Practicing mindfulness improves physical and mental health

 
By Staff Writer • Published: November 15th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
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“Living in the moment” isn’t just one philosophy of life. Putting that edict into practice can help ease pain and other symptoms in people with certain physical and mental health problems.

According to a study recently reported in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice, patients who practice what are known as mindfulness techniques generally fare better in treatment than patients who use conventional therapies alone. Mindfulness has been described as the practice of focusing on moment-by-moment experiences. Researchers say patients who adopt mindfulness learn to greet each moment with an attitude of curiosity, openness and acceptance.

In the study, researchers at the University of Utah examined research across many disciplines that has shown the benefits of three mindfulness-based techniques. These included the Buddhist spiritual practice of Zen meditation; a non-religious meditation and yoga method called mindfulness-based stress reduction; and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, which involves spotting and disconnecting from negative thoughts.

The treatments were found to be effective weapons against depression, anxiety and psychological distress. And in healthy people, some mindfulness techniques helped manage stress and improve psychological health and well-being. Other recent research has suggested that these mindfulness practices can improve brain function and structure, which could help explain their benefits to the human psyche.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that researchers found the patients most likely to benefit from the practice of mindfulness are those who are most enthusiastic about giving it a try. Living in the moment, it turns out, just might be the key to happiness.