When was the last time you stopped to notice the colour of the sky during your daily commute? Or the noises around you at work?
Paying more attention to your own thoughts and the world around you is known as mindfulness, and can help to improve your physical and mental wellbeing.
Mindfulness meditation is the formal practice of mindfulness. It doesn’t need to last more than five minutes, and involves sitting silently and focusing on your thoughts, sensations and breathing.
You can do this on the train, at the end of a yoga exercise, or first thing in the morning when you wake up.
It’s hard to believe that something so quick and simple can improve your health. But studies have shown mindfulness meditation has numerous benefits.
Below, we’ve listed four ways mindfulness meditation can make a difference to your wellbeing.
1. Mindfulness meditation for stress
If you often find yourself overwhelmed by worries about the past and future, mindfulness meditation can help by focusing your awareness on the present. At the same time, relaxed breathing can help relieve tension in your body.
Research has also shown that mindfulness may physically alter your brain, making you better at regulating your emotions and dealing with stress.
Other good ways of developing breathing techniques include yoga and tai-chi.
Learn more about yoga in our Health A-Z
Find more information on tai-chi in our Health A-Z
2. Mindfulness meditation for anxiety and depression
Studies have shown that practising mindfulness can help manage depression and some anxiety problems.
Similarly with stress, mindfulness meditation can help patients combat negative thought processes and relax their mind and body.
Mindfulness-based therapy is recommended by The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence as a way to prevent depression in those who have lapsed into depression three or more times in the past.
It may be helpful to practice mindfulness meditation in between mindfulness-based therapy sessions.
Speak to your doctor if you are worried about anxiety or depression and think mindfulness meditation could help you.
3. Mindfulness meditation for sleep
You may struggle to calm your mind after a busy day, making it hard to fall asleep.
Mindfulness meditation can relax your mind and your body, helping to put aside any stressful thoughts for the night.
Research published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology showed individuals had better sleep after completing an online mindfulness course.
4. Mindfulness meditation for chronic pain
According to the British Medical Journal, chronic pain affects between one-third and one-half of the UK population alone. But mindfulness may be able to help sufferers improve their quality of life.
Initial research shows that regular mindfulness may reduce a person’s experience of pain. A 2015 study showed that individuals who practised mindfulness had less activation in the parts of the brain that handle pain messages.
Still, more evidence is needed before it can be confirmed that mindfulness is a successful treatment for chronic pain.
If you are suffering from chronic pain, you can try mindfulness meditation to see if it helps you.
There are plenty of ways mindfulness meditation might be able to improve your health. It can lower stress levels, improve sleep and heighten self-awareness.
It is a great way to relax and give yourself a break after a long day, while promoting your wellbeing.
Although more evidence is needed to prove mindfulness meditation can treat conditions like anxiety, depression and chronic pain, you might want to try it to see if it helps you.
For more information on mindfulness, visit our Health A-Z
Find help for this
You can try practising mindfulness meditation with Calm
Bhf.org.uk. Can meditation help people with heart disease? 2019. Cited 6 February 2019.
Nice.org.uk. Depression in adults: recognition and management | Guidance and guidelines | NICE. 2019. Cited 7 February 2019.
Mind.org.uk. How to learn mindfulness | Mind, the mental health charity - help for mental health problems. 2019. Cited 7 February 2019.
Bemindful.co.uk. Evidence and research on mindfulness | Be Mindful. 2019. Cited 6 February 2019.
Journals.bmj.com. Prevalence of chronic pain in the UK: a systematic review and meta-analysis of population studies. 2019. Cited 6 February 2019.
Mayoclinichealthsystem.org. Use mindfulness to cope with chronic pain. 2019. Cited 6 February 2019.
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