The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.
– Jon Kabat-Zinn, U.S. professor emeritus of medicine
I found the wonder of simply living in the moment, the art of mindfulness, on a journey I would advise no-one else to travel. I’m only in my mid-thirties, but it seems some days that maybe I’ve already lived a lifetime. Now, I live a fundamentally different life to the one that journey took me on. That journey’s downward path (it has no other direction) is called addiction.
First alcohol, then drugs, harder drugs, prison, release, relapse, and finally, detox and rehab. That was the journey. Like I said, I would advise no-one else to travel this direction.
I often ask myself (and I ask myself the ridiculous questions all the time – it’s a problem with me) “Would I have found the self-contentment, the same new motivations, and the far simpler life I live now if I hadn’t taken that route, that downward spiral of self-destruction, only to be saved right at the last moment?” I think I know the answer.
That was me then, and this is me now. I can’t show you before and after photos (I honestly wouldn’t want to), but I know I’ve changed for the better, physically, mentally, and spiritually – if you believe in such a thing.
Much of my continued addiction recovery is because of mindfulness, of that there is little doubt. It’s not just my thinking. Family, friends – they agree with me. I’m calmer, more direct (in a good way), and more thoughtful and caring than I ever was before. Yes, part of all that is having no harmful, mind-changing chemicals whizzing around my body and brain, but mindfulness has taken what’s left undamaged and made it so much better.
Mindfulness has changed my life, and it can change yours too. Yes, you may have clocked up a few more miles than most, but, by the time I found mindfulness, so had I. Here are your 5 healthy reasons why every senior should practice mindfulness:
A Better Mind
What exactly is mindfulness? According to the Association of Psychological Science, it’s “the nonjudgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment,” and has been practiced for thousands of years. Did you think you were old? It’s as old as the hills, in other words. But why has it existed for so long? Quite simply, for its many recognized benefits. Seeing as we’re talking about mindfulness, we may as well begin with the mind itself.
Mindfulness provides a true and objective analysis of ourselves – our strengths and our weaknesses, our good points and our character flaws. It helps us go beyond the blind spots we may have when we look at our actions and our motivations. believe me, this is a great help to any recovering addicts like myself.
Furthermore, mindfulness is the perfect tool for getting our minds to truly focus on giving us more control over emotion and even pain. For me, it’s like a volume control for all the talking and noise we hear internally.
Better Mental Health
One of today’s most common complaints by the people around us is this: “I’m just so stressed!” Research has shown that not only does mindfulness reduce the effects of stress, it actively reduces the level of cortisol (the stress hormone) produced in our brains. Yes, practicing mindfulness can actually impact positively on the physical functions of your body.
Furthermore, through more research studies, it has been proven that mindfulness continues to work even when it’s not being actively practiced. That needs an explanation, so here you go:
The actual processing of emotions by our brain is still at an improved level without actually meditating. How is this possible? The amygdala area of the brain (responsible for emotional responses) is affected even when not meditating, in a similar way as it is during the meditation itself.
The practice of mindfulness can help protect you from mental health disorders in the future. A meditation technique is known as integrative body-mind training, and studied by researchers at the University of Oregon, demonstrated increased axonal density (our brain’s signaling connections) and the improved rate of growth of myelin, the tissue that protects the anterior cingulate area. A little bit scientific, I admit, but I want this article o to be as informative as possible for you.
Better Learning Ability
Mindfulness has given me a greater ability to focus (as mentioned above), but it also improves our ability to learn new things and to retain that new information. In other words, an improved working memory.
Better Physical Health
As a newly-detoxed patient in a rehab, my physical health was as expected: poor to seriously bad. As was mentioned in the introduction, my life was “saved right at the last moment,” and it was. Because my health was so bad, and physical recovery would be a long process, my therapists in rehab to put me on their mindful meditation program for addiction recovery. It worked, complimenting my new exercise regime and medication perfectly. My physical recovery from years of addiction was subsequently surprisingly quick.
The physical health benefits of mindfulness include:
- Sleep: University of Utah researchers found that those who practiced mindfulness simply slept better than those who didn’t, experiencing less activation during the night, leading to a better and deeper sleep.
- Weight Loss: A survey by Consumer Reports, in conjunction with the American Psychological Association, showed that 7 out of 10 psychologists would recommend mindfulness as part of a weight loss program.
- General Physical Health: Research by the American Journal of Health promotion has shown that those who practiced transcendental meditation had much lower doctor’s bills than those who didn’t, due to better overall health and well-being. Additionally, those who practice mindfulness experience less sick days caused by acute respiratory infections linked to severe colds during the year. Furthermore, the symptoms are less severe and last a fewer number of days.
A Better Life
Mindfulness has greatly improved my life – some days it feels such a fundamental part of me as I am now. I’ll be forever grateful to the instructor who taught both myself, and my fellow mindfulness classmates, its wonderful art.
Apart from everything written above, here’s how it could also add to yours.
Mindful people are more compassionate – fact. Just ask the researchers from Harvard and Northeastern Universities that studied how mindfulness is directly connected to compassion and being more virtuous. Not only will you feel better, those around you will too.
Lastly, everyone loves music. Being mindful, you’ll love it more. Mindfulness has been shown that, because our ability to focus has become greater, our appreciation when listening to music increases significantly.
My Unshakeable Sense of Calm…
Of all the benefits that mindful meditation has brought into my life, this is the one: the profound sense of calm I feel every single day. Sadly lacking in my early life, and then, in great part, triggering my descent into addiction, this feeling of calm I enjoy now is something I truly treasure. It provides me with the sense of certainty that all will work out as it should, and as I hope.
So, there you have them – your 5 great life-changing benefits gained from the art of mindful meditation: a better mind, better mental health, better learning ability, better physical health, and a better life itself.
Why are you interested in or considering taking up the art of mindfulness? Please do share with a comment below. So, all there is left to say is this. Enjoy and take care.