Mindfulness is a practice that can support you, regardless of your age. It can benefit many levels of your being – the body, mind, and heart – even if you only practice from time to time. Although there are specific changes that you will notice immediately, mindfulness can have long-term, positive effects, For example, finding satisfaction, joy, fulfilling relationships, love, and more.
Daniel Siegel, Director of The Mindsight Institute at UCLA and author of the book, The Mindful Brain, has been studying the effects of meditation on the brain for over 20 years. He has come to recognize that meditation and mindful awareness can alter brain function, mental activity, and interpersonal relationships.
Mindfulness is the practice of becoming conscious of your internal and external environment. A person achieves this mental state by focusing on the present moment, while acknowledging and accepting the existing feelings, thoughts, bodily sensations, and surrounding activity. It can be used as a therapeutic practice among therapists and psychologist, and it has been used as a spiritual practice for decades.
In an article Daniel Siegel wrote for the journal, The Humanistic Psychologist, he outlines 9 benefits, of many, that an individual might experience when practicing mindful awareness. They are listed below.
When the body is stressed, the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system becomes activated and the flight/fight system in the brain is turned on. However, mindfulness turns on the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to bring the body back in balance. The heart rate slows down, breathing becomes long and slow, and muscles in the body relax.
The kind of bond that a mother has with her child is experienced through attuned communication. However, this sort of connection with another human being doesn’t just happen between mother and child; it can also happen between friends meeting for coffee or a couple out on a date. Attuned communication is when two human beings feel as though they are a part of one resonating whole. You might even feel this sort of connection with a stranger, if you look into their eyes, and tune into who they are. Siegel points out in his article that attunement has been a part of every culture around the world and is a part of healthy relationships, particularly between children and their caregivers.
For many adolescents and adults alive, the emotional life can create chaos that could disrupt an otherwise average day. When emotions become too overwhelming or when they are entirely absent in life, leading to depression, mental illness might result. However, mindfulness can promote a healthy emotional balance that brings a sense of overall well being in life.
We all experience fear. The presence of fear is occasionally stimulated by a real trigger, and sometimes by an imagined one. For instance, those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder might re-experience a traumatic event, even though it is not happening in the present moment. However, mindfulness can unravel those inner triggers and help to extinguish the trigger of fear and anxiety. Mindfulness can help you unlearn the response of fear to a particular stimulus.
This is the term that Siegel uses to simply say that mindfulness can transform your reactions to responses. In other words, with mindful awareness, you will learn the ability to put a pause in between a trigger and a conditioned response. It’s a way of stopping before you react and instead, respond to that stimulus in a way you may not have before.
This is also known as self-knowing awareness. Siegel describes insight as the ability to explore memories of the past, along with memories of the present. As well as to imagine how it might be in the future.
This is a skill that most therapists, counselors, and parents have. It’s the ability to place yourself within the inner landscape of another person. It’s not the same experience as attunement, which is more emotional in nature; rather it is the connection with another that takes into account his or her entire inner world – thoughts, ideas, attitudes. Mindfulness promotes our ability to be empathetic with others.
This is the capacity for recognizing behavior that is for the good of the whole. It is not only the recognition of socially beneficial behavior, but also taking action. Siegel points out that many individuals know what is good for the community, family, or group. But when alone, he or she may not actually engage in this behavior. Mindfulness supports a growth in moral behavior and decision-making by not only stimulating the moral imagination but also facilitating the moral behavior.
This is the ability to process information sourced from parts of the mind and/or body other than the thinking mind. A mindfulness practice helps to wake up these inner resources and opens us to receive intuitive information from other sources within.
Mindful awareness is often not taught in schools, at the workplace, or in most homes; however, its benefits are noteworthy. For a teen struggling with the chaos of adolescence and even for his or her parents, a mindfulness practice can have incredible positive effects on the mind, body, and heart.