Mindfulness: Part II

In my last article, I discussed my experience using mindfulness. With this simple method, I learned how to calm my busy mind and have a more cognizant outlook on the world. With that said, I’m not the only one benefitting from this. It seems as though many people are jumping on the mindfulness bandwagon in trend-like fashion. In fact, there is a burgeoning body of research showing the psychological, as well as medical benefits of mindfulness practice.

In this article, we will trace the origins of mindfulness back to the era of Buddha, then draw comparisons to modern uses. Finally, we will uncover the latest scientific research investigating the benefits mindfulness can have.

Mindfulness is based directly on the teachings of Buddha, who pioneered this technique in the 6th century B.C. Despite beginning so long ago, it seems like mindfulness has only become mainstream in the past few decades. Why is that? Well, frankly because people need it now more than ever. Modern technology has allowed us to multitask constantly and fracture our attention into smaller and smaller bits. We talk on the phone while driving, we pay our bills while watching tv, and we text while walking on the sidewalk. While this does allow us to accomplish more in less time, the tradeoff is that we are conditioned to never fully focus our attention in one place. This can take a toll on our mental health. The recent decline in mental well-being led people to seek answers not from Buddha, but from scientists…

Every month, new evidence emerges that active mindfulness practice has a tremendously positive effect on our health, mentally and physically. What was once dismissed by scientists as a pop culture psychology fad is now being regarded as a viable medical option to cope with chronic pain, mental illness, and even surgery. Let’s look at some evidence.

In a 2013 study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital, 93 persons diagnosed with general anxiety disorder (GAD) were assigned to a mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) course over an 8-week period. At the end of the period, the group was associated with significantly lower anxiety levels.

Researchers at the University of Vermont found that mindfulness helps individuals reverse body dysmorphia and improve body satisfaction. During the study, members of the intervention group were given a 3-week self-compassion mindfulness training. Results suggested that the intervention group, compared to the control group, had a high rise in body satisfaction and sense of self-worth after the training.

Researchers Greg Flaxman and Lisa Flook of UCLA concluded that rigorous mindfulness training can lower cortisol levels and blood pressure, increase immune response and possibly even affect gene expression. Building on the discovery that mindfulness meditation reshapes the brain and affects change at the cellular level.

Researchers are only scratching the surface of the many budding scientific discoveries associating mindfulness with a healthier mind and body. A growing field of psychologists and neuroscientists are now studying mindfulness as a way to counteract the health problems that arise from our modern, stressful lifestyles.

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