A Few “Mindful Minutes” a Day Can Transform Your Health

One of my favorite quotes is a Buddhist saying: “The past is gone; the future is not yet here.”

It’s a pretty simple concept to understand. Yet sometimes, I find myself rehashing things that have already happened or worrying about things that haven’t. (Thanks, anxiety…)

Of course, it’s normal (and even helpful) to think about these things.

But spending too much time and energy mulling over the past and future distracts me from the things I actually can control—like my thoughts, my words, or my actions…

I’ll never be able to go back and change what happened yesterday or a few years ago…

But what I do with the here and now does affect my future.

Shifting your focus to the present is the core concept behind a practice called mindfulness.

You may have heard of this before. It’s a pretty hot buzzword in the alternative health universe…

Today, I’m going to explain why this practice is so beneficial to your whole-body health, and how you can work it into your day-to-day routine.

Mindfulness benefits your body

The positive effects mindfulness offers your body and brain are quite remarkable.

The protective brain benefits alone are impressive…

For instance, in a 2016 study, Alzheimer’s patients underwent either mindfulness meditation, cognitive stimulation therapy, relaxation training, or no treatment at all.

After undergoing a series of cognitive tests, researchers found that those in the mindfulness meditation group demonstrated more significant improvement in their scores than any other group.

Mindfulness has also been shown to reduce stress, blood pressure, and risk of heart disease.

In a 2013 study, researchers assigned patients with pre-hypertension (those on the brink of being diagnosed with high blood pressure) to one of two intervention groups.

One group was taught mindfulness meditation, while the other group learned progressive muscle relaxation techniques. At the end of the study, those in the mindfulness group had significantly lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure numbers.

Mindfulness has also been linked to improvements in immune health and slowing cellular aging.

Being “in the moment” also benefits your mind

Additionally, practicing mindfulness offers a wealth of psychological benefits. According to a 2015 meta-analysis involving nearly 8,7000 subjects, researchers found that this practice helped effectively lower stress, anxiety, depression, and pain.

Mindfulness has even been linked to helping those in drug or alcohol recovery, as well as those who suffer from overeating. It’s been shown to help been awareness to physiological cravings—thus helping people better understand and tolerate their cravings, increasing the likelihood of avoiding relapse.

Integrating “mindful minutes” into your regular life

As you can see, you can enjoy an array of substantial health benefits, just by training your mind to focus on where you are and what you’re doing right now.

If you’d like to try practicing mindfulness, here’s one of my favorite short exercises to help you get started:

I like to refer to this as the “stimulate the senses” exercise.

This exercise typically takes about 10 to 15 minutes, but feel free to do it for more or less time—whatever works (and feels) the best for you.

  1. Find a quiet, peaceful place where you can sit or lay comfortably.

  2. Start breathing slowly, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Let your mind go quiet.

  3. Now, direct your awareness to everything that you’re currently experiencing…

    — Start with your sense of sight. Look carefully and inquisitively at your surroundings. Note the exquisite detail in each thing and every thing. Try to see the beauty in all that surrounds you.

    — Next, focus on your sense of hearing. Listen closely to all of the sounds around you. Try to focus on each individual sound for a few seconds. Then shift to listening to everything as a whole—as if it were a big symphony.

    — Third, focus on your sense of smell. What odors do you notice? Can you name the aromas in your head?

    — Last, move on to your sense of touch. What can you physically feel? Are there rays of sunshine warming your skin? Perhaps a light breeze is caressing your cheek?

    Once you’ve gone through your outer surroundings and noted how they feel, focus on how you feel internally.

    Notice your breath moving slowly in and out of your body. What does the fabric touching your skin feel like? How does each part of your body feel?
  4. Now take a few minutes to just sit or lie down in silence. Check in with yourself.

    Do you feel more relaxed? Do you feel more focused on the present moment?

Today’s takeaway is this: Just spending a few “mindful minutes” a day checking in with each of your senses can go a long way in keeping you healthy. (Pictured at the top is the view from my front porch at dusk—one of my favorite places to practice mindfulness.)

So do your mind and body a favor and give yourself the gift of awareness… after all, that’s why it’s called “the present!”

P.S. – I recently produced the Donovan Sound Solution. This audio tool contains several guided mindfulness exercises to help activate your awareness and heal your body from the inside-out. Click here to learn more or to get your very own copy today.

Davis, D. 2012. What are the benefits of mindfulness. July/August. 43(7). Retrieved from: apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner

Suttie, J. (2018). Five Science-Backed Reasons Mindfulness Meditation Is Good for Your Health. Mindful. Retrieved from mindful.org/five-ways-mindfulness-meditation-is-good-for-your-health/.

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About the author

Jim Donovan M.Ed., is a professional musician and educator. He's an Assistant Professor at Saint Francis University where he teaches music and how the power of sound can help you experience a healthier life.