Category Archives: Mindfulness

How Mindfulness Meditation Improves Cognitive Function

“Mindfulness” has become a buzzword across health and wellness professional community. Early on, that was because of mindfulness promises the world. Since then, a lot of serious research has gone into it. Let’s explore how mindfulness meditation improves cognitive function.

While some claims made by mindfulness promoters and practitioners still merit investigation, scientists are coming to a consensus that many of the claimed benefits are real.

Among the benefits promised by Mindfulness promoters and practitioners is cognition – the ability to learn, think, and solve problems. Research shows how mindfulness meditation improves cognitive cognition, with only some of those studies discussed here.Mindful Meditation

Changing Outlook

One of the ways that mindfulness meditation improves cognitive function is easiest to understand has to do with how we approach decisions. A 2009 study that found that just four brief sessions of mindfulness meditation could increase cognition was predicated on this idea.

Having some stress can be a good thing, as it helps us to make decisions more quickly. It doesn’t necessarily help us to make better decisions, however. Mindfulness meditation is based on the idea of monitoring your thoughts, breath, and other functions in a non-judgmental way.

Mindfulness meditation develops a habit to look at things as they are rather than as we feel they should be, which in turn can help us to work with facts rather than react to emotion.

Improving Memory

Stress doesn’t just make our minds race; it can prevent them from holding onto information. The result is a decline in what scientists call “working memory.”

A 2010 study found that stressed people who meditate have better working memories than those who don’t. The authors of the study suggested that mindfulness meditation had this effect because it helps practitioners to mitigate the stress response. In other words, meditation helped them to be less stressed, which helped them hold onto information efficiently.

Improving Attention Span

A similar approach has to do with our abilities not to look at information objectively but also to absorb sufficient details. A 2015 study found that seasoned meditators have longer attention spans than those who haven’t been practicing meditation for very long. Meditation involves both focusing when there is nothing to focus on and learning to understand and discipline your mind.

You may think that your attention span is not long enough. From where you stand, you may be right, but it is an incomplete view of how attention works.

Many of us think that we are either going about our business attentively or chasing butterflies or something. The truth is that you can be sort of “going through the motions” long after your brain has started to check out. Sitting at your desk or standing at your post for long periods might not mean that you have an attention span that is as long or as strong as it could be.

Making the Brain More Efficient

If you do have problems with your attention span, don’t blame yourself. In some ways, the attention span is related to discipline. In other ways, however, attention span is a biological function that can be difficult to develop it.

While mindfulness meditation can help to develop the habit of attention – as discussed above – it can also help to establish the biological factors that influence attention.

According to one study conducted in 2012, people who meditate regularly have brains that don’t need to work as hard to get things done.

Your brain isn’t a muscle but, in some ways, it works like one. Our minds require resources to function, and they have to put in an effort – sort of like muscles.

When we tone our muscles, we develop endurance – a measure of how our bodies can perform a task. Meditation, according to this study, helps to tone our brains – if you will – so that they can do their jobs for more extended periods without exhausting their resources.

Some of the ways how mindfulness meditation improves cognitive function has to do with helping us to understand and train our brains. Mindfulness allows us to do things like pay attention longer, retain information longer, and approach obstacles more productively. Mediation also helps to develop new neural pathways; our brains function on a neurological level giving us better abilities to focus and recall.

How Being Mindful Helps Your Mental Health

Mindfulness is the act of intentionally noticing what is happening or occurring in and around you. To most, that may sound a lot like paying attention to what’s going on. Well, it is.  Taking the time to be present is what mindfulness is all about. And this simple act is how being mindful helps your mental health.

Mental health is an often-overlooked aspect of wellness. People commonly think and act upon their physical health and wellbeing—but what about mental health? What are you doing regularly for your mental health? Being mindful helps your mental health.Mindful of Emotions

Become Conscious and Take Control

The first way that mindfulness improves your mental health is that it makes you aware or conscious. In particular, it makes you conscious of your emotional and spiritual state of being. The practice of noticing and acknowledging your state of being can elevate you to a higher level of mental health. Here is why.

Most of the time, we react out of habit. We never recognize the emotional and mental state we are experiencing. Emotions happen to us without us, giving them a second thought. They are similar to blinking or swallowing. They happen, we are part of the processes, and yet we never pay much attention to them. However, when we gain awareness of our state of being, this will naturally give us a level of control we never had when they were unconscious states.

Being mindful helps your mental health by gaining control of your emotional and spiritual states. When you do this, you are no longer at the mercy of your repetitive responses. You can be in control of your actions. Making a rational decision does not mean that you don’t feel emotions or that you only feel them with less intensity. The difference is that you become consciously aware of the current state that you are in, and then you can choose to either remain there or redesign that stage.

There is nothing better for your mental health than gaining this control.

Slow Down and Change Views

Mindfulness also helps people to slow down and reduce the flow of sensations. Think about a firehose. Have you ever tried to put something inside a firehose while a stream of water is coming out? It’s impossible! The firehose has too much force for anything to go against it.

Life works similarly. Throughout the day, constantly bombarded with stimulations and sensations, we become overwhelmed. It’s a one-way street that seems to have no end. How do we plan to get anything in the opposite direction?

Mindfulness gives you the ability to select which inputs you want to receive, and which ones you will let pass through. Turning off the news and social media can be beneficial for your mental health. It prevents over-stimulation, which can result in depression, anxiety, and stress disorders.

It’s a Fact, Jack

The mental health benefits of mindfulness are not just the opinions of a few practitioners. A study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology stated that mindfulness-based therapies could reduce relapse into depression by 50%[1]. Mindfulness is an effective and practical means to address many other mental health issues as well.

It’s pretty amazing, how being mindful helps your mental health. All of these benefits, and just for the price of…noticing.

[1] Teasdale JD, et al. Prevention of Relapse/Recurrance in Major Depression by Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 2000, 68 (4), 615-623