When was the last time you stopped to notice the colour of the sky during your daily commute? Or the noises around you at work?
Paying more attention to your own thoughts and the world around you is known as mindfulness, and can help to improve your physical and mental wellbeing.
Mindfulness meditation is the formal practice of mindfulness. It doesn’t need to last more than five minutes, and involves sitting silently and focusing on your thoughts, sensations and breathing.
You can do this on the train, at the end of a yoga exercise, or first thing in the morning when you wake up.
It’s hard to believe that something so quick and simple can improve your health. But studies have shown mindfulness meditation has numerous benefits.
Here are 4 ways mindfulness meditation can make a difference to your wellbeing.
1. Mindfulness meditation for stress
If you often find yourself overwhelmed by worries about the past and future, mindfulness meditation can help by focusing your awareness on the present. At the same time, relaxed breathing can help relieve tension in your body.
Research has also shown that mindfulness may physically alter your brain, making you better at regulating your emotions and dealing with stress.
2. Mindfulness meditation for anxiety and depression
Studies have shown that practising mindfulness can help manage depression and some anxiety problems.
Similarly with stress, mindfulness meditation can help patients combat negative thought processes and relax their mind and body.
Mindfulness-based therapy is recommended by The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a way to prevent depression in those who have lapsed into depression 3 or more times in the past.
It may also be helpful to practice mindfulness meditation in between mindfulness-based therapy sessions.
Speak to your doctor if you're worried about anxiety or depression and think mindfulness meditation could help you.
3. Mindfulness meditation for sleep
You may struggle to calm your mind after a busy day, making it difficult to fall asleep.
Mindfulness meditation can relax your mind and your body, helping to put aside any stressful thoughts for the night.
Research published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology showed individuals had better sleep after completing an online mindfulness course.
4. Mindfulness meditation for chronic pain
According to the British Medical Journal, chronic pain affects between a third and half of the UK population alone. But mindfulness may be able to help sufferers improve their quality of life.
Initial research shows that regular mindfulness may reduce a person’s experience of pain. A 2015 study showed that individuals who practised mindfulness had less activation in the parts of the brain that handle pain messages.
Still, more evidence is needed before it can be confirmed that mindfulness is a successful treatment for chronic pain.
If you're suffering from chronic pain, you can try mindfulness meditation to see if it helps you.
There are plenty of ways mindfulness meditation might be able to improve your health. It can lower stress levels, improve sleep and heighten self-awareness.
It's a great way to relax and give yourself a break after a long day, while promoting your wellbeing.
Although more evidence is needed to prove mindfulness meditation can treat conditions like anxiety, depression and chronic pain, you might want to try it to see if it helps you.