When people ask me what I do for a living I respond and say I have two jobs; a role in employee engagement and organisational development and the second is that I teach others to practice meditation and mindfulness (M&M). In sharing this, I usually get one of two responses; the first is from those who truly don’t understand the benefits and have never experience M&M first hand themselves and there are the ones who usually smile with a raised brow and say, ‘Ahhh… that’s nice!’ The second response is from those whom have usually experienced M&M for themselves and they have a real understanding of the benefits it can bring and they have been able to embrace some, if not all of the benefits in their daily life.
Whether you have experienced M&M or not, I thought I’d share this blog post with you and highlight the key benefits it can bring to your daily life. I have personally benefitted from M&M both physically, mentally and emotionally and have reaped the rewards in doing so and that’s why I’m keen to share this with others.
The benefits include;
1. Living in the present moment – The way we live our lives today is a result of the experiences and events that occurred so far for us in daily life and these events/experiences have shaped and moulded our characters, our personalities and have influenced the personal relationships and friendships we have surrounding us. Many of us live in the past or the future and find it hard to let go of some of the unhelpful experiences that have occurred for us and as a result of this some people may hold hurt, guilt, shame and/or resentment in their hearts and this can prevent them from living in the present moment. It can steal joy from daily living however, mindfulness can help us to raise our levels of consciousness to the experiences we have encountered and help us to make peace with our past and help us to live in the present moment.
2. Soothes the nervous system – Meditation helps to soothes the nervous system as it is the sympathetic nervous system that is affected the most by stress, anxiety, tension, fatigue and depression. When we live in the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ state on a regular basis it can encourage our bodies to produce adrenaline and cortisol and this can be harmful for our bodies over a prolonged period of time. It can lead to depression, illness and chronic conditions to name a few however, it has been scientifically proven that meditation alone can dramatically reduce the many negative effects brought about by these emotions. Luckily for us meditation activates the ‘good’ nervous system (the parasympathetic nervous system), and this induces dopamine (the feel good hormone) and there is so much evidence that shows that this slows down heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, sweating, and it has a soothing effect on our body’s functions leading to increased wellbeing.
3. Improves mental health – As we grow older our brain function gradually declines and memory loss is common. Based on studies with aging populations, scientists now believe that a consistent mindfulness practice can help bolster brain function and decelerate memory loss. Research shows that regular 20-minute meditation sessions can boost memory and improve brain function in those with early-stage dementia or other cognitive issues. And meditation not only supports memory and attention, it also enhances mental agility, focus and alertness.
4. Improves quality of sleep – There are times in our lives when our sleep gets affected and this can really hinder our performance at work and our quality of life. 21st century living is so fast paced and we have so many different roles to play and different demands placed upon us that at times we can often all get pulled out of shape by life and it’s mindfulness that can help us to get back into shape through the benefits it brings through sleep. Studies show that people who practice daily meditation enjoy better, longer sleep than non-meditators a Dutch study cited by UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine found that even ten minutes of guided meditation and other accessible practices a day for just two weeks led to an enhanced quality and duration of sleep.
5. Reduce/banish negative thoughts and emotions – During the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) 8 week course we cover the links between our thoughts, feelings, emotions and behaviours and we uncover some of the unhealthy/unhelpful habits and patterns that we adopt on a daily basis. We learn mindful practices, strategies and techniques that can help us to learn how to control these thoughts and emotions and replace these unhealthy habits with new mindful practices.