Before we dive in to this week's post, let’s make sure we’re on the same page when we say mindfulness and meditation.
Meditation is the ancient practice of connecting the body and mind to become more self-aware and present. It’s often used to calm the mind, ease stress and relax the body.
Practicing mindfulness is one of the most popular ways to meditate. It’s defined as "paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally."
Mindfulness meditation is well studied in terms of its health benefits. This week, I’m going to talk about just a few of those benefits. I will be referring to mindfulness meditation as mindfulness for the rest of the post.
The Link: Stress Reduction
If you ask me, it makes a ton of sense that anything that can reduce stress can reduce health issues too.
Mindfulness reduces inflammation, reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and improves sleep. All of these can have massive effects on your physical and mental health.
I'll briefly review the research in three main areas: mood, weight, and gut health. Keep in mind, however, the fact that research on the health benefits of mindfulness is continuously branching out into other new areas as well.
Mindfulness For Mood
In one study, people who took an 8-week mindfulness program greatly improved their symptoms according to the Hamilton Anxiety Scale. The study participants were compared with people who took a stress management program that did not include mindfulness. It seems that the mindfulness training was key to managing and improving symptoms.
Other studies show that mindfulness has similar effects to antidepressant medications for some people with mild to moderate symptoms of depression.
While mindfulness isn’t a full-fledged cure, it can certainly help to improve moods.
Mindfulness For Weight
One way in which mindfulness is linked with lower weight is stress reduction. Mindfulness can reduce stress-related and emotional overeating. It can also help reduce cravings and binge eating.
Another way it can work for weight is because of mindful eating. Mindful eating is a "non-judgmental awareness of physical and emotional sensations associated with eating." It's the practice of being more aware of food and the eating process. It's listening more deeply to how hungry and full you actually are. It's not allowing yourself to be distracted with other things while you're eating, like what's on TV or your smartphone.
People with higher mindfulness scores also reported consuming smaller serving sizes of energy-dense foods. So it seems that more mindful eating = less junk.
Mindfulness about food and eating can have some great benefits for your weight.
Mindfulness For Gut Health
Also, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) seems to be linked with both stress and problems with gut microbes. In one study, people with IBS who received mindfulness training showed greater reductions in IBS symptoms than the group who received standard medical care.
The research here is just starting to show us the important link between stress, gut health, and how mindfulness can help.
Do you include it in your life regularly? Have you seen benefits? If not, would you consider trying it?
Let me know in the comments below.
Soothing, Post Meditation Cups of Tea
Try any of these by steeping in boiling water:
- Green tea (has a bit of caffeine, or you can choose decaffeinated green tea)
- White tea (also has a bit of caffeine, or you can choose decaffeinated white tea)
- Rooibos tea
- Peppermint tea (or steep fresh peppermint leaves)
- Ginger tea (or steep slices of real ginger)
Serve & enjoy!
Pro Tip: You can add a touch of honey if desired.
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