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Mindfulness Enhances Mental Health

Brief moments of mindfulness may enhance mental health

By Melissa Dowd, Therapy Lead, PlushCare | May 10, 2023 | 5 min read

Self-care is not a new term, but it’s become a novel and wildly popular phenomenon. For years, mental health experts have understood the importance of habits and activities that can help improve a person’s overall well-being. Now, millions of non-medical professionals are discovering those benefits for themselves. A recent study found that 50% of people in the U.S. consider wellness a top priority in their daily lives. [1] In addition, a rapidly growing number of people are realizing that self-care can play a significant role in their mental health support and overall well-being. [2]  

Research shows a connection between mental health and meditation

A variety of studies have shown that meditation, one form of self-care, can positively affect mental health conditions. [3] Related reports present evidence that mindfulness techniques may help with anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. [4] Though many of the research findings are from the past few decades, practitioners have known about meditation’s benefits for thousands of years. As open and honest mental health discussions increase and negative attitudes toward mental health struggles decrease, more people in the modern world have also come to see meditation’s value in their lives.  

Meditation can help improve your overall quality of life

Meditating is a mind and body practice that involves calm consideration of a subject or object. In short, it involves thinking deeply about something — or, in some cases, nothing — to become more in tune with yourself or the surrounding world. This practice can help promote relaxation, improve focus and mood, impact emotions and even increase self-awareness. It can also change how you react to stress, handle anxiety and manage negative feelings. [5]  

The types of meditation and reasons for meditating vary

There are a number of breathing and thoughtfulness techniques, and some may fit better with your skills or existing knowledge. Having an idea about the diverse kinds — and getting help from apps, videos and books — can help you decide which may be best. Here are just a few types:  

  • Meditative walking: Taking a walk can do more than boost cardiovascular wellness. When a person walks in a thoughtful manner and focuses on how they move, they can enhance self-awareness and attention. Research shows that walking and relaxation exercises during the workday can also improve concentration, reduce fatigue and increase well-being. [6]   

  • Loving kindness: This meditation technique is about directing positive energy and kindness to oneself and then allowing those feelings to radiate to other people. Studies show that this type of meditation can have positive effects on feelings of empathy and communication abilities. [7]  

  • Focused attention: When people think of meditation, they likely imagine this type. That’s because it’s straightforward and uses breathing as the object on which the practitioner focuses their mind. Then, if thoughts start to wander, the meditator simply returns to concentrating on breathing.  

  • Mental noting: This method of meditation is slightly different than focused attention. It still involves focusing on an object or intention. However, when a person’s mind wanders, they make note of the thought or feeling, let it go and return to their focus.  

  • Visualization: Instead of focusing on breathing or walking, for instance, this mindfulness practice requires concentrating on an image — mental or physical. By using a specific visual cue, the person can pay attention to their thoughts and focus on physical sensations.  

While there are similarities between types of meditation, and even other forms of self-care, their effectiveness can vary from person to person. This means that while your best friend or significant other may find themselves feeling incredibly refreshed after a meditative walk, you may find it pointless. That’s a perfectly fine reaction.   

The goal of meditation is to find what works best for you. Getting there may include performing research, talking to a healthcare provider or connecting with a friend who already has a yoga, prayer or breathwork practice.  

Understanding the benefits that meditation can provide

While there are many kinds of meditation, they all have the power to offer benefits that can be helpful to people struggling with mental conditions. The following highlights some of the potential advantages of meditation:   

  • Reduce stress and anxiety levels: Meditating can help calm the mind and body. This can increase the coping mechanisms at hand for people struggling with stress, anxiety or other mental health conditions. [8]  

  • Improve the ability to focus: Studies show that meditation can calm the mind, improve the ability to focus, enhance working memory and boost executive function. [9]  

  • Boost mood and emotional control: Meditating can help people focus their thoughts, which can help improve emotional awareness and control. [10]    

Meditation can offer many benefits and improve both mental and physical health. This, of course, requires finding a form of meditation that works for your needs and gives you an enjoyable experience.  

Including meditation as a part of overall mental health support

Meditation can help you manage your emotions and learn to cope with feelings of anxiety. While it is not a mental health quick fix, it can — with a long-term approach and healthcare professional guidance — become a significant piece of your mental health puzzle. [11]   

As society continues to embrace the need for and value of mental health services, it’s important for employers to offer access to an integrated solution. Accolade and our trusted partners, Headspace Health and Lyra, offer mental health support options that ensure employees get the help that is right for them. Want to learn more? Contact an Accolade representative.  

[1] https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/consumer-packaged-goods/our-insights/still-feeling-good-the-us-wellness-market-continues-to-boom

[2] https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/2022/03/how-and-why-to-practice-self-care/

[3] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/1809754

[4] https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation-and-mindfulness-what-you-need-to-know

[5] https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/how-meditation-helps-with-depression

[6] https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Focp0000083

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8069630/

[8] https://www.headspace.com/meditation/stress

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6088366/

[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6795685/

[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2719544/

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