Habits | Reality Pathing

6 Incredible Health Benefits Of Mindfulness

By Greg Thurston

Creator of Seven Minute Mindfulness

“Mindfulness” is a bit of a buzz word right now, but that doesn’t mean that you should discredit it. Being mindful is one of the best things you can do for your body and mind!

But you might not be sure what it is. Is mindfulness just being more aware? Or does it mean clearing your mind?

Being mindful, in one sense, is like simplifying things. Normally we try to multitask all day, worrying about 20 things while doing 10. That doesn’t work too well.

Being mindful means focusing on the present moment. Being fully here. It allows you to attend to what’s going on right around you and inside you. So it simplifies things because you can just enjoy the present moment.

You can mediate to be more mindful, and you can practice it throughout your day. Whatever you’re doing, give it all of your attention. Be proactive about putting down your other worries and being present in what you’re doing and who you’re with.

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Mindfulness a gift that we don’t give to ourselves much. In fact, our society teaches that we should be getting as much done as possible all the time, which leads to burnout, stress, health problems, and lower productivity.

Mindfulness, on the other hand, offers the opposite, so let’s take a look at all the benefits of mindfulness.

1. Mindfulness reduces stress

Let’s start with the biggie. In today’s world, we really battle stress from all sides.

If we carry around all the things we have to worry about, our mind never gets a break. That’s why so many people are completely burned out, feeling down, and stressed to the point of panic attacks or needing medication.

This kind of worrying steals away any chance of joy or relaxation in our day. You probably know how it goes: you’re sitting at your desk at work, stressed about a deadline, and also about a disagreement with your partner, and some tension you’re feeling with a coworker, and the company party you’re supposed to attend tonight…

Constantly carrying all of these things and feeling continued stress leads to:

  • Restless sleep
  • A racing mind
  • Low energy
  • Feeling irritable
  • Feeing defensive
  • Getting angry easier
  • Panic attacks
  • Constant panic
  • Headaches, body aches, migraines
  • Jaw pain from clenching teeth
  • Tight shoulders and back pain
  • Depression

As you can see, trying to keep everything on your mind leads to all kinds of problems, resulting in lower productivity and even worse things.

We might even feel guilty if we forget to worry about something. Do you ever do that? You’ll finally get absorbed in something and it feels really nice, but then you remember all the things that aren’t resolved, and you feel guilty for letting yourself have a few minutes.

But you need those minutes!

Being mindful and present will allow you to get absorbed in what you’re doing, give it your full attention so you can do better, and you’ll feel more clear and mentally energized.

Your body and brain wasn’t made to handle constant stress. It’s so much healthier to be present and put aside the other pressing thoughts.

Challenge yourself to be mindful in one activity a day: a walk, mediation, making a craft, writing, drawing, singing, or something else you enjoy.

See how it feels to let yourself be fully present with that one thing and not having thoughts about anything else. And then see how you feel the rest of the day.

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2. Mindfulness creates better health

Being mindful and present lowers our stress levels and also centers us, bringing many health benefits.

You might notice that you’re calmer after practicing mindfulness, your head feels more clear and focused, you’re more productive, and more alert.

Being mindful greatly benefits your mind, and that in turn benefits your body and overall health.

People who practice being mindful have higher brain function, an increased immune function, lower blood pressure, lower anxiety levels, and are more calm.

We’ve heard this for years, but experts were talking about meditation and yoga. Both of those are ways to be mindful!

3. Mindfulness decreases depression symptoms

When you decrease stress and improve your health, that can help with depression.

Mindfulness does that and more. It’s been considered an effective part of overall depression treatment for a long time.

Being mindful often helps people see and acknowledge their feelings, and that leads to better coping. Being mindful and let you say, “I see that I’m feeling that way, and that’s okay.”

Being mindful engages the observant self, so you can notice how you’re feeling, and what you’re thinking, but not get completely sucked into those feelings. You can step back and analyze the situation better.

4. Mindfulness increases Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity is one of those fun words (in my opinion) that show you what they mean. Neuro, or brain, plus plasticity, or being flexible.

Think about how plastic can be soft and pliable.

Being mindful helps your brain increase its ability to change and adapt, which is pretty important to our survival even though we’re not back in the caveman era.

In a simple sense, neuroplasticity refers to how our brain grows, learns, and changes. When we change our mind or learn new things, we actually make new pathways.

But this has bigger scientific implications. When someone has a stroke and has to relearn how to walk, they’re actually learning how to re-circuit their brain around the damaged area.

Imagine how much stronger your brain will be if you practice mindfulness and therefore improve neuroplasticity. That’s a huge advantage for dealing with all of life’s curves and for any brain damage you might suffer.

5. Mindfulness helps you deal with illness

Studies have found that mindfulness helps people with cancer and people with chronic illness-even terminal illness.

I can see why being in the moment more would help someone enjoy life day by day. Research has found that mindfulness helps cancer patients reduce stress while relieving fatigue.

For many, mindfulness increases our spirituality and sense of purpose, and it helps people handle their emotions regarding their illness.

