004 – The Benefits of Mindfulness – Part 2
Describes benefits 5-10, from the 18 benefits of mindfulness. More content on benefits to follow in future podcasts.
- Benefit 5 – Acceptance of your direct experience, and indirectly, acceptance of people and situations.
- You need to be aware of something before you can accept it, and that’s why mindfulness always starts with awareness.
- Mindfulness is a real-time, present moment practice.
- Through accepting our experience, it allows us to be wise and kind in any action that we take, any thoughts, any communication, and any physical action that follows.
- Benefit 6 – Mindfulness helps to relieve stress and depression.
- Psychological stress is caused because in our minds we disagree with what is.
- Benefit 7 – Improved sleep quality.
- Many spiritual teachers and philosophies claim that when we’re in deep sleep, we’re actually connected to the source, the spiritual dimension, what transcends us.
- With mindfulness, you can go to sleep in a mindful state and when you wake up, you can switch on awareness and acceptance and straight away.
- Benefit 8 – Mindfulness increases your resilience to health issues.
- Benefit 9 – Mindfulness practice reduces blood pressure.
- Benefit 10 – Mindfulness practice can be used for pain management.
- You can make pain management a part of your mindfulness practice.
- Breathworks – https://www.breathworks-mindfulness.org.uk/
- Mindfulness for Health Book – https://www.breathworks-mindfulness.org.uk/mindfulness-for-health-book
Full transcript from podcast
Hello and welcome to the Mindfulness+ Podcast. My name is Darren Cockburn and this particular podcast is going to be about the benefits of mindfulness. It’s part two. There’s a part one podcast where we covered the first four of the eighteen benefits that I’ve got listed. We’re going to continue and see how far we get. The podcast is going to run for about twenty minutes so we’ll see how many we can cover during that time. If you want to refer to accompanying notes and other resources, you can visit the website for the podcast, which is www.mindfulnessonlinetraining.org.
The first four benefits discussed previously were improved concentration and memory, being more positive, reducing stress and anxiety, and quietening the mind. The first benefit that we’re going to cover off in this podcast is about acceptance. The mindfulness definition that I use includes the words awareness and acceptance. Acceptance is an essential part of mindfulness. When you become aware of something, whatever it is, you then always have the choice to be able to psychologically accept that. Whether it’s something that you see, smell, taste, hear, touch, it can all be accepted.
You need to be aware of something before you can accept it, and that’s why mindfulness always starts with awareness. If people ask me how to accept things I say to them well, focus on your awareness and acceptance will naturally flow out of that awareness. This is all mindfulness practice. A key benefit is that you’re able to accept your experience with mindfulness. True acceptance or what I call in my book “Being Present”, absolute acceptance, is acceptance of your experience. It’s like an inner thing. It might be acceptance of a bodily sensation, or a feeling, or a thought. It’s not acceptance about other people or situations you might find yourself in. It’s about acceptance of your own direct experience of all these thoughts and feelings and bodily sensations.
Mindfulness is a real-time, present moment practice. We have our experience, we’re aware of it, and then we accept it. Through accepting our experience, it allows us to be wise and kind in any action that we take, any thoughts, any communication, and any physical action that follows. What’s wonderful about accepting our direct experience as it’s happening, is that through doing that, that’s the best form of acceptance because it enables us to accept everything that’s out there. Because if you’re accepting your own direct experience; indirectly you’re accepting everything external to you that’s causing that, that’s creating it. You know what someone might say, could be the weather, it could be an email that you get giving you some news that might cause unpleasant feelings. With mindfulness you bring acceptance to it all. It’s about really being aligned with what is, and in harmony with what’s happening within the universe. We can’t change what’s happened. And that’s why we get stressful if we try and resist stuff. Because we’re resisting what is and that doesn’t make sense. It’s really all about acceptance ok. That’s a fantastic benefit.
Another benefit is that mindfulness helps to relieve stress and depression. Psychological stress is caused because in our minds we disagree with what is. OK. It’s what I was talking about just now. Let’s say something happened. Let’s take the traffic jam example. It’s a pretty common example and it works well. Say that we get stuck in a traffic jam whilst we’re driving and in our minds disagree with the fact that this is a traffic jam. We’re saying things like “it shouldn’t be happening – it’s not right – they shouldn’t be doing this roadworks” or whatever it is.
