Posted on Feb 14, 2024

By Laura Cannon 

In our busy modern lives, it can be difficult to slow down, quiet our minds, and focus on the present moment. However, the practice of mindfulness meditation encourages us to do exactly that - and research shows it has a wide variety of health and wellness benefits.

Mindfulness meditation originates from Buddhist spiritual practices, but has become popular in secular contexts as a way to reduce stress, improve emotional regulation, and enhance overall well-being. The core of mindfulness meditation is simple - sit comfortably with your eyes closed, focus on your breathing, and bring your attention continuously back to the present. This deceptively simple practice takes effort and consistency, but ultimately allows us to calm our busy “monkey minds” plagued by distraction and rumination.

Regular mindfulness meditation has been linked to decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol and inflammatory biomarkers that contribute to disease. With less physiological stress and inflammation, mindfulness practitioners often see improvements in conditions influenced by the body’s stress response: high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, chronic pain, anxiety, and depression. The calming effects of the practice promote overall physical and mental health and healing.

Mindfulness meditation also strengthens activity in areas of the brain responsible for executive functioning, working memory, and emotion regulation. With regular practice, we can learn to focus our attention more skillfully, avoid distractions, manage unhelpful emotions, and make clearer, values-based decisions. These cognitive and emotional control benefits translate to better performance and productivity at work, more patience and presence with loved ones, and greater life satisfaction.

Beyond physiological and cognitive impacts, mindfulness meditation also enhances our capacity for mindfulness itself. With training our minds to continually return to the present, we develop the ability to mindfully move through all kinds of daily activities - washing the dishes, walking the dog, brushing our teeth. This grounded, attentive awareness of the mundane makes life richer. Studies show increased mindfulness in everyday life is linked to more positive emotions, life satisfaction, sense of purpose, and healthy self-care.

While mindfulness originates from spiritual roots, secular meditation delivers powerful scientifically-backed benefits to people from all walks of life. The practice allows us to slow down and be present even amidst the frenzy of modern life. With training and dedication, we can lower stress, heal our minds and bodies, enhance our functioning and performance, and infuse ordinary moments with expanded awareness and uplifted mood. The simple act of tuning into our breath delivers a better life.

It can be helpful to practice mindfulness meditation with a certified mindfulness meditation instructor. I invite you to join me every Monday night for a free live mindfulness meditation on Zoom. You can sign up to receive a link here OR if you’d like to work 1:1 you can sign-up for a session here.

Laura's first meditation for The Mindful Movement is now available on YouTube here. And you can see our interview with her here. Welcome Laura!