Scientific Findings on the Effectiveness of Mindfulness and Meditation
When you think about mindfulness and meditation, images of yogis or monks might pop into your mind. While they might seem like relaxing hobbies to have as part of your daily routine, you might not also realize the amazing benefits they have. Sitting in peace and quiet does a lot more than just clear your mind for the moment. Keep reading to learn more about mindfulness and meditation, and how they can greatly benefit your life and chronic pain journey.
What is Mindfulness and Meditation?
While they work together, mindfulness and meditation are two separate things. You can think of mindfulness as the awareness of something, while meditation is the awareness of nothing.
- Mindfulness is the idea of learning how to be fully present and engaged in the moment, aware of your thoughts and feelings without distraction or judgment.
- Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.
Benefits of Mindfulness and Meditation
Some scientific findings regarding the benefits of mindfulness and meditation, as reported by the American Psychological Association, include:
- Researchers reviewed more than 200 studies of mindfulness among healthy people and found mindfulness-based therapy was especially effective for reducing stress, anxiety and depression.
- Mindfulness can also help treat people with specific problems including depression, pain, smoking and addiction.
- Some of the most promising research has looked at people with depression. Several studies have found, for example, that Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) can significantly reduce relapse in people who have had previous episodes of major depression.
- Mindfulness-based interventions can improve physical health, too. For example, mindfulness may reduce pain, fatigue and stress in people with chronic pain.
- Other studies have found preliminary evidence that mindfulness might boost the immune system and help people recover more quickly from cold or flu.
Tips on Mindfulness and Meditation
Some tips on cultivating mindfulness, according to the University of California at Berkeley, include:
- Pay close attention to your breathing, especially when you’re feeling intense emotions.
- Notice—really notice—what you’re sensing in a given moment, the sights, sounds, and smells that ordinarily slip by without reaching your conscious awareness.
- Recognize that your thoughts and emotions are fleeting and do not define you, an insight that can free you from negative thought patterns.
- Tune into your body’s physical sensations, from the water hitting your skin in the shower to the way your body rests in your office chair.
- Find “micro-moments” of mindfulness throughout the day to reset your focus and sense of purpose.
Tips for meditation, especially for beginners, include:
- Take a seat and find a place to sit that feels calm and quiet to you.
- Set a time limit, even if it is just for five or 10 minutes.
- Notice your body. You can sit in a chair with your feet on the floor, you can sit loosely cross-legged, you can kneel—all are fine. Just make sure you are stable and in a position you can stay in for a while.
- Feel your breath. Follow the sensation of your breath as it goes in and as it goes out.
- Notice when your mind has wandered. Inevitably, your attention will leave the breath and wander to other places.
- When you get around to noticing that your mind has wandered—in a few seconds, a minute, five minutes—simply return your attention to the breath.
- Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself or obsess over the content of the thoughts you find yourself lost in. Just come back.
- Close with kindness. When you’re ready, gently lift your gaze (if your eyes are closed, open them). Take a moment and notice any sounds in the environment. Notice how your body feels right now. Notice your thoughts and emotions.
About The Pointe Malibu Recovery Center
One of the great benefits of mindfulness and meditation is that it can help in the process of addiction recovery. By being more aware of your thoughts, you are better equipped to deal with them. Through meditation, your brain will learn how to navigate away from certain thoughts and back onto what is positive. Whether they are triggering thoughts of trauma, cravings, or any negative thought in general that might drive you to use, mindfulness and meditation give you the tools you need to get past them safely.
The reduction of stress and anxiety, which is achieved through mindfulness and meditation, are also key to successful, long term addiction recovery. The less stressed and anxious you are, the less likely you will be to turn to substances. The better control you have over your underlying causes, co-occurring disorders, and mental health, the better control you will have over your addiction in general. Mindfulness and meditation give you the tools to be in complete control over your thoughts and how you are able to deal with them on a daily, moment-by-moment basis.
If you’re ready to start your journey to long-lasting recovery, including learning more about mindfulness and meditation, we are here for you.