Mindfulness can greatly improve life for people with chronic pain, such as low back pain. It helps patients focus on something other than the pain.

6. Mindfulness helps recovery

We’ve seen all the ways mindfulness benefits our mental and emotional health. It also helps us physically when we need to recover from illness.

This is probably due to all the other benefits of being mindful.

We have better focus, we’re less stressed, we feel more at peace, and so we’re happier.

We’ve talked about some big areas where mindfulness helps. To zoom in a bit, here’s a list of more specific ways that being mindful improves our lives:

  • Better mental health
  • Less stress at work
  • Better emotional regulation
  • Less problems with alcohol and drugs
  • Less depression and anxiety
  • Better performance at school and work
  • Better relationships
  • Better self awareness
  • Less burnout
  • Better able to cope with ups and downs
  • More resilience

We’re just healthier when we’re more mindful, because people aren’t really made to multitask 5 things all day long and always worry.

We can benefit from slowing down and enjoying the present moment. Why let other things detract from what you’re doing? You can give those other things your attention in due time.

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Understand Willpower So You Can Use It More Effectively

If you are like me, you have always wished you had more willpower. You constantly set goals or new years resolutions but never stick to anything because you lack the “willpower”.

Here’s a way of understanding willpower that will help you keep these promises to yourself and stay on track.

You Have A Limited Amount Of Willpower Each Day – Be Careful How You Use It

When we really look at willpower we see that it is like a battery that gets drained through each decision we make. This battery is only recharged when we get a good nights sleep. Ever notice how when you don’t get a lot of sleep the night before you have almost zero willpower?

That’s because you never fully let your willpower batteries recharge, among other things of course as sleep does so much more than we are even aware of.

If you know that your willpower is like a battery and drained after every decision you make, what to wear, what to eat, what task to do and the list goes on. Knowing this means we can start structuring our day around when our willpower is at it’s peak, which is first thing in the morning.

For this reason I always try to schedule my important tasks like writing or working on an important project very early on in the day. If I am planning to exercise I also need to do this first thing otherwise it probably isn’t going to happen.

How Grocery Stores Manipulate Your Willpower

A good example of how supermarkets use your willpower against you is their store layout.

When you walk in the first section you normally go through is the healthy produce section. You get all of the things you planned on getting and you start burning through willpower as you make decision on what to get, comparing the prices and choosing the best item.

In a grocery store you have to make so many decisions that you might not be aware of having an effect on you, now you will understand.

Ever feel exhausted after clothes shopping even though all you really did was walk around looking at things?

Let’s go back to the grocery store example.

By the time you finally get to the checkout or the last few isles, you are bombarded with all the unhealthy options that many of us need willpower to resist, that can of coca cola or that chocolate bar look so good as you wait in line to pay for your shopping.

Your willpower has been burnt out and it’s harder than ever to not buy anything even though you would have been perfectly happy if you had just got what you came for, nothing else.

This is also why it’s so important not to shop hungry. You will make terrible decisions almost every time.

How Successful People Protect Their Willpower

If you look at many very successful people you will start to see that they eliminate small everyday decision wherever possible.

They don’t want to waste willpower on things like:

  • Deciding what to eat
  • Deciding what to wear that day
  • Deciding where to put things on their schedule

So they come up with a plan or pay people to do this for them. You don’t need money to do these things, it is just more common to see in people who have money as they are usually more protective of their willpower.

You can come up with a 7 day eating plan and cook things in bulk or at least plan and have all the ingredients organized ready to go in the easiest way possible.

You can buy a few of the exact same outfits to wear everyday so you don’t make these decisions every morning.

I typically have 2 identical pairs of jeans, 1 leather jacket, 1 hoodie, 7 t-shirts, 1 belt, 1 pair of dress shoes, 1 pair of comfy walking shoes and a ton of identical socks and briefs.

Start Planning Your Day Better

If we want to start making better decisions with out willpower we should be putting our most important tasks early in the day and trying to minimise the amount of decisions we make on the basic daily stuff such as what to eat and what to wear.

You especially want to remove decisions that might make you choose something bad, if you are on a diet you don’t want to open the fridge and have to choose between the desert and the salad, do a large sweep and remove all the bad options.

If your most important goal right now is to start exercising and eating healthy, here’s how you would structure your day to make the most of your willpower.

  • Wake up early in the morning and get your exercise in before work.
  • Prepare your meals the night before or even a whole week in advance.
  • Decide what gym clothes you will wear the night before and lay them out so you can wake up and put them on immediately. Also have everything else you will need ready and waiting.

If you think you can plan to go to the gym after work, don’t. Chances are you will not be able to do this consistently unless you LOVE the gym.

You will dread going to the gym all day, stressing you out potentially making you eat worse but more importantly just creating a bad association with the gym because you are constantly thinking negatively about it.

You will be tired, have less willpower and when someone in the office invites you out for drinks after work you have to try choose between that and the gym.

Then if you make it to the gym you’ll get home, most likely exhausted and have to prepare your meals.

If you want to win, stop setting yourself up for failure and start setting yourself up to succeed.

