Mindfulness, a form of meditation, is the mental act of being keenly aware of the present moment. It is enjoying a tremendous surge in popularity, both in the popular press and in psychotherapeutic literature. Mindfulness has moved from a Buddhist practice that originated about 2,600 years ago to mainstream psychotherapy. Among the benefits of mindfulness are heightened creativity, greater self-control, increased tolerance, enhanced flexibility, calmness, less anxiety, improved concentration and attention span, and a greater ability to relate to others and yourself with increased kindness, acceptance, and compassion.
Mindfulness advocates say that virtually everyone can benefit by being more mindful. But does practicing mindfulness really deliver, or is it yet another here-today, gone-tomorrow momentary fad?
Mindfulness is one of the best-researched topics in psychology, and the findings are clear. Mindfulness is scientifically proven to enhance your mental acuity and alertness and to increase your happiness and sense of well-being.
One of the purposes of mindfulness is to slow down conscious mental activity in the brain. As you transition from a fast beta brain state to a slower alpha state, the brain processes information and emotions more effectively. In our book, BIG IDEAS, we teach:
Slower brainwave production is one of the goals of mindfulness and meditation programs. During meditation, the brain slows down and gets a rest five times deeper than sleep. This deeper rest gives the body and the brain an opportunity to heal.
Meditation helps the right and left hemispheres of the brain communicate with each other by strengthening the corpus callosum, the bridge between the two. This connection allows us to generate creative solutions even in high-stress situations.
Other proven benefits of regular meditation and mindfulness practices include less anxiety and depression, a lengthened attention span, a reduction in age-related memory loss, an increase in mental sharpness and fluid intelligence in older adults, and decreased sensitivity to both physical and emotional pain. Researchers at the University of Washington discovered that mindfulness practices are twice as effective as12-step programs in preventing drug-addiction relapse. These many benefits can come from meditating as little as twenty minutes a day.
There is also a fascinating inverse correlation between the time spent in meditation and mindfulness practices and the time required to accomplish other tasks. Those who take time to meditate will find they have more than enough time to complete the rest of the things on their to-do lists.
With some practice, you can generate stress-relieving alpha waves any time, even during high stress situations. In your journal, keep track of what works best for you.
Here are some ideas:
• With your eyes closed, breathe in deeply. Hold the breath, then let it out slowly. Repeat five or six times and pay attention to how you feel.
• Get the Breethe app and follow some of the programs.
• Take a solitary walk and pay attention to the sounds, smells and sights. Leave your cell phone behind.
• Engage in an artistic pursuit like painting, sculpting, drawing, writing, or crafting.
• Close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing.
• Listen to relaxing music.
For more information on the far-reaching benefits of mindfulness and meditation, read BIG IDEAS: How to Unleash Your Creative Self and Have More Aha! Moments by Craig Case and Jennifer Beckstrand. Available at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and Audible.