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Treat heart disease, lower your blood pressure and more by practising mindfulness

by , 09 June 2015

Up until recently, I considered mindfulness a suspicious, new age fad.

Perhaps something just for hippies, or those with too much spare time on their hands to twiddle their thumbs and contemplate their navels.

But after reading some inspiring blogs and trying it out for myself, I've learned that mindfulness has turned a massive corner and now has a strong presence in bookstores, newspapers, magazines and talk shows for a reason: Because it's life-changing!

Read on to find out why - plus how you can practise it to reap amazing physical, mental and overall health benefits.

“What is mindfulness?”

Mindfulness is a tradition that’s thousands of years old. Many people regard it as “the heart iof Buddhist meditation”. However, the essence of it, which is awareness and attention, is universal. You can learn it no matter your religion. It’s simply a way of being.
 
Truth is, as we lead increasingly information-enriched lives, our minds are on constant overdrive. You might feel a tendency to be absent for much of your physical and present experiences, and instead spend much of your time lost in worry, fear, regret, over-analysis or self-judgment. 
 
 
And that’s where mindfulness comes in… 
 
The practice of mindfulness can teach you to bring your mind back to the most simple and vital part of living – the breath, and in turn the present moment.
 
 

“How will mindfulness help me?”

Through regular practice, you can start to understand how chaotic (and often negative and detrimental) voices in your own head shape much of your experience. The results are truly transformational!
 
Mindfulness allows you to become more patient, compassionate, empathetic and less reactive. And most importantly – it teaches you to be kinder and less critical of yourself. 
 
You consume so much of your energy anxious about what happened or what might happen. By letting go of all those stories, and remaining in the present moment, it’s quite incredible how much lighter you’ll feel – instantly!
 
Although mindfulness can be practised at dedicated intervals, which is more commonly referred to as meditation, it can be incorporated into every part of your life. You can speak, walk, work and eat mindfully, for example/
 
Being mindful is simply having the ability to stay present and to enjoy and savour each moment as it comes and for what it is (and not always thinking about what is isn’t!).
 
Here are some of the benefits you’ll reap through practising mindfulness…
 
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The physical benefits of being mindful:
– Relieves stress
– Treats heart disease
– Lowers blood pressure
– Reduces chronic pain
– Improves sleep
– Alleviates stomach related diseases
 
The mental benefits of being mindful:
Anxiety
– Addictions
– Eating disorders
– OCD
 
The general well-being benefits of being mindful:
– Enjoy each moment as it comes
– Worry less
– Be more positive about life in general
– Improve relationships
 

“How can I practise mindfulness?”

You can practise mindfulness in varying ways. You can learn it by yourself, using guided tapes, online methods or in a group environment, for example. Personally, as soon as I wake up in the morning, I sit up in bed and meditate for at least 10 minutes. 
 
Side note: At the beginning, ten minutes will probably feel like a really long time, so start by doing just a couple of minutes and then gradually build it up each day or week to a time that works for you.
 
Here’s a basic guide to the method most recommended by bloggers:
 
  1. Sit up straight in a cross-legged position, supported by a cushion under your tailbone (use a chair if this is too uncomfortable).
  2. Close your eyes and draw your focus to your breathing. Notice the sensation of the air coming in and out of your nostrils and your belly rising and falling as you inhale and exhale.
  3. Then bring your awareness to sounds, sensations and any thoughts that arise in your head. Imagine your thoughts are like passing clouds in the sky, you can acknowledge that they are there, but not judge them.
  4. If your mind has a tendency to wander, just keep bringing it back to the breath without getting frustrated.
 
Remember, although it seems so simple, merely sitting down and listening to your breath, the art of meditation is one of the hardest things to accomplish. Look at it like learning how to ski or learning how to play a musical instrument. It will take time, so be patient and NEVER GIVE UP!

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