Mindfulness is often perceived as an act that involves concentration and focus, which is generally directed inwardly, typically on your breathing. Mindfulness, however, is more than concentration, and is better defined as a presence of mind. The focus of mindfulness practice is centered on being aware and attuned to the present moment. A multitude of mindfulness exercises exist. Sensory forms of mindfulness include the use of visual or tactile stimuli as a means of being mentally present. The practice of Mindfulness has existed for centuries. Neuropsychological research has found mindfulness exercises can lead to an increased capacity for cognitive functioning, specifically, functioning in areas of the brain responsible for memory and learning.
The cognitive benefits related to memory and learning of mindfulness were observed in one study as developing in all participants who performed mindfulness acts for 30 minutes per day over an 8 week period of time. It is understandable to feel slightly discouraged, as finding time to exercise for 20 minutes a day is difficult enough. However, the organic benefits of mindfulness may be obtained with less daily practice than the participants mentioned above. In line with this, there is increasing evidence that consistency may be more crucial in developing these positive cognitive effects than the duration of exercise, and that the duration may not need to be performed in one sitting and can be spread throughout the day. This information makes the act of mindfulness accessible and able to be incorporated in everyone’s daily routine. Next time you find yourself with a few minutes on your hand, consider using even just one minute for a quick mindfulness exercise. Even if you are not able to experience the full extent of the cognitive gains of mindfulness, you will likely feel more relaxed and less stressed after.
Written By: Christine O’Brien, M.A., LPC
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