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4 Evidence-backed reasons to start practicing mindfulness now

Stress tends to happen when you focus on the past or the future. Turn your attention back to the present moment and stop it in its tracks with mindfulness.

With centuries-old roots in Eastern teachings, Mindfulness is both a behavior and a shift in mindset.

This simple technique consists of observing the present moment without judgment. But it’s not nearly as easy as it sounds.

Minds like to wander. And while mind-wandering is perfectly okay (and 100% normal) during mindfulness meditation, not judging your thoughts, or inability to concentrate can be a serious challenge for most of us.

Training our minds to focus on the present moment (however fleetingly) takes time and effort—which is probably why we tend to talk about mindfulness as a practice—it’s a behavior that needs to be done on a regular basis for best results.

If you’re new to mindfulness, you may want to start with guided mindfulness meditations and activities like Foundations' 5 steps to being mindful or Take a mindful walk.

Be patient with yourself if you find it difficult at first, or have trouble working mindfulness into your routine.

After all, the idea is to reduce stress, not amp it up by loading up on "shoulds" and self-imposed expectations as to how this process will unfold. Celebrate small wins like when you start to notice your mind wandering away from the present moment more quickly. Building new habits takes time. For more hints on habits and routine-building, see our blog post on how to get habits to stick without stress.

Why to start practicing mindfulness now

Not quite convinced that it’s worth your time? Here are 4 evidence-backed reasons you should start practicing mindfulness ASAP.

A woman sits mindfully meditating on a rock with sunlight filtering in around her.

@enikoo via Unsplash

1. Mindfulness helps balance your emotions.

There’s ample evidence that practicing mindfulness can help you feel better. Research using neuroimaging techniques have shown that mindfulness activates certain regions in your brain that contribute to greater emotional balance (always a good thing).

Integrating mindfulness into your day to day has also been shown to reduce anxiety and low mood, as documented in other studies.

2. It lowers your stress level.

Scientific literature strongly backs mindfulness as an effective method to better manage stress. Interestingly, mindfulness meditation works both as a sort of pre-emptive stress management technique before a stressful situation and has also been shown to be useful for handling stress after a stress-inducing experience.

The takeaway? By bringing your mind back to the present, mindfulness helps you manage stress about the future and the past.

3. Mindfulness improves cognition.

Studies show that practicing mindfulness contributes to better performance on tasks that require attention and memory. So before you start work on that important work project, or meet with your peers, give your mind a few moments to focus on the present.

And on days when you feel like your focus is shot (whether that’s because of a poor night’s sleep, project overwhelm, or trouble switching off from work in your free time), a mindfulness break may be just the ticket.

4. It helps manage physical symptoms.

Researchers have found that taking up mindfulness may help people better manage physical symptoms such as pain and fatigue. While focusing on the present moment when you’re in pain (or very tired) sounds counterintuitive, various studies have found mindful meditation can decrease pain levels.

And if your pain or fatigue is part of an unhappy cycle of not getting good rest, studies show mindfulness behaviors can help improve quality of sleep, too.

Is mindfulness part of your mental wellbeing routine? Why or why not? Share with us at foundations@koahealth.com.