Breathe in. Breathe out.
Feel more in the moment yet? That’s mindfulness.
But is meditation an activity reserved for hippies and lifestyle bloggers, or is it a science-based solution to improving mental health?
Mindfulness and meditation are becoming a staple in daily routines for people across the country and less associated with alternative culture.
From Instagram influencers to corporate executives, people are looking to reap the supposed mental and physical benefits of the ever-elusive mindfulness.
But what is mindfulness exactly?
According to Mindful.org, mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we are doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Basically, it means being present in the moment, fully attending to what’s happening and what you’re currently doing.
Seems easy, right? But how often does your phone buzz daily? Have you thought about all the things you have to do today? Or what about that embarrassing thing you did yesterday? How awkward!
It’s so easy to get overstimulated in today’s world. With ads and tech and social media, it’s easy to drift. But, does mindfulness work? Well, the science is still unclear. Which is why skepticism and snap judgment of mindfulness is so common.
One of the few studies on the practice by the University of Wisconsin measured brain activity through MRI machines. They found that slowing down can actually heighten the brain’s awareness and response rates. In fact, the combination of hard science and personal reporting in that study found that mindfulness is beneficial intellectually and emotionally and greatly reduces stress.
But doctors also warn that mindfulness is not going to solve all mental health problems. A 2014 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine came to no conclusions about mindfulness. In the article, researchers said, “We found low evidence of no effect or insufficient evidence of any effect of meditation programs on positive mood, attention, substance use, eating habits, sleep, and weight. We found no evidence that meditation programs were better than any active treatment (i.e., drugs, exercise, and other behavioral therapies).”
So will mindfulness go from something reserved for hipsters and wellness bloggers to a mainstream exercise like running or yoga? Some experts think it could soon be as common a practice as brushing your teeth.