Make some time today evening, find a quiet corner in your house and think about all the times you felt bad or angry or depressed because of what someone said or did during the day. Then think about how these feelings affected your work or the way you interacted with people. Chances are that your reaction to a bad situation affected your life more than anyone else.
This is the space where mindfulness plays an important role; the space between an experience and your reaction to it. Being mindful is a mental state where you take a step back to become aware of your feelings, emotions, thoughts, and sensations. When you are aware of what you’re going through, you also gain more clarity on how to react in a way that’s best for you. In today’s times, staying focused and balanced even when you’re surrounded by chaos is nothing short of a superpower. If you find that hard to take in, these 8 reasons should convince you why you should start becoming more mindful.
1. Mindfulness Makes You Smarter
One of the most effective ways to increase mindfulness is through meditation. In 2012, a study published by UCLA found that long-term meditators had more folds in their brain’s cortex compared to those who do not meditate. This could explain why people who meditate can process information faster and not dwell on events of the past. By practicing focused breathing meditation for just 15 minutes a day, you can remove existing bias and think more clearly.
2. Mindfulness Improves Your Mood
Another study showed that mindfulness can actually help you feel better. When a group of U.S. marines preparing for deployment spent two hours each week practicing mindfulness meditation training for eight weeks, they showed significant improvements in moods and working memory, which allows for short-term retrieval and storage of information. If mindfulness meditation can help marines who regularly go through high-stress and emotional situations, it’s not hard to imagine how much it can help make your life easier.
3. Mindfulness Increases Empathy
If you look at great leaders and humanitarians across the world, the one thing you will find common in all of them is empathy and compassion. The more you understand the people around you, the more you learn to live in harmony. A study conducted by the Northeastern University College of Science found that even a brief meditation intervention made participants 50% more compassionate.
4. Mindfulness Keeps You Focused
There is a zen practice which involves thinking about not thinking. While this might sound bizarre, studies have found that mindfulness can affect your ability to stay focused. A zen meditation technique where the person stays aware of their posture and breathing while dismissing stray thoughts has the ability bring the mind back into focus even after being distracted for a considerable amount of time. Think about all the work you can finish on a given day if you could just focus only on the things that matter.
5. Mindfulness Enhances Creativity
Whether you’re a homemaker or a design engineer, creativity can make life more interesting and fulfilling. While it sounds exciting, being creative in real life situations is a challenge that requires a lot of thought and effort. You can, however, boost your creativity by using mindfulness.
There are two main factors that influence your creativity. One is divergent thinking which means coming up with many different ideas, and the second is convergent thinking, the ability to convert ideas into practical concepts. When researchers at the Leiden University studied the effects of two different types of meditation practices on divergent and convergent thinking, they found that mindful meditation was effective in increasing both divergent and convergent thinking.
One of biggest benefits of mindfulness is that it can help you regardless of your age, religion, ethnicity, gender, educational or cultural background. Start by spending 15-20 minutes every day meditating and being fully aware of your thoughts and feelings. You will soon begin to see how your mind starts to become more responsive rather than reactive.