefits of Mindfulness
Mindfulness-based activities such as yoga and meditation are booming on a global scale, with rough estimates showing that between 200 and 500 million meditate regularly. A few months ago, the UK hosted the first ever world summit on mindful politics, bringing together politicians from 15 different countries to meditate together a the House of Commons to explore how mindfulness can providea framework for national and international politics by helping politicians make more reasoned decisions was discussed, as well as the many benefits that mindfulness per se can bestow on mental health. In this post we present just a few recent findings on its powerful effects.
Mindfulness as a Spiritual Pursuit
Modern day definitions of spirituality essentially embrace activities and philosophies that help us feel like part of a greater energy or enhance our sense of connection to other human beings. A plethora of recent studies have shown that those who make time for pursuits that calm the mind, such as meditation and yoga, can help us achieve this sense of unity and therefore make us happier. One fascinating study showed that only community activities with a spiritual/religious fundament are capable of providing lasting benefits, compared to activities that may even be altruistic (such as volunteering) but which do not involve spirituality/religion. Other studies have shown that spirituality (rather than religious practices) determine how happy children are. Particularly powerful were the sense of meaning and value in one’s own life, and the strength of interpersonal relationships and community support, that tended to accompany a richly spiritual life.
Mindfulness vs Anxiety, Depression, and Pain
In the EU as well as the United States and other parts of the world, mindfulness and anxiety are the two most prevalent mental conditions. Studies by researchers from John Hopkins University, however, have shown that mindfulness and meditation significantly lower levels of stress hormone, cortisol, which triggers these conditions. They have an additional benefit: that of reducing pain. One 2017 study carried out at Leeds Beckett University found that just 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation can improve pain tolerance and pain threshold, and decrease one’s anxiety towards pain.
Mindfulness Alter the Brain Structure and Reduces Social Stress
Research carried out at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences found that after three months of mindfulness training, participants to the study showed changes in specific brain structures (in areas which are related to attention and executive functioning). They also showed improvements in computer-based tasks measuring attention. Researchers noted: “Our results provide impressive evidence for brain plasticity in adults through brief and concentrated daily mental practice… as empathy, compassion, and perspective-taking are crucial competencies for successful social interactions, conflict resolution, and cooperation, these findings are highly relevant to our educational systems.”
We have mentioned just a few of the many fascinating findings into the benefits of mindfulness. Other studies have shown that regular practice can lead to improved energy levels, a greater ability to focus, and important neurobiological changes. You don’t need plenty of time to enjoy the benefits of this healing activity. There are a plethora of free apps that will allow you to make the most of mindfulness – even if you only have a few minutes a day.