The mental psychological complaining and commentary and stories that we put around things – that’s what causes stress. The stress is caused because we’re resisting situations rather than accepting them so this links very closely to the previous point. When we accept things we don’t get that psychological stress, we’re at peace. Acceptance brings about peace. What can happen if we are in resistance, and we’re stressed for a certain period of time, and it all differs, dependent upon the person and the conditions. That can then flip over into depression. We can start feeling depressed when our needs aren’t being met over a period of time, or if we’re in disagreement to what is and in resistance over a period of time, at some point that stress will flip over into something more serious like depression, or it could be some kind of illness.
When we do our mindfulness practice we’re reducing or removing psychological stress and we are proactively avoiding any of the more serious sustained conditions that might follow from that like depression for example. Can you see how powerful it is? The fact that we can be peaceful and happy through mindfulness practice. We can have that that psychological peace regardless of what’s going. I mean, sure, we’re not going to be happy all the time. Even if there’s something that were unhappy about and we feel unhappy, we can accept the fact that we’re unhappy. That will allow that that feeling and the thoughts to pass much quicker. It’s very very powerful. It’s really good at helping to relieve psychological stress, things like depression.
The next benefit is that it improves sleep quality. How does it do that? This is a question I’ve not answered before. I know it does improve sleep quality, but why? Why does mindfulness improve sleep quality? Well, if we are mindful and we’re aware and we’re accepting of what’s going on, our minds are going to be more peaceful, and the more peaceful our minds, the more quality sleep we’re going to be able to enjoy. It’s going to be easier for us to get to sleep in the first instance, because often the reason we don’t get to sleep is because our minds are racing around. If we’ve been practicing mindfulness our minds are more peaceful. The thoughts that do come up, we’re accepting them. It’s going to be much easier to fall asleep. And when we fall asleep, because the mind is more peaceful, it will allow us to enjoy more deep.
We enjoy more deep sleep through mindfulness practice. The mind becomes more peaceful and the deep sleep is when we’re asleep and the mind is completely still. It’s completely quiet we’re not even dreaming. Many spiritual teachers and philosophies claim that during this time, when we’re asleep, when we’re experiencing this deep sleep, we’re actually connected to the source, or to what transcends us. Or to the spiritual dimension, whatever you want to call it. We’re connected with that every night when we sleep for a period of time when the mind is completely still.
I know from experience that the more deep sleep I have the better I feel the next day. I actually bought a little band that I put on my wrist and I monitored my sleep for a few months. What is it that helps me get a better night’s sleep? What is it that causes things like nightmares and me not being able to sleep properly? I did a lot of work to analyse my sleep. This band recorded light sleep which is sleep when I’m dreaming basically. Usually your body can be moving around a little bit during that time. Then deep sleep, and the band knows when you’re experiencing deep sleep because the body is completely still, the body is completely still, the mind is completely still. Mindfulness, it helps you get to sleep, it helps you get more deep sleep. When you wake up, it makes that process better because whatever is in your mind and whatever you’re feeling when you wake up, you can bring acceptance to it and start the day peacefully. Your mindfulness practice, in a way it can go right up to the point where you drop off to sleep. Those few minutes and seconds before you drop off to sleep, if you can stay mindful then that’s fantastic. You go to sleep in a mindful state and when you wake up you switch on awareness and acceptance and straight away. How’s my body feeling? What am I thinking? How are my emotions? You bring acceptance to all of that stuff before you even get up out of bed. You can see, mindfulness really contributes to improved sleep quality and it makes the whole process really quite interesting.
One of the things that I’ve noticed with the more mindfulness practice that I’ve done is that I’ve become more lucid in my dreams. Often on an evening I’ll be dreaming and I’ll know that I’m dreaming. I’ll be mindful of my dreams which is great because that allows me to do the right thing in my dreams, and that’s important, but we won’t go into that now. Really interesting area. In fact I’ll make a little note I think to do a whole podcast on sleep at some point.
