3 surprising reasons to practice mindfulness this month
It’s Mindfulness Month!
A whole month of introducing you to this powerful psychological approach derived from Eastern philosophy. Foundations of mindfulness is based on the ability to observe and accept internal experiences (e.g. thoughts, feeling, and bodily sensations) without judgement. It calls us to remain present and aware with our experiences without being hooked by our monkey mind. Regular practice of mindfulness has shown to actually change the structures of our brain through neuroplasticity! Through these changes, mindfulness is able to help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. If that wasn’t enough, there are other surprising benefits to practising this grounding approach.
1) Promotes digestion
Regular practice of mindfulness reduces the sensitivity of our stress response. Basically, the more we practice mindfulness, the less reactive we are to stress. When we are less reactive to stress, we are in a better physiological state to digest food. On the other hand, when we’re stressed or anxious the reptilian part of our brain releases stress hormones preparing us to to fight, flight, or freeze in the face of potential threat. It’s not great timing to be using our energy and internal resources to digest food when we’re in survival response. Our brain needs us to survive first.
Mindfulness has been shown to reduce the reactivity of that stress system in our brain. This means that we are better able to remain in the “rest and digest” mode, or switch back to this mode quicker, after a stressful situation.
2) Makes you a better leader
Being able to observe without judgement also creates richer relationships in our lives. Sometimes in conversations we’re preoccupied with our own thoughts - checking our phones, thinking about things not related to the conversation, judging the other person, jumping ahead to solutions etc etc. However, this leaves the other person feeling somewhat dissatisfied or under valued. When we’re mindful of our interactions, we are attentive and attuned. We really listen.
When we're present with, and we’re aware of another person, richer relationships develop. This is an invaluable skill if you work in a team or manage people. Being present and aware (without judgement) allows you to attend to problems with more thoughtfulness, generate creative solutions, and identify barriers and strengths within a team. On the other hand, if you’re caught up with your own assumptions and judgments, the effectiveness of your team will be limited by that vision.
3) Support parenting
Since mindfulness is grounded in present awareness (without judgement), the approach helps parents to be more aware of their own feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations in reaction to their child. When we’re not caught up with our own internal world, we are more available to be aware of our child’s thoughts, feelings, and needs. Regular practice of mindfulness helps parents regulate their emotions, and the emotions of their child in high stress situations. Instead of reacting in a way we might regret, we’re able to stand back from situations so we can decide the best way to respond. This strengthens the parent-child relationship and creates a deeper bond.
There are many benefits to mindfulness, and a plethora of different mindfulness exercises out there. To find out how to tailor mindfulness to your own individual needs, book an appointment with Dr Phoebe Lau, Clinical Psychologist at The Inner Collective.