The Power of Mindfulness: How It Can Improve Your Mental Health
Published on 24th May, 2023
Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment, fully engaged in our thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgement. It is a mental state of awareness where we pay attention to the present moment with an attitude of curiosity, openness, and acceptance.
Mindfulness can be practised through various techniques, such as meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, and mindful walking. Recently, it has become increasingly popular as a tool for improving mental health and well-being. Research has shown that regular mindfulness practice can have a range of benefits for mental health, including reducing stress and anxiety, improving memory, and enhancing cognitive function.
Read on as we delve into the benefits of mindfulness for mental health and some of the common mindfulness practices that might be good for you.
The benefits of mindfulness for mental health
Research on mindfulness has identified several benefits, such as:
1. Stress and anxiety reduction
Many adults face chronic stress, leading to various health issues such as increased risk of anxiety and depression. The American Psychological Association states that mindfulness can alleviate anxiety and stress. Mindfulness practices, including the eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program that combines mindfulness and yoga, have been developed to address stress-related symptoms. Research also indicates that MBSR is effective in reducing stress levels and treating anxiety, as found in one review of research (Cherry, 2022).
2. Improves memory
Mindfulness can also help in boosting our memory. It is common for us to face everyday memory problems. Most of these forgetful moments are caused by proactive interference, where older memories get in the way of your ability to access newer ones.
For example, a 2019 study compared the effects of four weeks of mindfulness training to those of a creative writing course. Participants were evaluated through memory tests, and the results indicated that those who received mindfulness training had the greatest decrease in proactive interference, leading to improvements in their short-term memory (Greenberg et al., 2019).
3. Stronger relationships
Emerging research suggests that mindfulness practice may benefit interpersonal relationships. A study conducted in 2018 showed that individuals who practised mindfulness exhibited greater acceptance of their partner's flaws and imperfections (Kappen et al., 2018).
Research has also found that individuals who display greater acceptance of their partners tend to report higher levels of relationship satisfaction. Mindfulness practice can help individuals to accept their partner's imperfections and avoid fixating on their flaws in an effort to change them.
There are several ways you can practise mindfulness throughout the day:
1. Mindful walking
Mindful walking is a practice that can be easily incorporated into daily life, regardless of the pace you're moving at. Starting slow can help you get a feel for the practice, but once you're comfortable, you can practise mindful walking at any speed - even if you're in a rush.
To begin, start walking slowly and pay attention to the sensations in your feet as they touch the ground, as well as any sensations in your leg muscles. It is not necessary to stare down at your feet. If your mind begins to wander, use the sensation of your feet on the ground to bring yourself back into the present moment. Take a minute to focus on the physical sensations generated by walking.
2. Breathing exercises
Breathing exercises allow you to step away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and focus on your thoughts and physical sensations. Take a moment to observe your breath, allowing yourself to be fully present with any thoughts or feelings that may arise in your mind and body. Meditation can also help anxious people have better focus.
Breathe naturally and pay attention to the time between each inhale and exhale, as well as the expansion of your lungs. If your mind begins to wander, gently redirect your focus back to your breath.
3. Mindful listening
By dedicating some time to observe and pay attention to your surroundings, you can incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine and stay aware throughout the day. Take a moment to focus on the sounds around you without attempting to identify their source or what type of sound it is. Simply listen and absorb its characteristics and how it affects you. If you recognise a sound, acknowledge it, and move on, leaving room for your ears to detect new sounds.
Mindfulness is a powerful tool for improving mental health and wellbeing. By being fully present in the moment, without judgment, we can reduce stress and anxiety, boost our memory, and improve our relationships. There are many ways to practice mindfulness, such as mindful walking, breathing exercises, and mindful listening.
For those who may need more support, individual counselling for adults in Singapore can also provide guidance and help in incorporating mindfulness practices into their daily lives. For couples struggling with relationship issues, mindfulness can also be helpful when combined with couple counselling. By incorporating mindfulness into our daily routine, we can improve our mental health and wellbeing, leading to a more fulfilling and peaceful life.
Cherry, K. (2022). Benefits of Mindfulness. https://www.verywellmind.com/the-benefits-of-mindfulness-5205137
Greenberg J, Romero VL, Elkin-Frankston S, Bezdek MA, Schumacher EH, Lazar SW. (2019) Reduced interference in working memory following mindfulness training is associated with increases in hippocampal volume. Brain Imaging and Behaviour.
Kappen G, Karremans JC, Burk WJ, Buyukcan-Tetik A. (2018) On the association between mindfulness and romantic relationship satisfaction: the role of partner acceptance. Mindfulness (N Y).