As it turns out, mindfulness is not just the latest trend. If you are anything like me, right now, you are thinking “I knew I was onto something real when I first tried it”. Research has actually proven that mindfulness can have a positive impact on mind and body.
Since practicing mindfulness, my mental and emotional wellbeing have greatly improved. But what has it been doing to my body? How has it been affecting my body to bring about positive such changes? I set out to find the answers, and I would love to share them with you.
12 ways mindfulness affects your body:
- Regulates metabolic processes thus increasing resilience to stress,
- Weight loss,
- Slows down aging of cells,
- Reduces blood pressure,
- Reduces symptoms of depression
- Reduces stress/anxiety markers in the body,
- Improves sleep,
- Reduces pain,
- Boosts the immune system,
- Reduces muscle strain and tension,
- Increases energy levels,
- Creates new neural pathways in the brain.
Mindfulness is not something that we are born with, but it is something that we can learn to do/be. And with all of the abovementioned benefits, why wouldn’t you?
While I was doing my research, I was astounded to see just how many studies have been done, which prove how beneficial mindfulness is to the body and mind. Mindfulness is not just a “thing” people do. It’s a way of life (a lifestyle). If you would like a bit more clarity on how mindfulness has the abovementioned impact on your body, simply read on.
How Mindfulness Affects the Body in 12 Ways
There you are, …outside the office, sitting on a bench, eyes closed and breathing deeply. You are focusing on the sounds and smells around you. You feel completely “in the moment”. Your mind has been taken off the ringing phones, stressed-out colleagues, and piles of paperwork on your desk back in the office. After a few moments, you open your eyes, and you feel calm, relaxed, and energized. You are ready to step back into the chaos of the office and take charge.
What just happened?
What happened was the power of mindfulness, and you would be complete warranted if you are wondering how on earth that is possible. The reality is that when you practice mindfulness, there’s a lot more going on inside your body than you think!
Are you ready to learn what is happening to your body when you regularly practice mindfulness? Here goes:
1. Mindfulness regulates metabolic processes, thus increasing resilience to stress.
When your body’s metabolic processes are regulated, the body increases levels of neurotrophic proteins in the brain. These proteins protect the health of nerve cells, which in turn helps the body have a better response to stress. A better bodily response to stress means that you actually feel less stressed, and of course, you don’t get so many of those annoying stress side effects like sweaty palms, racing heart and mind, inability to focus, shakiness, fatigue, and so on.
When you practice mindfulness regularly, the body is more resilient to stressful situations.
2. Mindfulness helps with weight loss.
You are probably wondering how mindfulness practice can help with weight loss when there is no actual physical exercise involved in the practice. When you are mindful, you’re able to take a moment to consider your actions and choices, ensuring that you make better ones.
Many people who practice mindfulness start to lose weight as they start to eat more mindfully. Mindfulness also gets people thinking about their general health, which in many cases leads to more regular exercise, healthier meals, reduced alcohol drinking, and avoidance of products that are bad for the body in general.
3. Mindfulness may slow down the aging of cells.
You cannot stop cells aging – it is a natural process – but you can slow down the process or ensure that it doesn’t happen too rapidly. Cell aging can increase if you are often stressed or contract a disease. According to studies, people who meditate and practice mindfulness have lengthier telomere proteins than those who don’t. These proteins are tasked with protecting cells from aging. It appears that mindfulness preserves the length of these proteins, thus slowing down the process of cells aging.
4. Mindfulness reduces blood pressure.
Having hypertension or high blood pressure is a serious condition. When you practice mindfulness, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, which reacts to stress factors and works to bring the body to a calm, relaxed state. The Parasympathetic system does this by slowing down breathing, relaxing muscles, and lowering blood pressure.
5. Mindfulness reduces symptoms of depression.
Endorphins, which are neurotransmitters in the brain, are released during mindfulness practice. Endorphins are known as “happy hormones” because they improve mood and make emotions easier to regulate. Because mindfulness helps the body reach a sense of calm, it can release endorphins in much the same way as running can. When the body gets regular boosts of endorphins, the symptoms of depression are reduced.
6. Practicing mindfulness reduces stress/anxiety markers in the body.
A person suffering increased stress levels or anxiety will have markers, such as interleukin 6, cortisol (the stress hormone), and other C-reactive proteins. When mindfulness is practiced, the body naturally has a relaxation response and, in turn, reduces the levels of stress markers in the body. This is what brings about a sense of calm and allows a panic attack to pass or an anxious feeling to dissipate. This is why so many people who suffer from stress and anxiety find value in practicing mindfulness.
7. Regular mindfulness improves sleep.
Harvard Medical School released an interesting article supporting the fact that mindfulness improves sleep. When you practice mindfulness, your brain pays attention and tries to “remember” as much as it can. It does this so that it can help with the same task in the future.
When you put your devices down, find a quiet place and practice mindfulness, the calm and relaxed state of mind that it brings about helps induce sleep. The more you practice mindfulness and derive a state of relaxation from it, the more your brain will learn to relax and prepare for sleep in this very same way on an ongoing basis. It is a great way for people to combat insomnia.
8. Mindfulness reduces pain.
Have you ever noticed that the more tense you are, the more exacerbated your pain is? Whether it is a headache or backache, practicing mindfulness can bring about pain relief.
Mindfulness allows the body to take stock of how it is feeling and work through mental and emotional tension. Mental and emotional tension adds to physical pain – that’s an undeniable fact. By working through these issues and reaching a state of relaxation, pain can be reduced and better managed.
9. Mindfulness boosts the immune system.
If you think about it logically, the body is always at war with the germs, viruses, and dangerous organisms that we come into contact with. While the body is fighting off these potential risks and infections, it is producing large quantities of anti-inflammatory, T-cells, immunoglobulins, and so on. As a result, mindfulness can help replenish and strengthen these cells so that they can do their job effectively.
10. Mindfulness reduces muscle strain and tension.
Tension, strain, and aches in the muscles are no joke. Many people opt for massage when they are suffering from muscle strain. While this physically assists the muscles to relax and the pain to subside, mindfulness can have a similar impact. By completely relaxing the body (and muscles) and experiencing a boost in endorphins, muscle pain can be reduced.
11. Mindfulness increases energy levels.
It is a known fact that positive and mindful thinking can have a massive impact on the body and brain. When you are thinking mindfully and having a more positive approach to things, the body follows suit. With regular practice, you can get out of your negative patterns of thinking, and as a more positive outlook becomes more natural, your energy levels will increase.
12. Mindfulness generates new neural pathways in the brain.
When you consistently do something, the brain forms a neural pathway. A neural pathway is like a habit for the brain. When neural pathways develop actions become ingrained in the subconscious, which means that your body automatically carries them out in the learned scenarios. If you want to create new habits, you have to be repetitive with the new habit or action.
Being mindful helps the brain form new neural pathways. It teaches the mind to be present in the current moment and to consider situations and know how you feel before you respond (note: not react). The more you do it, the easier it will get.
Experience the Physical Benefits of Mindfulness for Yourself
If you are impressed with the aforementioned ways that mindfulness can affect your body, it is time to try it out for yourself. With so many positives, it is hard to say no to, isn’t it? Mindfulness starts with just a daily practice of trying to focus the mind on the current moment and be more present in your actions and reactions.