Improved ability to cope with stress: In addition to perceiving less stress, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course graduates are less likely to react to potentially stressful events with unhealthy spikes in blood pressure. They also enjoy relief from stress-related insomnia.
Better ability to manage chronic pain and reduced reliance on painkillers: Worrying can amplify physical pain. Mindful awareness of bodily sensations—and associated thoughts and emotions—helps us appreciate how they change, notice how they interact and recognize body parts that feel fine.
Enhanced management of eating disorders: In preliminary studies, mindfulness promotes self-acceptance, countering negative body image. Awareness of emotions and thoughts about eating can spark insight into unhealthy patterns and hone an ability to regulate emotional eating.
Prevention of relapse after treatment for substance abuse disorders: Mindfulness practice seems to help recovering addicts cope with cravings and negative emotions.
Reduced fatigue in the face of illness: Anxiety and a sense of time pressure are exhausting—learning to relax and become aware of counterproductive thoughts enhances energy.
Improved attention: When you’re only doing one thing at a time, it’s easier to attend to salient information. Brain scans of experienced meditators show improved blood flow to areas required for concentration and attention.
Improved mood and self-esteem: Studies document reductions in anxiety, depression and anger among people coping with stroke, heart disease and cancer.
Reductions in anxiety and recurrence of depression: Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, which combines MBSR with elements of cognitive behavioral therapy, has been shown to nearly halve the risk of depression recurrence—on par with antidepressant treatment. It also helps people with various anxiety disorders.
Relief from insomnia: A 2014 study of Canadian cancer survivors with insomnia showed improved sleep. A 2011 study concluded that MBSR worked as well as prescription medication in improving chronic insomnia.
Relief from numerous ailments: People suffering from chronic conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis and post-traumatic stress disorder see improved quality of life and symptom management.
Read Mindfulness 101: Live in the Present Moment to start living in the present moment.
Linda B. White is a doctor and the author of Health Now: An Integrative Approach to Personal Health and the coauthor of 500 Time-Tested Home Remedies and the Science Behind Them.