Next benefit, mindfulness increases your resilience to health issues. This has been proved, you can go and Google this and look at the scientific studies. Mindfulness practice helps to increase your immune system. Psychologically you’re going to be more peaceful. The mind and the body are connected. The body is going to be more relaxed. It’s also going to be more alert when it needs to be. Mindfulness practice is a little bit like meditation. It’s very much about establishing this balance most of the time between being relaxed and being alert. The body likes that. Yeah, there are lots of studies out there that link mindfulness practice and meditation practice to your body being much healthier and obviously psychologically your mind being healthier. Practice mindfulness more, enjoy better health. I also believe that if you practice mindfulness you’re going to live longer. I believe that because mindfulness practice, because of the first benefit that I talked about, helps with concentration and memory, it helps very much with your longer-term mental health and psychological health. This is becoming more and more important. People have to take more responsibility for that these days because people are living longer. So yeah, mindfulness practice leads to a healthier life. Full stop.
A point related to that, another benefit, is that mindfulness practice reduces blood pressure. I won’t go into the science behind that because I don’t understand it. I do know that it’s been scientifically proven, and again it would make sense wouldn’t it, because blood pressure, I appreciate that it’s sometimes caused by genetic reasons and just the way that the body is wired, but it’s also influenced significantly through stress created via psychological means. Your mindfulness practice is clearly, if it’s cultivating more peaceful states of mind, helping you be more relaxed, it’s going to reduce your blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure it’s going to help with that.
Another health benefit is that mindfulness practice is useful for pain management. Again, this is probably a podcast in its own right. With mindfulness practice you can separate yourself from the pain, so you can have a pain, let’s that say that you’ve got a bad back, and you might be doing things to help with that like taking medication or doing some yoga or physio or whatever. When you get the physical pain in the back, what mindfulness practice allows you to do is to observe it, and bring acceptance to it. The pain will still be there, but psychologically you’ll be at peace. This is why it’s so useful for pain management.
Because with some conditions unfortunately we can’t remove pain completely. We have to bring acceptance to it. If we accept our pain we get in our body, usually what happens is that it allows the pain to reduce or to pass quicker. If we’re resisting the pain we’re creating stress and that’s encouraging the pain to continue.
Eckhart Tolle he said, I think this is a right quote and I apologise if it’s not. It’s “what you resist persists” – “what you resist persists” and I do find that to be the case and it applies really well to pain management. Mindfulness isn’t about resisting, it’s about accepting. Yes, we should manage our pain through medication if we need to and other practices. If we can use mindfulness, it’s going to be of great help. A lot of people don’t know this. I talk to a lot of people that are suffering from issues in the body that are causing pain and they don’t know anything about mindfulness and really they’re missing an opportunity to gain freedom from the pain. At least psychological freedom anyway.
There’s a good organisation called Breathworks, you can Google that. There’s some really good books as well by Danny Penman and Vidyamala. I think one is called “Mindfulness for Health”. I would recommend that you take a look at those if you’ve got any health issues, particularly around pain, because they explain how you can use mindfulness and things that you can do. You can make pain management a part of your mindfulness practice. You can use pain and bodily sensations and feelings and thoughts associated with it, as a way of becoming mindful. You feel the pain. “Ha – the pain’s there”. Well if you know that the pain’s there, you’re mindful, because you’re mindful of the pain.
You can use these things as opportunities to practice. I do that with tinnitus, I experience tinnitus, and when I can hear the loud pitch noise in the background, I can hear it now, when I am aware of that I know that I’m mindful. For that reason, I view it like a mindfulness tool rather than a problem. You can reframe all these things. We can’t guarantee that our bodies are going to be free from pain and problems and for most of us we’re going to experience that at one stage or another. But what we can guarantee is through mindfulness practice we can be psychologically at peace, regardless of what the body is doing, and that’s really the freedom that mindfulness gives you.
I think we’re coming towards the end of this podcast. There are many more benefits. I think I’m going to need to do at least one more of these benefits podcasts for you. Thank you very much indeed for listening. As a reminder, you can get notes and other resources on the website http://www.mindfulnessonlinetraining.org.
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