Health is one of our most valued and cherished possessions. Mindful awareness, the act of being fully present in each moment, allows us to accomplish two paradoxical things at once. First, when we are present, we have the capacity to make better choices, and second, we have the ability to accept things as they are. This paradox helps us reduce stress and impacts our health in multiple other ways.
The International Journal of Behavioral Medicine reported a significant association between mindfulness and better scores on four of seven cardiovascular health indicators, as well as a composite overall health score. “The study is the first to quantify such an association between mindfulness and better cardiovascular health,” said study lead author Eric Loucks, Ph.D. Loucks believes the research can promote health because mindfulness can be enhanced with training.
Also, he believes the connection between mental processes and physical health is natural because people who are tuned into their present feelings may be better at managing the cravings that often lead to unhealthy choices (Loucks et al., 2015)
According to another study published in 2011, there were five key ways that mindfulness training increased physical and mental health (Wayment, et al., 2011).
- Strengthens immune system and physiological responses to stress and negative emotions.
- Improves social relationships with both family and strangers.
- Reduces stress, depression, and anxiety and increased well-being and happiness.
- Increases openness to experience, conscientiousness, and agreeableness
- Leads to greater psychological mindfulness, which included an awareness that is clear, non-conceptual, and flexible. It is a practical stance toward reality.
We often think that improving our health requires us to make radical changes and may even feel that it is an overwhelming task. And the news doesn't help. Every day we hear something we need to stop doing or start doing, and we don't know what to believe. As with most things, the right answer is the simple answer. Consider small changes you can make right now that will have big payoffs. Here are a few ideas to get you moving in the direct of improved health.
- Start by asking yourself what can I do right now that will make an impact. It might be getting out of our seat and taking a short walk. Or making a choice to eat a piece of fruit instead of a cookie. It doesn’t matter you what you choose, but do something now!
- You can practice focusing your attention without adding any more time to your day. Take a moment several times a day to tune into the present. In as little as 1-2 minutes, a few times a day can help you move toward making being present the default for your attention.
- Look for high impact activities that are beneficial to your health and will improve other aspects of your life as well. An example might be taking a walk with a friend and focusing your attention on your friend instead of being lost in your thoughts. This one small action can have multiple benefits.
Stop putting off making changes that you know will have long term benefits. Act now. Don’t wait until you are sick or injured to see the value of your health.
Loucks, E. B., Britoon, W. B., Howe, C. J., & Buka, S. L. (2015). International Journal of Behavior Medicine, 22,540-550.
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