• A huge body of research now shows that mindfulness can have an incredibly positive impact on our lives. It has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. It improves our focus, resilience and memory, and it has a whole host of health benefits, including increased immune function and powerful anti-ageing properties.

    People who practice mindfulness report feeling calmer and happier, having more fulfilling relationships, and experiencing a greater sense of life satisfaction and wellbeing. Mindfulness meditation may be just as important to our health and wellbeing as eating nutritious food and getting regular exercise. And in the same way as we build our physical fitness through exercise, mindfulness helps us develop our mental fitness.

    Here are 11 of the key scientifically proven benefits of mindfulness that might make you want to take up this valuable practice in your own life.

    1. Mindfulness Helps to Ease Anxiety and Depression

    Mindfulness teaches us new ways to relate to thoughts and emotions because it gives us the ability to untangle from unhelpful thoughts—especially the ones that can pull us into stress and suffering. For example, it can help us to be more resilient against both anxiety and depression. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is even recommended by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence to help prevent the relapse of depression.

    Anyone who has ever been caught in the grip of anxiety or depression knows just how difficult and debilitating it can be. Mindfulness is one way we can train ourselves to be mentally stronger, feel less ‘pulled around’ by our thoughts, and connect with a greater sense of inner calm and wellbeing.

    1. Mindfulness Reduces Stress

    Modern life is pretty fast paced and demanding, and more and more people are reporting feeling stressed on a regular basis. Mindfulness has been shown to be an effective way to reduce stress and improve mental resilience. It helps us better handle life’s challenges, such as job losses, financial stress, divorce or death. Practicing mindfulness on a regular basis helps us respond to stressful situations more effectively, which makes it easier to handle whatever life throws at us.

    1. Mindfulness Improves Focus and Efficiency

    Mindfulness helps us to focus our attention. When we regularly practice mindfulness, we are less distracted and therefore we can be more efficient and productive. Instead of reacting to every distraction and scattering our focus through multitasking, mindfulness helps us to channel our full attention towards the tasks at hand.

    Multitasking has been shown to lower our productivity by up to 40%, as well as making us prone to making mistakes. This greater sense of focus, performance and efficiency gained through mindfulness is part of the reason why CEOs, athletes and people all over the world are turning to this powerful practice.

    1. Mindfulness Hardwires Your Brain to Be Calmer and Less Reactive

    Research shows that mindfulness-based therapies increase the concentration of grey matter in the parts of the brain associated with learning and memory, emotional regulation, and perspective taking. This means that we can be more calm, less reactive, more mentally resilient and less likely to fall into negative or unhelpful emotional patterns.

    Mindfulness actually also reduces the size of the amygdala, which is the part of the brain associated with the ‘fight-or-flight’ response. This helps people to ease anxiety and reactivity and respond more calmly and effectively to stressful experiences.

    1. Mindfulness Improves Our Sleep

    When we go through our day continuously rushing or feeling stressed, worried or anxious, our bodies can get stuck in the ‘fight-or-flight’ response—which can linger even when we get home and try to relax. This inability to unwind can make us particularly prone to sleepless nights. Mindfulness meditation can help us relax, unwind and calm our nervous system (which in turn helps us get a better night’s sleep). Mindfulness has also been shown to be a viable alternative treatment for chronic insomnia, meaning that those affected may not have to rely on medication.

    1. Mindfulness Improves the Quality of Our Relationships

    If mindfulness can help us feel calmer and happier and less reactive and stressed, it makes sense that all this would have a positive effect on our ability to form strong and positive relationships. Studies have shown a positive correlation between higher levels of mindfulness and more satisfying romantic relationships.

    Being more present and attentive is also a positive aspect of mindful living that enables us to connect more closely to the people that matter most to us in life. When we are calmer, less reactive and more emotionally available to listen to people and share quality time with them, we are more likely to enjoy positive relationships with our partners, friends and family.

    1. Mindfulness Helps Us Feel Happy and More Fulfilled

    Harvard researchers Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert completed the world’s largest study on human happiness and found that it’s not the big house, dream job or perfect relationship that makes us happy—it’s when our minds are fully present in the moment that we feel happiest. They also discovered that the reverse is true—when our minds wander, we feel unhappy.

    Their research showed that the average person’s mind is wandering up to 47% of the time. This is why practicing mindfulness can have such a positive impact on our happiness, wellbeing and sense of fulfilment—it helps us shift from having an unhappy, wandering mind to a happier, more present mind. This research confirms what the world’s wisdom traditions have long been saying—that happiness is a skill. One that can be trained through mindfulness and learnt by anyone.

    1. Mindfulness Improves Our Physical Health

    Mindfulness meditation has a whole host of health benefits. Studies show that mindfulness can be effective for helping people to manage diabetes, heart disease, blood pressure and gastrointestinal problems. It is also effective for managing chronic pain, and it can even help to strengthen the immune system. Mindfulness has also been shown to be helpful for people recovering from substance abuse.

    Because mindfulness-based therapies are so helpful for managing stress and anxiety, this helps to explain why they have such a positive ripple effect on our overall health and wellbeing. When we practice mindfulness, we release less of the stress hormones (such as adrenaline and cortisol) that can create wider health problems, and our bodies instead abide in a more natural, relaxed and calm state.

    1. Mindfulness Helps Slow Ageing and Extend Life

    Because mindfulness is so helpful at easing negative and stressful feelings, it can contribute towards us living healthier, happier lives. It may even slow down the ageing process, because while stress has the side-effect of speeding up our biological clock, mindfulness can help to slow it down.

    As our cells replicate, the telomeres (the protective ‘caps’ at the ends of our chromosomes) are gradually worn down over time. They become frayed at the edges, and stress can increase the rate at which telomere breakdown (and subsequently cell breakdown) happens.

    Through mindfulness we can better manage stress and therefore we can keep our protective telomeres healthy for longer. Research suggests that this may have a positive impact on physical and mental ageing because it delays cell breakdown. Interestingly, the effect is most noticeable in the renewing cells, such as our skin and hair cells. This may be the reason for the much spoken about effect that many long-term meditators look much younger than they are.

    1. Mindfulness Makes You More Self-compassionate

    Often, we are not kind to ourselves. We may push our bodies and minds to the limits trying to become ‘better’ or get it all done—and the voice of the inner critic can be a harsh companion that constantly bullies us, pushes us around and puts us down. But when we learn to be self-compassionate, we are better able to be kind to ourselves rather than self-critical. Mindfulness is a central component of self-compassion.

    A huge body of research into self-compassion over the last decade has conclusively shown that people who are more self-compassionate tend to have more motivation, better health and better relationships. They have less anxiety and depression and greater happiness and overall life satisfaction. The self-compassionate cope better with life’s stressful events such as break-ups, job loss and even combat trauma. This is due to the fact they have shown to have greater mental resilience.

    11. Mindfulness Makes You Less Biased and More Objective

    When we practice mindfulness, we develop our ability to be non-judgmental and much more objective. We see the people, places and things in our lives with fresh eyes rather than holding on to preconceived notions about them.

    Research backs up this tendency towards being less biased. One study showed that mindfulness reduced age and racial bias in participants—and these types of bias may be subconscious for many people, so they may relate to older views and automatic associations from the past. Benefits like this could have far-reaching positive outcomes for communities, companies and cultures around the world.

    Mindfulness.com. “11 Proven Benefits of Mindfulness.” Mindfulness United Pty Ltd.
    Accessed January 4, 2021. https://blog.mindfulness.com/meditation/benefits-of-mindfulness.