Could being mindful cure any wellbeing worries that we may have?

By Sally Evans

It's important to know that the practice of mindfulness can no longer be dismissed as just a trend. There is a growing body of research that has proven its effectiveness over time. Some of this research is also showing that the practice of mindfulness can improve our wellbeing and mental health in just a few short weeks.
One survey by Public Health England has found that over 12 million people in the UK are currently being prescribed drugs for issues such as depression, insomnia, and pain. When combined with the mental health issues that are emerging from the COVID pandemic then it's unsurprising to think that a number of alternative cures are being sought after.
There are some important benefits being found through mindfulness as an alternative to address both mental and physical issues. Researchers show that mindfulness can increase our happiness, decrease pain, improve sleep, and enhance immune function.
Mindfulness can often be confused with meditation but learning to be more present and aware of our surroundings and our body can be undertaken in a variety of different ways depending on our environment and our needs.
Here are some ways in which we can practise being more mindful.
Mindful tip 1: Curb our appetite
Engaging more with our senses means that we are eating mindfully. It means that we are also less likely to overindulge or to binge. A recent study found a positive correlation between the practice of mindfulness and reduction in obesity-related eating behaviours.
Try and add 5 minutes to the time you take to eat your main meal and increase by 5 minutes each week. Within a month you could be taking 20 minutes longer to eat your meal, which is the time it takes for your brain to receive the message that you're full.
Mindful tip 2: Ease stress
Are you one of over 30% of Brits who feels stressed every day? Mindfulness can reduce activity in the part of the brain called the amygdala which is central to switching on our stress response. This means that it can help to reduce stress and stress-related conditions such as insomnia.
One way to introduce mindfulness to address stress is to sit quietly and let your mind and your body settle but to do so with a slight smile. A smile will send a biochemical message to our brain and nervous systems that it is safe to relax. Try to bring a feeling of curiosity and kindness to whatever you notice when you are sitting quietly being mindful.
Mindful tip 3: Boost our immunity
Mindfulness meditation can help our body to build defences against infection and improve our immune response. One recent study has found that it resulted in an increase in the number of cells that are involved in sending signals to other cells to destroy infections.
A way to enable this and boost our immunity through mindfulness is to go for a walk and ensure that you take notice of the sensations of your feet as they move and hit the ground and notice how your muscles feel.
Mindful tip 4: Pain management
Mindfulness is increasing in popularity in areas such as pain and cancer management. One recent study on the efficacy of mindfulness-based stress reduction in women has found that participants had a better capacity for coping. Mindfulness can help people become more aware of their thoughts which also helps us to better process complex emotional burdens.
One way to do this is by slowing down our breathing. How deeply do you breathe, and do you use the full capacity of your lungs? Breathing mindfully can really help with stress and pain management. It can help to regulate our heartbeat and also helps us to disengage from our mind and any negative thoughts.
Try this exercise - breathe in for four seconds, hold for seven seconds, breathe out for eight. Repeat as many times as you can until your heart rate has noticeably slowed. There are many forms of slow breathing or squared breathing, and all are likely to be beneficial to ensure that you use the full range of your lungs to optimise your body’s capacity for stress management through really effective breathing.

Sally is Founder of LifeBuddy, an Organisational Psychologist and Certified Principal Business Psychologist