Mindfulness: Why it’s Crucial to Your Health and Wellness Program
Addressing overall health and wellness is not something that happens overnight. Moment by moment, we gather information about what it means to embody health. Over time, we can make small but compounding shifts in habits and mindset through mindfulness that enhance our energy, vitality, clarity, and other markers of health.
With vast amounts of information, opinions, and conflicting claims on what is said to be the ‘best’ approach to health and wellness, committing to a wellness plan can feel overwhelming.
As we turn toward experts, we often find we’re still lacking many of the answers. Sometimes that’s because we forget to look within.
This practice helps address our current state of health and wellbeing in a more nuanced way. The practice of mindfulness makes it easier to realize we are not our thoughts and thus, allows us to more easily filter information that might otherwise be overwhelming.
As we explore mindfulness, which is compassionate and non-judgmental awareness held moment to moment, we start to understand that wellness can embody shades of grey.
We start to sense that things might be more complex than they seem, but at the same time, perhaps they are easier to navigate than we might think.
There are numerous reasons to incorporate mindfulness into any wellness plan. Here are some of the ways mindfulness practice can help with in relation to nutrition, exercise, and any other lifestyle modifications we take on.
Mindfulness Addresses Subtle Factors Of Health and Wellness
When we explore our experience mindfully, we tune in more attentively to various cues in mind and body that help us to dig beneath the surface of our current challenges. For instance, we might start to notice:
- Emotions that underlie particular cravings or behaviors
- Recurring thoughts and beliefs that hold us back from making change
- Unconscious eating habits, such as distracted or rushed eating
- Previously unrecognized personal preferences and needs, such as energy peaks, sleep meditation to optimize our sleeping cycles, activity preferences, etc
Mindfulness of our emotions helps us to take pause before engaging in habits that no longer serve us.
As we start to observe these more subtle patterns within our daily lives, we start tapping into underlying thoughts and beliefs that direct our habitual behaviors. We often overlook these things because we simply don’t notice them in the absence of mindfulness.
Things like energy levels, the role of stress and emotions on our eating habits become more obvious once we start to be mindful. Once noticed, addressing these factors unlock new insights that fuel growth.
Self-awareness is enhanced through mindfulness practice and we become better able to make choices that are aligned with this deepening understanding.
Mindfulness Personalizes Your Wellness Journey
While following clear-cut guidelines about how to move and what to eat might work for some people, individual needs are more complex. Mindfulness helps us to look beneath the surface of general advice and prescriptive thinking.
Mindfulness can help with changing behaviors through self-inquiry. For example, how does my body react to this or to that, what type of physical activity makes the most sense for me right now, and what are my unique needs in this moment are all questions that help define your personal wellness journey.
These points of inquiry through mindfulness practice help us to honor that we are each unique. Our needs might change from day to day or from year to year. What works for some might not work for another. Mindfulness practice helps us to better understand what works for us personally, in this moment.
Mindfulness For Mental Health and Wellness
Stress, conditioned thoughts and beliefs, and recurring emotions have an underestimated influence on our sense of wellbeing and in our ability to make changes.
Stress weakens the immune system, increases risk of cardiovascular disease, reduces sex drive and fertility, and negatively impacts mental health. It also weakens the adrenals, leading to chronic fatigue that makes ‘change’ that much harder. Various mindfulness practices help to address these factors. (citations please)
Mindfulness of the breath helps to lower the stress response, which balances out our hormones. Since our hormones play a role in our energy levels, our sleep cycle, our eating habits, and countless other facets of life.
Mindfully easing the stress response has both a direct and indirect effect on our health and wellness.
Not only does the practice help us to feel calmer and more content in the moment, but it also helps to create mental clarity from which we can make changes.
Mindfulness to Foster Self-Love
Adopting and leaving behind new habits takes time. Creating lasting change is most effective when we’re kind and patient towards ourselves as we explore this new and often uncomfortable terrain.
Self-compassion practices and other loving-kindness exercises help us to honor and compassionately hold the pain that might arise as we let go of old ways of being.
Rather than denying or becoming consumed by our growing pains, mindfulness offers us a way of honoring our experience without letting it weigh on us for longer than is due.
Mindfulness helps us find balance as we acknowledge:
This is challenging, but it does not define me. I can experience this feeling without becoming it.
Mindful Eating Helps Recognize Unhealthy Food Habits
When we look specifically at our food habits, mindful eating plays a large role in shifting our behavior and enhancing self-awareness.
Mindful eating allows us to notice and experience:
- Emotions related to food habits
- The speed at which a meal is consumed
- Presence or absence of distraction while eating
- The way foods feel for both mind and body
- The colors, textures, and aromas of food
- The journey food takes from farm to fork
All of these insights help us to compassionately and curiously consider what goes on when we eat certain things. Later, mindfulness allows us to recognize how we feel after eating.
By enhancing our awareness in this way, we begin feeling more empowered to make choices that are aligned with our aspirations for ultimate wellness.
Pairing mindfulness with any wellness program will allow the program to be more successful. This practice helps us to gain a better sense of what works for us and what doesn’t, as well as what we need to be truly well on a more subtle level.
Addressing the present moment experience and underlying thoughts, feelings, and emotions empowers us to make sustainable change.