As we approach the end of the first month of 2020, it’s normal to reflect upon how many of our new year’s resolutions have survived or slowly faded out. How many of our goals were essentially revolved around becoming happier and healthier? Can an overall objective of mindfulness help to fulfill them all?
In the last few years we have seen the area of mindfulness move away from a scorned and outlandish notion, to a legitimate health practice. As mental health slowly shakes its taboo and the desire for a more fulfilled and present lifestyle takes center stage, many turn to mindfulness. Practices such as meditation are used as a reprieve from the fast-paced pressures of day-to-day life in modern society. More and more people are openly admitting that they meditate and seeking out a different approach to life.
The roots of many mindfulness practices can be credited back to Buddhism, and many meditation teachers refer to these teachings in their practices. Some, like Andy Puddicome, co-founder of the meditation app Headspace, having come directly from practicing Buddhism for a decade.
Mindfulness itself has evolved and moved into the modern realm, making itself available and easily accessed by the average person. Rather than approaching monasteries for teachings of a calmer mind; articles, videos, books, and apps are available at your fingertips. Many argue that the growing trend of mindfulness practices are a result of the chaotic and overwhelming digital society that we live in. It is a little ironic therefore that a popular solution is the growing use of digital mindfulness apps. Learning mindful meditation from the comfort and privacy of your own home is an inexpensive and easy solution. Especially in the case of these apps, as a focus on ten-minute sessions or less are designed to easily slot into your lifestyle.
Last year the mindfulness market was estimated to be worth $1.2 billion (according to marketresearch.com) and it’s still growing; it’s estimated to be worth over $2 billion by 2022. There are over 1000 meditation apps available with Headspace, Calm and Buddify among the market leaders. From sleep exercises to breathing techniques, to mindfulness guides and meditation practices, it has never been easier to practice mindfulness.
The trend isn’t just in these apps, it is not uncommon to see more and more people turn to these practices as alternate health solutions. Doctors themselves are beginning to recommend mindful practices as part of a healthy lifestyle. Mindfulness retreats, classes, studios and training in the workplace are all becoming the norm. In January 2019, Vox reported that mindful activities such as Yoga and Meditation had tripled in the US between 2012-2017 and has since not shown signs of slowing down. You don’t have to go far to find a Yoga class or meditation workshop. Carving out sections of your busy schedule to slow down and focus on this sort of self-care is said to have tremendous benefits.
Anecdotal evidence may indicate that many of your friends, colleagues and acquaintances are embracing these techniques and showing signs of happier and healthier lifestyles. Can we argue that mindfulness is now an established part of society and not just a trend? Have you considered it yet?
So what are the benefits of mindfulness practices? Said to profit both mental and physical well-being, practicing to keep a calmer mind can alleviate mental states of anxiety, depression and stress. More surprisingly perhaps, researchers have begun to find that it can also help to relieve physical conditions such as chronic pain, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal conditions such as IBS, and even treat heart disease. Even without mental and physical health problems, mindfulness and meditation is a way of re-wiring the brain to become, among other benefits, a happier, calmer, kinder and more patient person.
Despite the booming economic market of mindfulness practices, especially meditation, mindfulness doesn’t need to be an expensive practice, but it does take practice. One of the main aspects of mindfulness and meditation is the notion of being present. Many techniques aim to help refine this ability, from mindfully eating to walking to meditating, all of which requires a focus on the body. Whether that is concentrating on a small morsel of food and recognizing taste, texture, and bodily reaction as you take your time to chew; or sitting down and meditating, in which you attempt to clear your mind, focus on the breath and the feeling of your body and allow wandering thoughts to come and go without judgement.
The practice of mindfulness has been hugely beneficial to many people and its shrinking taboo and growing availability has made the area easier to access. Consider seeing if your year could be improved by a clearer, calmer and happier mind.