Mindfulness is not only about the mind; it is an invaluable tool in helping us cope with our bodies. Medical science in the last quarter-century has amassed an impressive collection of evidence that conclusively demonstrates that mindfulness practice has a salutary effect on health.
One study recently presented to the American Heart Association showed that patients who practiced mindfulness regularly reduced by half their risk of heart attacks, strokes, and death from all causes as compared with similar patients who were only given education about healthy living and diet.
In addition, a recent metanalysis—a study of the scientific quality of these studies of mindfulness— concluded that the proposition that mindfulness practices are beneficial to health is a legitimate and empirically verifiable claim.
I. Mindfulness and Health:
Although it is clear that mindfulness offers valuable and even amazing contributions to our physical and psychological well-being, it is still unable to stave off the inevitable demise of our bodies. No matter how healthy we have been, each of us will die, and the practice of mindfulness cannot change that reality.
Mindfulness can help us accept the reality of death and prepare us for the moment when we draw our last breath. One of the essential lessons these practices reveal to us is that life is ephemeral, and denying that only causes great suffering and unhappiness. Genuinely accepting the impermanence of life, however, is liberating and allows us to be happy.
Just as we learn to accept the loss of our bodies to death, mindfulness practice helps us to accept the loss of everything. Life is such that every one of us must bear a tremendous measure of grief. Mindfulness teaches us to prepare for the inevitability of death and to accept it—not with stoic resignation, but with joy and contentment.
The acceptance of loss helps us relax and be less anxious. The majority of our actions suggest that we believe acquiring and holding on to the people and things that give us pleasure will put our lives at ease. However, it is only by relinquishing our attachment to everything we think will make us happy that we can be happy. Mindfulness allows us to see this truth and empowers us to act on it.
Note: Mindfulness is used in connection with stress reduction and wellness in contemporary medicine.
II. Mindfulness and Health: Terms to Remember
A. Eightfold Path:
In Buddhism, mindfulness is a component of this path, which leads to enlightenment and freedom from the cycle of continual rebirth.
The process of attentively observing an experience as it unfolds in a moment-by-moment awareness; is devoid of the constant comparing and assessing that ordinarily occupies our mental functioning.
A state of bliss; in Buddhism, transcends suffering and karma.
A special form of heightened awareness that promotes the end of suffering and fosters happiness and well-being for all; it is the Buddha’s word that is translated into English as “mindfulness.”
III. Mindfulness and Health: Things to Consider
- Can you recall moments in which you have become fully aware of your ordinary experience without the imposition of judgments or other thoughts?
- Try to notice the times when you suddenly become aware of what is going on around you. It may feel as if you have been pulled out of a dream into an awakening moment.
- How could mindfulness training help you as an individual? How would you expect mindfulness to help you the most in your life?
IV. Mindfulness and Health: 5 Science-Backed Reasons Mindfulness Meditation Is Good for Your Health
We all know the benefits of mindfulness for our psychological and mental wellbeing. But does mindfulness affect our bodies as well as our minds? Research suggests that mindfulness also benefits our bodies, not just our minds and souls.
Recently, researchers have been exploring this question—with some surprising results. While much of the early research on mindfulness relied on pilot studies with biased measures or limited groups of participants, more recent studies have been using less-biased physiological markers, and randomized controlled experiments to get at the answer. Taken together, the studies suggest that mindfulness may impact our hearts, brains, immune systems, and more.
Though nothing suggests mindfulness is a standalone treatment for disease nor the most important ingredient for a healthy life, here are some of the ways that it appears to benefit us physically.
5 Science-Backed Reasons Mindfulness Meditation Is Good for Your Health
(Related: Mindfulness Quiz: Learn How Mindful Are You?)