The Health Benefits of Living a Mindful Life

yoga

Today’s blog post is written by Rachel O’Conner, a San Diego-based freelance writer who covers issues ranging from health care and technology to education and lifestyle topics. The views expressed are her own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of WPS Health Insurance or its affiliates.

Are you living mindfully? Probably not, because the vast majority of Americans are overworked, don’t sleep enough, and think they always have to be busy and multitasking. It’s impossible for almost everyone to actually multitask, and all this jumping around (literally and figuratively) has led to a spiritual malady. If you don’t live a mindful life, you may end up needing to fill that void with things like alcohol, drugs, binge eating, or technology addictions.

Increasingly, our spiritual health is being considered part of our overall, holistic well-being. You don’t need to be a person of faith to realize your spiritual health. We have physical, emotional, mental, and social health, too. It’s all part of the same machine—us—and caring for all aspects of our health is vital to a healthy, happy life.

Unfortunately, we live in a space where accumulation of stuff is the marker for success. The accumulation of successes is becoming just as dangerous. Everyone wants to have the most degrees, awards, accolades, and pats on the back. By chasing things and validation, we’re putting control of our happiness and self-esteem into the hands of others. At the same time, we’re blocking out everything that actually makes life worth living: quality time, tech-free, with people we love; the natural world around us and the appreciation of all its beauty; healthy, joyful movement; and a quiet mind where we can focus on one thing at a time.

The benefits of living a mindful life are many. Every part of our well-being will be nurtured, starting with the physical. Mindfulness, such as pranayama or meditation, has been linked to lower heart rates, lessening of depression and anxiety, and easing of symptoms of eating disorders. Our mental health is directly tied to our spiritual and physical health. That’s why yoga has been recommended for virtually every mental, emotional, and spiritual malady.

Mindfulness also gives us back our concentration. We can enjoy more fruitful conversations and a deeper appreciation of the arts. We can lose ourselves in books again. When we go for a walk, we’re not going over to-do lists (or, when we do, we acknowledge that and let it go). Instead, we can focus on the grandeur of the world around us that’s been dismissed for technology and other distractions. When’s the last time you took in the beauty of a tree as you traversed a nearby trail? When is the last time you literally stopped and smelled the flowers?

By living a mindful life, all our senses are heightened. We come back to ourselves, and we’re better people for ourselves and those around us. We’re better children, partners, friends, and parents. We become better teachers and students (not necessarily just in the formal settings). We’re the better version of us and have the capacity to experience life more fully.

It’s unclear where this drive to consume and achieve came from, but it’s relatively new. Our ancestors even a century ago certainly didn’t have easy times, but they had focus. They had goals and dreams that didn’t include working around the clock. Since this mindset is so new, it’s impossible to know the full fallout. However, we do know that between 2014 and 2015, age-adjusted death rates increased for heart disease, chronic lower respiratory diseases, unintentional injuries, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and suicide. We’re in the midst of an opioid epidemic. Mindful living won’t solve all of this, but it’s a good start. Why not start with yourself and gift yourself a life of mindful living—of living in the present?

For more information, visit the online Health Center at wpshealth.com and search for “mindfulness.”

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