WHY A MINDFULNESS PRACTICE LEADS TO BETTER HEALTH

A mindfulness practice is about focusing your awareness on the present moment.

When life gets overwhelming, it’s important to center yourself and focus back on the present.  Here’s how staying mindful benefits you and your health.


BY: KATHERINE RATLIFF, MS, RDN

We’ve all heard how important ‘mindfulness’ is to our mental and physical well-being, but for many, it is challenging to put into practice. It’s a fuzzy, intangible concept that we all supposedly know how to do.

In truth, how mindfulness can be approached looks different for everyone.

A mindfulness practice is about focusing your awareness on the present moment, and acknowledging your thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations. No judgement, just let go of your expectations of what it should be, and find your awareness.

Over time, that is how mindfulness becomes a way of living, not just something you do for 20 minutes each day.

For example, you can start your day by creating an intention, an emotion, or state of being that you want to focus on that day. During meals, focus on mindful eating to stay present as you eat by identifying internal hunger and fullness cues, and using all your senses to fully enjoy the meal.

With so many different ways to be mindful throughout your day, assess what works for you and don’t be afraid to take a step back to reevaluate your practice if you feel stuck. Now that we’ve talked about ways to create a mindfulness practice in your day, let’s take a look at the research that supports why we need it:

STRESS REDUCTION

A 2017 meta-analysis explored the use of mindfulness-based therapies to reduce physiological markers of stress. The researchers found that meditation reduced systolic blood pressure, cortisol (stress hormone), heart rate, and C-reactive protein (marker of inflammation).

In another meta-analysis focusing on the incorporation of yoga into mindfulness-based practices, reductions in cortisol, blood pressure, heart rate, fasting blood glucose, and LDL cholesterol were also found.

EMOTIONAL AND COGNITIVE HEALTH

Many studies have focused on the effects of mindfulness-based therapies in the treatment of anxiety and depression. Specifically, “mindful emotion regulation” appears to be at the foundation for the success of these therapies in supporting mental health. One study explored the neurocognitive mechanisms behind how mindfulness helps regulate emotions. Additionally, mindfulness-based therapies also show success with preserving cognitive functions in the aging population through improved attentional control.

Creating a mindfulness practice can seem daunting. It may feel overwhelming deciding where and how to start. Focus internally, and remember what it’s meant to help you do:

Finding yourself.

Adapted from the original article.
HEADER IMAGE: HANS VIVEK

Katherine Ratliff, MS, RDN is a Minneapolis-based Registered Dietitian with a passion for transforming food into simple, delicious, and nourishing meals.  She believes the path to health and happiness comes from focusing on foods that help nourish, heal and grow. By focusing on the six pillars of health, Katherine helps others create vibrant and meaningful lives. To read more, visit her at At Katherine’s Table.

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