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How Mindfulness Practices Boost Your Health

How Mindfulness Can Boost Your Health
Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

Mindfulness is a trending topic these days as many Americans have discovered that practices like meditation can help them reduce their stress.

But have you ever learned about the wealth of actual health benefits that mindfulness brings? It’s astonishing that such a relatively easy action could bring so much to your overall wellness—without needing a prescription, a specialist, money, or extensive training.

All you have to do is schedule a little time each day to be mindful.

What is mindfulness?

It’s the practice of being fully present in the moment, aware of your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and the environment around you—without judgment. 

Picture a snow globe that’s been shaken up. Are you the snow? Or the scene?

When you’re the snow, you’re whirling around in chaos, at the whim of whomever is doing the shaking. 

But when you’re the scene, you’re grounded, fixed in place, and calm. The chaos swirls around you while you are stable and consistent.

As a meditator, you’ll learn to bring this skill into the swirling snow of everyday life.

Read on to discover the positive effects of mindfulness on health and wellness—they’re extensive!

First: a brief history of mindfulness

Mindfulness has existed for centuries. The earliest examples are found in meditations in ancient Hindu scriptures and the teachings of the Buddha, which emphasized the importance of attention, awareness, and being present.

Mindfulness gained prominence in the West thanks in part to Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School who opened a Stress Reduction Clinic and developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). MBSR aims to help patients manage stress, pain, and illness by using “moment to moment awareness.” 

Thanks to Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness transitioned from being seen as a strictly religious practice to becoming integrated as a valuable tool in modern psychological and medical practices. Today, Kabat-Zinn’s stress reduction program is offered by many medical centers, hospitals, and health maintenance organizations

You can learn more in his landmark book, Full Catastrophe Living (a worthwhile read!).

Kabat-Zinn’s research made mindfulness more accessible to the mainstream, and it’s also been adapted for more specialized applications, becoming an important component in therapies related to eating disorders, smoking cessation, and psychotic disorders such as bipolar disorder.

The many health benefits of mindfulness

Mindfulness can have a positive effect on overall well-being, making you feel more present and more grounded. It helps you tune in to yourself and the world around you, taking a break from the constant stream of brain chatter. 

By practicing awareness and acceptance of the present moment, you’ll experience greater satisfaction, fulfillment, and resilience in the face of life’s challenges.

And, as if positive shifts in overall well-being weren’t enough, the specific mental and physical health benefits attributed to mindfulness are extensive! 

These include:

  • Stress reduction: Meditation and deep breathing exercises are well-known for their ability to lower stress levels and cultivate a sense of calm. 
  • Enhanced mental clarity: A regular mindfulness practice sharpens cognitive function. By training your mind to quiet its incessant chatter, you improve your ability to focus, concentrate, and make decisions.
  • Improved emotional regulation: When you’re more self-aware and accepting of your feelings, you’re able to navigate them with more grace and resilience. You’re in a mode of observing your emotions rather than feeling overwhelmed by them, which leads to better regulation.
  • Better sleep quality: Mindfulness has been linked to improved sleep quality and duration. Doing a mindfulness meditation before bed gives your mind and body a chance to wind down and prepare for sleep. Preliminary research shows that mindfulness may be effective in treating some sleep disturbances like insomnia.
  • Reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression: Mindfulness can significantly alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. Rooting yourself in the present moment allows you to detach from ruminating on the past or worrying about the future, bringing more inner peace and greater emotional balance.
  • Lower blood pressure: Mindfulness actually lowers blood pressure by reducing stress hormone levels and inducing a state of relaxation, contributing to cardiovascular health and overall well-being. This study showed that blood pressure was lower after going through a 12-week MBSR program, and participants also saw an improvement in their mental health and overall quality of life.
  • Better management of pain: For those with chronic pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia and lower back pain, mindfulness techniques can be an effective coping strategy. Shifting the focus away from pain sensations and into the present-moment awareness helps people develop a healthier relationship with discomfort.

The list goes on and on, and many health studies are ongoing. The takeaway here? It’s so worth it—a real gift to your mind, body, and soul.

But how do you incorporate mindfulness into your busy life?

A few daily mindfulness practices to try

There are many ways of being mindful.

You can do it right now.

Close your eyes and take a deep breath right now, wherever you are, tuning in to your body and your environment. Connect to your breath. Feel the way your clothes feel on your skin, the way your muscles are working to hold you upright, relax any tension, and tune into all the sensations. Listen for a moment to the sounds in your environment: voices, music, birds chirping, cars driving by. Now stay here for a few moments. Watch your thoughts drifting by like leaves on a river.

This is a mini-version of what you can do in different contexts and for more extended periods of time. 

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Morning Meditation: Start your day with meditation. Find a quiet and peaceful spot to sit or lie down. Set a timer–the amount of time is up to you (five minutes is a great starting point, then see if you can work up to ten or fifteen and see how you feel). Now close your eyes and focus on your breath. As thoughts arrive in your mind, let them pass without judgment, returning again and again to your breath anchoring you in the present.

  2. Mindful Eating: Rather than rushing mindlessly through your meals, take time to savor each bite with mindfulness. Pay attention to the flavors, textures, and temperature of your food. By giving time and attention to all of the sensations of nourishing your body, you’re experiencing the present moment.

  3. Regular Check-Ins: How often do you check in with yourself? You can do this throughout the day to see how you’re doing. Assess your mental and emotional state. Take a moment to release the tension in your muscles, taking a few deep breaths as you let it go. This is a great way to stay grounded throughout your busy day. Set your alarm at intervals that make sense for you.

  4. Mindful Movement: No matter what exercise or physical movement you engage in, you can incorporate mindfulness. It could be yoga, walking, stretching, running, dancing, anything! Focus on the sensations of your body, your muscles, your joints, and your breathing. You can also do a super-slow walking meditation that really lets you get into the present moment and live fully in your body.

  5. Gratitude Practice: Take a few moments to notice the things you’re thankful for in your life, whether big or small. A gratitude practice helps you more deeply appreciate your blessings and create balance to offset life’s challenges. It redirects your attention to what’s going well for you, which can be calming and even bring joy.

Mindfulness will add heaps of benefits to your life and your health—and it doesn’t have to take more than a few minutes a day.

At Synergy, we believe in the power of mindfulness to boost your holistic health! Mindfulness is part of most (if not all) of our holistic health plans, whether you come to us for weight management, nutritional counseling, health coaching, support with ketamine-assisted psychotherapy, mental health medication management, or our newest service, hormone replacement therapy (HRT). As part of our holistic approach, we advise every client to consider incorporating mindfulness meditation in their wellness routines.

It will help you feel better and your body, mind, and spirit will thank you.

Tune in to a meditation celebrating World Meditation Day (5/21/24) by our Holistic Health Coach, Kiam Junio —and get in touch with any questions you have about how mindfulness could improve your health.

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