As important as having a healthy body, it’s to have a healthy mind. Mindful thoughts of health and well-being help us live a life with less stress and more focus.

I have to admit to that I don’t remember neither the year or how I came across Zen Buddhism. Even though I didn’t practice zazen1 for a long time at the dojo2, it left a deep impression on me.

One of the many things I discovered thanks to my interest in zazen was the practice of Mindfulness. Throughout all my life, I had always been proud of thinking the “unthinkable”. I connected dots no one else could see and came up with out of the box solutions to any situation all the time. But the truth is that it’s a very tiring way of living. Having your mind spinning around day in and day out because of the smallest detail was exhausting.

Mainly after surgery, I realized that I couldn’t stay like that forever. In fact, I didn’t want it for myself anymore. There had been a shift in my priorities and there was no room for old-Debbie any longer. It was when Mindfulness forced its way back into my life.

What is Mindfulness?

If you search for the term “mindfulness” on Google, you’ll find 2 definitions:

  1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
  2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

Awareness is the key word in both of them. Developing a deeper perception of ourselves and the environment is what brings inner peace and focus.


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Benefits of mindfulness

Because it directs our attention and thoughts to one single object or action, mindfulness allows us to concentrate our energy on one point instead of scattering it all over the place.

Only that is a life savior in modern days. If 20 years ago there were already complaints about families (or people in general) not interacting anymore and spending way too much time in front of the TV, imagine now.

Who is not guilty of at least once being with others and sending messages via a smartphone at the same time? Personally, I can “handle” a TV program, my MacBook, and my iPhone or iPad all together at the same time. Does it sound horrible to you? To me as well, but it’s true.

That’s a lot of energy spread and as many studies have proved, multitasking isn’t that productive.

Other benefits of mindfulness are:

Mental health

Among the various benefits of mindfulness, one finds mental health. Being present in the moment and aware of the now, may ease anxiety and mental stress according to studies3.

Those who have suffered from anxiety and depression know how hard it is to deal with distracting thoughts. They simply have too much power. Their mind is everywhere and they cannot separate a problem-solving thought from their worries. And because it all becomes one thing, they feel lost, hopeless and unable to react properly to daily life situations.

A mindful person can recognize what’s going on and separates thoughts that bring benefit from painful (and useless) ones.

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Pain 

Like what happens with patients suffering from mental health conditions, having to deal with chronic pain is a cause of a lot of distress.

It’s not the same as having some headache that a painkiller will take away. Chronic pain is a nightmare that one has to learn how to deal with to survive.

Mindfulness brings a state of alertness about the situation without the pression of judgment. An almost curiosity leads patients and it helps understanding treatments and their results. It’s not only a matter of hurting but going deeper in its comprehension without confusion.

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Emotion intelligence

Our brain offers possibilities beyond limits. Unfortunately, we are always so busy surviving that we neglect our inner development. Instead of becoming creative beings, we spend our time and energy desperately trying to fit in.

When we’re calm and in peace with ourselves, we are able to touch this endless source of creativity we all hold within. But it’s necessary patience, attention and kindness with ourselves first. And here’s where mindfulness practices help us become better versions of who we are.

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Brain function

Our thoughts are generated in the brain. These same thoughts also create our brain by the chemicals they produce.

Neuroscientists have also shown that practicing mindfulness affects brain areas related to4:

  • perception
  • body awareness
  • emotion regulation
  • introspection
  • complex thinking
  • a sense of self

With mindfulness, our thoughts are not wondering around aimlessly. One can focus on what really matters and find solutions to issues not based on emotional reactions but on useful analysis. It also allows our brain to “rest” after a stressful day by selecting peaceful thoughts over chaotic ones.

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Heart and circulatory health

In a recent study, preliminary evidence was found that mindfulness is positively associated with cardiovascular health5.

Because it supports stress reduction and helps us focus on things we can do to be healthier, mindfulness plays an indirect role in heart and circulatory health.

When we are present in the moment and our thoughts are not drifting away, we move away from that “fight or flight” lifestyle that damages our health in general.

With only a couple of minutes a day, or even with the incorporation of mindfulness to daily tasks, one can support a better lifestyle.

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"If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present." - Lao Tzu

“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” – Lao Tzu

Takeaway

Personal improvement is frequently focused on one aspect of the being. Whether it’s about becoming better with a certain skill or acquiring new knowledge. Rarely the individual as a whole is taken into consideration for self-development. However, who we are and how we internally deal with life issues play an important role in our success: personally, professionally and socially.

Because I believe we cannot separate our Essence to who we are and our accomplishments, I’ll be sharing tips to improve your attention and well-being through mindfulness practices.

Each week we will go through a different aspect of it and how it can be used by everyone to boost their wellness and health.

For today, I leave you with a short guided mindfulness meditation from Headspace. It can be done anywhere, sitting or lying down. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

Have you ever practice mindfulness (meditation) before?

Read all the previous posts of this series:

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How To Hack Your Lifestyle For Mindfulness

How To Hack Your Lifestyle For Mindfulness

Make it happen!

#DebbieinShape

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  1. Zen meditation, usually conducted in the lotus position.
  2. The meditation halls where Zen Buddhists practice zazen meditation. 
  3. Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being
  4. Mindfulness Can Literally Change Your Brain
  5. Positive Associations of Dispositional Mindfulness with Cardiovascular Health: the New England Family Study
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Debbie Rodrigues
Debbie Rodrigues is a Productivity Expert. She helps busy career women create a productive routine that fits their lifestyle. She does this through coaching, online courses and through the blog debbieinshape.com.