What if the whole time we are sweating it out on the treadmill, throwing in extra deadlifts whenever we can, and loading up on green smoothies because they actually taste a whole lot better than they look, we were missing out on a crucial aspect of a healthy lifestyle? New research points to the fact that the mind may just be even more critical to the achievement of our ultimate bodies than we previously thought.
The Science of Mindfulness
Mindfulness can be defined as the state of being fully aware of our actions, surroundings and ourselves, while not being negatively impacted or obsessed with external influences. Researchers in a recent study derived four key components to mindfulness, namely consciousness of the self, control over thought, consciousness of the physical body, and control over our emotional state.
Basically, it helps us to be in control over our own reactions to situations within our daily lives. A recent study by Ellen R. Abertson and fellow researchers reviewed body image in women who received mindfulness training; these participants had far reduced unhappiness with their physical appearance, far greater sense of worthiness, and the effects were maintained over a three month period.
This is especially significant in today’s times when body positivity is one of the crucial issues facing women all over the world. However, one great way to boost our love and appreciation for our bodies is through exercise, after all the pride that comes from completing an intense workout is second to none and mindfulness aids through multiple ways.
One of the main ways mindfulness can enhance your workouts is through reducing your likelihood of becoming distracted. In a study from Harvard, participants who underwent an eight week mindfulness program were far more able to regulate a brain wave known as the alpha rhythm, resulting in better overall focus.
Being mindful during your physical training can also enhance the quality of your workout experience. By diminishing the likelihood of injury, you’re a lot less likely to drop the bar, if you’re not attempting to dance while performing a deadlift. Secondly, the complete and utter focus on your body during your workout results in you having a far more effective workout than when coupled with outside influences.
According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sports Psychology, athletes who practiced mindfulness training were more inspired to maintain their workout schedules and had higher reported levels of personal pride in their workouts than the control group.
A further list of the advantages associated with those who practice mindfulness is as follows; restructuring of the brain into a more positive manner, enhanced performance of the immune system, a decrease in heart rate along with a coincidental fall in blood pressure. Further mental effects can include reduced levels of anxiety, better decision-making, and reduced feelings of loneliness.
Becoming More Mindful
One of the great things about mindfulness is that you can start right now, sit down, and look at the present for what it is. The goal is not to empty the mind but to simply let things be as they are. The next step is to allow your internal judgments to appear. Simply acknowledge them and then let them go. Attempt to continually return to the present, while not bearing any negativity to yourself for the fact that your mind inevitably wanders.
When working out, the process is fairly straightforward. First off, set an intention before each and every session. An example would be to finish the really intense HIIT workout or to push myself to 100% for as long as possible. Secondly, reflect on why you are working out in the first place, what made you lace up your sneakers anyway.
Next, take the full amount of time for your workout and really focus on your movements, your breath, your various muscles and your posture. Fourth, please don’t forget to breathe and finally, make sure to cool down, stretch and smile, because you just achieved an amazing workout.
Mindfulness changes everything in that it allows us to really focus and become aware of ourselves, our bodies and our reactions to things. Mindfulness is a fantastic tool that we should incorporate into our existing repertoire of health tricks, from eating at home and fitting in the extra workout on the weekends to having an indulgence because there is nothing as good as a reward for the soul.
Relaxation is an integral part of people’s daily lives. Sarah wants to teach and share how she achieved a relaxed and calm lifestyle by sharing techniques and information on her blog Relax Everyday.