Your feet – where are they in this moment? Maybe they’re stuffed into your shoes, wrapped up in cozy socks or dangling freely off a bench or chair.
Think about the space – or lack thereof – around them. Are they warm or cool, cramped or exposed? Do you feel a tingle in your heel or tips of your toes?
Congratulations, you’ve just practiced mindfulness. So what’s the significance of this exercise? Of the approximately 50,000 thoughts that float, soar and bounce through our minds each day, mindfulness invites us to experience each moment with more purpose and appreciation.
If practiced consistently, mindfulness creates a new pattern of thinking which allows us to notice the beauty, wisdom and clarity in each moment.
Mindfulness is a conceptually simple idea, yet it’s creating a lot of chatter in the health and wellness space. That’s because research has recently recognized several benefits of mindfulness, taking it from a whimsical idea to a practical practice backed by science.
First, What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is simply the practice of awareness by experiencing our thoughts one at a time with deliberate attention and presence. If practiced consistently, it creates a new pattern of thinking which allows us to notice the beauty, wisdom and clarity in each moment.
While that sounds delightful and could easily cook up Instagram-worthy motivational quotes for many rainy days, it’s actually much more complex. Research shows mindfulness can actually influence neuroplasticity, or how our brain forms.
For example, a consistent mindfulness practice revealed increased activity in the hippocampus – the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory – as well as a decrease of activity in the amygdala, where fear, anxiety and other emotionally charged experiences live.
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The benefits of mindfulness continue from there: reduced blood pressure, improved sleep, increased focus, and enhanced self-compassion. Mindfulness can also be used to combat addiction.
Mindfulness is also causing organizations to take notice. Apple, T-Mobile, and Nike now include mindfulness meditation in their health benefits package and as a result, saw a reduction in stress-related health care claims, plus happier and more productive employees.
How Do You Practice Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is most commonly practiced by meditation and…