I wake up at 4am because that means I have 5 hours to myself every single day. That’s 5 hours before I need to check emails or social media. 5 hours where I can work on everything that I want to do. I can workout, write articles like this one (it’s 5:39am right now). If I get up at 10am like I used to I lose control of my day completely. Clients will need things done, calling to ask questions and the direction of my day ends up being controlled by everyone else and when I finally get time to myself, I have no energy left to work on my own projects, go to the gym or cook food.

Set yourself up for success.

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How Cold Showers Helped Me Develop More Discipline & Be More Productive

I first started reading about the benefits of cold showers a few years ago while looking for ways to boost my self discipline.

Having a cold shower also seems to have many great health benefits although that’s not what this post is about I will list the common benefits people get from taking a cold shower.

Health Benefits People Have Claimed To Receive

  • Better hair and skin
  • Better blood circulation
  • Immunity boost
  • Stimulates weight loss
  • Helps to relieve stress and depression
  • Helps reduce inflammation in the body

Now I can’t be sure that all those things are 100% true or backed by science as I honestly haven’t done any significant research into the health benefits but it’s a nice bonus that can help you commit to taking them when you really don’t want to.

Do You Take Them For The Health Benefits?

The truth is, I don’t really care about those health benefits and I wouldn’t be motivated to take cold showers for those things alone. Maybe I would take them to help ease my suffering if I had depression. I’m not entirely sure on the science behind how it helps with depression but I know from experience that when you get hit with that cold water you are immediately pulled into the present moment, you are not thinking about the past or the future which means for at least a brief period you are are not focused on feeling depressed.

I remember having depression when I was a young teenager and sometimes there was a brief moment when I woke up that I completely forget I was depressed and I just felt at ease until my brain fully woke up and remembered how bad I feel (have you ever experienced that? – it’s quite bizarre). I think have a cold shower might be very similar to that experience.

Why I Love Taking Cold Showers

I really love taking a cold shower because it’s incredibly difficult and uncomfortable. It is the perfect place to practice your self discipline because you have to take a shower everyday anyway so may as well try and get some benefits from it.

Developing Discipline & Waking Up

More than just developing self discipline it will also wake you up incredibly fast and is perfect to have first thing in the morning. I always tell people it’s like injecting coffee into your blood stream. You can go from barely functioning to WIDE AWAKE in under a minute. This is mostly due to the shock of the cold water but a side benefit is it will make you take really deep breaths.

When you take these deep breaths you are taking in more oxygen which really helps with getting your circulation going and getting ready for the day ahead – this is just one of the reasons exercise in the morning helps invigorate you.

Does It Ever Get Easier

Hmm. Good Question. Yes it does and no it doesn’t.

It gets easier because you build up the discipline to just turn the cold water on and embrace it even though it sucks, the cold water is just as cold and uncomfortable 3 months later as it doesn’t randomly start to feel warmer. However your tolerance is much higher and you stop fighting the urge to get out of the water. Your body will also not be as shocked. You can tell when your body is becoming used to it because you will stop taking such a massive deep breath when the water hits you.

Should I Ease Into This or Just Jump Into Cold Showers From The Start?

I would highly recommend that when you first start out, have your normal hot shower and then at the very end turn off all the hot water for 15 – 60 seconds. This is quite a refreshing thing to do and is definitely more enjoyable than cold water from start to finish.

If you are mainly wanting to use the cold shower to wake up in the morning this would be a great way to go about it.

If you wanted to benefit from developing your self discipline as much as possible then you want to start having completely cold showers as the real test is standing under the shower head and turning on the cold water.

I will quite literally turn on some music and then look at the shower head and say “you’ll never defeat me motherf***er” as I turn the cold water on. This is just my way of telling myself that I will not let something silly like cold water control whether or not I take a shower.

It’s the same thing when you go swimming in the ocean – you try to build up the courage before running into the water and once you do – you embrace the cold.

Another great benefit you’ll find is you will save a lot of money on your water bills because not only will you stop using so much hot water, your shower times will drop down to about 2 – 5 minutes which is about a third of the time I used to take hot showers for (15-20 minutes).

A Strange Benefit I Have Found

This is definitely one of the most unexpected benefits I found.

Remember how it feels getting out of a hot shower on a cold winters day? You might even have a heater in your bathroom so that you don’t feel so cold while you dry yourself off.

When you take a cold shower – you get out of the shower and it feels kinda warm. I no longer feel the need to have any sort of heat in the bathroom – apart from standing on a bathmat as tiles can be really cold.

Every morning I go for a walk and because I wake up at about 4am it’s usually pretty cold outside so I’ll wear a jacket and usually need to keep my hands in my pockets for the first 10 minutes.

After taking cold showers the cold air outside doesn’t seem so bad anymore and I don’t even cover my hands anymore – it just feels refreshing.

I am curious if anyone else experiences that so please leave a comment below and tell me what cold showers do for you.

Thanks for reading, hopefully you got something valuable out of this.

If you would like to start developing more discipline in your life you can join our 30 day challenge here.

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