In recent years, the spotlight has turned on mindfulness, a practice that could have its roots in Eastern religions like Hinduism and philosophies like Buddhism. Many studies already show it is effective in emotion regulation.
In fact, many approaches to the treatment of anxiety, eating disorders, depression, and mental and emotional issues involve mindfulness. One of these is dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which combines the practice and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT).
However, the benefits of mindfulness extend beyond emotion regulation and healing. Here are four science-backed reasons to practice it today:
1. It Could Lower Blood Pressure
In 2013, Wolters Kluwer Health shared that mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) could decrease blood pressure levels for those with pre-hypertension. These are individuals whose blood pressure is already above normal but don’t need medications yet.
Compared to the control group, those who participated in MBSR for at least two hours a week experienced about 5 mm Hg reduction of systolic blood pressure. Although the results are modest, the researchers believed this practice could prevent people with pre-hypertension from eventually having to take drugs.
But how can mindfulness decrease blood pressure? One possible reason is its ability to target high stress levels. When you are chronically stressed, the heart rate goes up and the blood vessels contract. It forces the heart to pump more blood that only raises blood pressure.
2. It Could Enhance Learning and Memory
Cognition is one of the abilities that help you navigate daily life. The problem is many factors such as stress and aging can affect it. To decrease the risk of cognitive impairment, you may practice mindfulness.
In 2011, the Massachusetts General Hospital revealed that practicing mindfulness for at least 8 weeks could actually alter the structure of the brain. It could increase gray matter in the hippocampus, the area of the brain connected to memory and learning.
3. Mindfulness Could Decrease Chronic Inflammation
Contrary to popular belief, inflammation is a natural response against threats, like viruses and bacteria. In other words, it is a positive change in the body.
However, sometimes inflammation becomes chronic. Although it is low-grade, its effects can be harmful:
- It lowers your immunity.
- Chronic inflammation increases your risk of non-communicable diseases, like cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, and some types of cancer.
- It can decrease your lifespan.
Fortunately, in some chronic illnesses, mindfulness can help alleviate the suffering, according to a 2013 study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
In the research, the scientists worked with people with asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease. Often, stress can be one trigger for a flare-up. They then grouped the participants into two with one practicing MBSR and the other non-mindfulness-based interventions like walking.
Both groups experienced a significant improvement in their stress levels and symptoms. However, MBSR was more effective in controlling stress-induced chronic inflammation.
4. It Helps Alcohol Drinkers to Cut Back
Americans are avid drinkers. In the 2019 national survey, over 85% 18 years old and above said they drank alcohol at least once in their life. About 55% claimed they consumed one within the last 30 days.
Sometimes regular consumption of alcohol can lead to substance abuse or addiction. In the country, at least 12% of the population already meet the criteria, one study suggests.
Interestingly, people who practice mindfulness may learn to cut back on their drinking habits. In the 2016 research by Case Western Reserve University, those who did consume three pints less of beer than individuals who practiced relaxation techniques.
Living a life filled with mindfulness isn’t easy, and in many cases, you may need professional guidance. But the rewards like better quality of life make it worth it.