Every year on October 10, World Mental Health Day is recognised around the globe. This international event, created by the World Health Organization, promotes education and awareness of issues related to mental wellbeing.
Today, we’re more attuned than ever to the importance of taking care of our mental wellness. From specific psychological issues to coping with the daily stresses modern life can bring, mental wellbeing is a topic that touches us all. The past few years have brought huge global challenges, from the pandemic to wars, conflicts and environmental instability. This can have a detrimental effect on our sense of safety and wellbeing, fuelling stress, depression, fear and anxiety.
Yet, thankfully, there are resources that can help. We live in uncertain times. But by consciously supporting our mental health, we are better equipped to deal with all that we face. And not only are we more able to cope with life’s ups and downs, but we can also actively promote a positive and vibrant inner state that enables us to thrive.
The psychological benefits of mindfulness meditation
Taking care of our mental wellness requires a 360-degree approach. Exercise, a healthy diet, spending time in nature, nourishing social connections and therapeutic support where needed all play a part.
Alongside these, mindfulness meditation is also scientifically proven to be a powerful and valuable resource. It’s shown to have a whole host of benefits for our mental, physical and emotional health. Here are just some of the ways that meditation can support psychological wellbeing.
Reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety
Research has shown that a regular practice of mindfulness meditation can help to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Other studies support these findings, showing that mindfulness helps to decrease depression and anxiety by reducing worry and rumination and promoting emotional regulation.
Boosts capacity to cope with stress
Sustained practice of mindfulness meditation supports us to deal more effectively with stress. Studies show that after an eight-week course of mindfulness meditation, the amygdala – a part of the brain integral to our stress response – reduces in density, in line with reported reductions in stress. Training our minds to be in a state of present-moment awareness is also shown to enhance our ability to adapt more effectively to experiencing daily stressors.
Increases healthy cognitive functions
As well as reducing the symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety, mindfulness mediation actively boosts healthy neural structures. Research has found that after an eight-week course of mindfulness meditation, the concentration of grey matter increases in areas of the brain connected to learning and memory processes, emotional regulation, self-referential processing and perspective taking. These help to create a balanced psychological state and enable us to deal with life with greater objectivity, skill and resilience.
Promotes relaxation and calm
Mindfulness meditation is a great way to promote relaxation. By reducing the stimulation of our sympathetic nervous system (connected to our fight-or-flight survival mode) and increasing the activation of our parasympathetic ‘rest and digest’ mode, it helps us to feel calmer and more peaceful. This supports us to have a clearer mind throughout the day, and can also help us to sleep better at night.
Enhances quality of life
Training our minds to become more connected to the present moment, rather than wandering or ruminating, is proven to bring greater happiness and improved quality of life. Learning to be less in our thoughts and more aware of the present helps us to distance ourselves from negative emotions and feel better in the moment. It also enables us to respond and adapt more effectively to challenging situations, taking advantage of the possibilities inherent within them. And it puts us in touch with the beauty of life, helping us to savour each moment and feel more alive, joyful and content.
Improving wellness with meditation
In all of these ways, mindfulness meditation is a highly effective tool for supporting mental wellbeing. By promoting a healthy and regulated internal state, it helps us to live from a place of greater inner peacefulness and calm. This enables us to better manage our emotions and alleviates feelings of stress and depression. Meditation helps us to respond more fluidly and flexibly to whatever life brings our way, no matter how challenging it may be. And it invites us to become more aware of all the rich textures and possibilities of our experience, and to enjoy our lives to the fullest.