The Art of Mindful Meditation: Your 5 Great Life-Changing Benefits
Imagine you’re in a bar with your partner, having a couple of beers before hitting the late-night showing of the latest Hollywood blockbuster. Suddenly, a row breaks out between the bartender and a drunk. Coins are thrown, scattering everywhere. A couple of other guys try to grab the drunk to take him outside, but he starts flailing his fists around with no particular target in his drunken mind. You slowly raise yourselves from the barstools, hoping the guy doesn’t come near you. He now has blood coming from a cut on his cheek and a split lip, and, as he does actually get nearer to you both, you realize he’s not smelling too good either.
He suddenly looks you both straight in the eye, and says, in a very calm, sober-sounding voice, “That was me, I’m afraid when my drinking was beyond the level of an alcoholic. Addiction made my life, which was already getting pretty screwed up, a complete mess. This is the result, what you see here. Constantly drunk, always aggressive, no care for myself, and certainly no care for anyone else. In fact, I don’t even remember this particular fight happening, but it did. It always did.”
“As you can probably gather, I’m different now. I’m officially a recovering alcoholic, now just over 6 years of living a clean and sober life. No, let me correct myself. Over 6 years of living a clean, sober and mindful life. Yes, that guy, that drunk, you just saw? He’s gone now. Here’s hoping he never comes back. One of the main reasons I have to hope is this: I learned about the art of mindfulness and the practice of meditation in my rehab. I didn’t know it then, but it would become the inner support I needed to get me through what lay ahead. It continues to be that support. Yes, that drunk you saw a few moments ago, one day was taught to live in the present, to experience that particular moment, and no more. To live right now. It changed my life.”
A different way to begin an article, you’ll probably agree, but that’s really what this piece of writing is about: difference. Yes, that was me then, and this is me now. I can’t show you before and after photos, but I know I’ve changed for the better. I certainly smell a lot better. Mindful meditation did, indeed, change my life, from the way I lived it, to my hopes, dreams, and ambitions (many of which I had completely given up on), right down to simply connecting with other people. It’s these differences that have prompted me to pen (yeah, type) this: the art of mindful meditation; your 5 great life-changing benefits. Let’s get started.
Meditation Will Improve Your Mind
Mindful meditation, described by the Association of Psychological Science as “the nonjudgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment,” has been practiced for thousands of years. It’s as old as the hills, in other words. But why has it existed for so long? Quite simply, for its many recognized benefits. Seeing as we’re talking about mindfulness, let’s begin with the mind.
Mindfulness allows the true objective analysis of ourselves, our strengths, and our weaknesses, our good points, and our character flaws. It helps us go beyond the blind spots we may have when we look at our actions and our motivations. This is of great use to recovering addicts like myself.
Additionally, mindfulness is a perfect tool for getting our minds to truly focus by giving us more control over emotion and even pain. It’s like a volume control for all the chatter we here internally.
It Will Improve Your Mental Health
One of today’s most common complaints by the people around us is this: “I’m just so stressed!” Research has shown that not only does mindfulness reduce the effects of stress, it actively reduces the level of cortisol (the stress hormone) produced in our brains.
Furthermore, it has been proven through research studies that mindfulness continues to work even when it’s not being actively practiced. Let me explain. The processing of emotions by our brain is still at an improved level without actually meditating. The research (for those who like their links scientific and technical, you’ll love this…) showed that the amalgyda area of the brain (responsible for emotional responses) is affected even when not meditating, in a similar way as during meditation.
In fact, the practice of mindfulness can help protect you from mental health disorders in the future. A meditation technique is known as integrative body-mind training, and studied by researchers at the University of Oregon, demonstrated increased axonal density (our brain’s signaling connections) and the improved rate of growth of myelin, the tissue that protects the anterior cingulated area.
It Will Improve Your Learning Ability
A mere 4 months after leaving rehab, I was back in a classroom, like I nervous kid on his first day of school. I needn’t have worried. Mindfulness gave me a greater ability to focus (as mentioned above), but it also improves your ability to learn new things and retain that information. In other words, an improved working memory. Yes, I passed the course in question. It was about writing and publishing online. Did it work?
It Will Improve Your Physical Health
As a new patient who just finished his alcohol detoxification in a Tennessee alcohol rehab center, my physical health was as expected: poor to seriously bad. It was one of the reasons for my therapists to put me on their mindful meditation program for addiction recovery. It worked, complementing my new exercise regime and medication perfectly. My physical recovery from years of addiction was subsequently surprisingly quick.
I’m going to have to put the following information into some kind of list, simply because mindfulness brings so many benefits to a person’s physical health. These include:
- Sleep: You’ll love this one. I certainly do. University of Utah researchers found that those who practiced mindfulness slept better than those who didn’t, experiencing less activation during the night, leading to better and deeper sleep.
- Weight Loss: A survey by Consumer Reports, in conjunction with the American Psychological Association, showed that 7 out of 10 psychologists would recommend mindfulness as part of a weight loss program.
- Better Work Attendance: Those who practice mindfulness experience fewer sick days caused by acute respiratory infections linked to severe colds during the year. Furthermore, the symptoms are less severe and last fewer days.
- General Physical Health: Research by the American Journal of Health promotion has shown that those who practiced transcendental meditation had much lower doctor’s bills than those who didn’t, due to better overall health and well-being.
It Will Improve Your Life
Without a doubt, mindfulness has greatly improved my life. When coupled with my addiction recovery, it has proved of immense value to me personally. I’ll be forever grateful to the instructor who taught both myself, and my fellow mindfulness classmates, its wonderful art.
My life is better. Apart from everything written above, here’s how it could add to yours.
Mindful people are more compassionate – fact. Just ask the researchers from Harvard and Northeastern Universities that studied how mindfulness is directly connected to compassion and being more virtuous. Not only will you feel better, but those around you also will too.
Lastly, everyone loves music. Being mindful, you’ll love it more. Mindfulness has been shown that, because our ability to focus has become greater, our appreciation when listening to music increases significantly.
Of all the benefits that mindful meditation has brought to my front door and into my life, this is the one: the profound sense of calm I feel every single day. Sadly lacking in my early life, and then, in great part, triggering my descent into addiction, this feeling of calm I enjoy now is something I truly treasure. It provides me with a sense of certainty that all will work out as it should, and as I hope.
So, there you have them – your 5 great life-changing benefits gained from the art of mindful meditation: improvements in mind, mental health, learning ability, physical health, and life itself. What gifts has mindfulness presented to you? Please do share with a comment below.
So, all there is left to say is this. If you hurry, you can still catch that film. Enjoy and take care.