To practice mindfulness is to practice being fully present in the moment. But is mindfulness really worth all the hype?
The short answer is yes! The long answer involves an extensive body of scientific research that supports the benefits of mindfulness meditation. Practicing mindfulness improves psychological, social and even physical well-being. Best of all, anyone can do it — any time, any place — following just a few simple tips.
The most publicized benefit of mindfulness is its ability to reduce stress. A study from the University of California, Irvine demonstrated that students who practiced mindfulness meditation experienced significant reductions in stress symptoms and an increased sense of self-efficacy and contentment with life. Being stressed is expected as a college student, but practicing mindfulness can help us cope with it better.
Practicing mindfulness also fosters compassion and emotional regulation. In a collaborative investigation conducted by Northeastern University and Harvard Medical School, mindfulness training was found to promote altruism and increase brain activity associated with emotional understanding, emotional control and empathy. We all want to maintain healthy relationships, and mindfulness can help us do just that.
Another practical benefit of mindfulness is its ability to enhance learning. An experiment conducted at the University of California, Santa Barbara showed that students who practiced mindfulness demonstrated better accuracy on the GRE graduate school entry exam and higher working memory capacity than students who did not practice mindfulness. This benefit has the most obvious use for us college students, as it provides the mental agility necessary to succeed in school.
Finally, mindfulness strengthens resistance to physical illness. A study from the University of Wisconsin found that practicing mindfulness fortifies the immune system, making it better equipped to fight off illness. As college students, we sometimes neglect our mental health, yet this study shows that psychological health has an effect on physical health.
So how do you do it? Here are three essential tips to get you started:
- Focus on your breathing: Really sensing the air travel in and out of your lungs can be useful when you’re experiencing intense emotions.
- Attend to your five senses: What are the sights, sounds and smells that you sense right now that ordinarily go unnoticed? There is beauty to be apprehended in the physical world around you.
- You are not your thoughts; you are the awareness of your thoughts: Simply observing your thoughts and feelings as they come and go without judging or fixating on them can help break negative thinking.
So is mindfulness really worth all the hype? Let the research convince you that it’s worth a shot!