We live in a very chaotic world and it appears that it is becoming more demanding and isolating every single day. Depression is increasing and it is set to become the biggest disease burden to mankind by the year 2020.
According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, depression will affect about 121 million people worldwide, b y the year 2020. The condition is projected to reach second place in the ranking of Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALY) calculated for all ages.
Quite simply, we need a better way to manage these issues. Research shows that mindfulness is one of the ways to treat mental illness and improve our psychological health. It can help people to thrive in a constantly demanding world.
Rewiring The Brain
Research published by Harvard University has suggested that practising mindfulness improves our ability to direct our attention by allowing us to be able to focus on the moment. Focussing on the moment leaves us less open to distraction by worries, rumination and anxieties.
This is almost certainly the result of neuroplastic change. In other words, the brain literally rewires itself to be happier. Previous research has suggested that practising mindfulness increases the grey matter in the frontal cortex, the area responsible for attention.
Mindfulness has also been shown to reduce activity in the amygdala — which is responsible for anxiety and fear. It also reduces activity in the default mode network, which is responsible for rumination and worry.
People who are able to stay focussed are also able to remain compassionate even in difficult circumstances.
But you may be wondering, why is all this important?
Benefits of Mindfulness
Mindfulness has been shown to be an effective, non-invasive and side effect free method to treat and prevent mental illness.
In fact, mindfulness is so important that Dr Neil Bailey, from the Monash Alfred Psychiatry research centre at Monash University in Australia has stepped up a campaign to convince policy makers that mindfulness should be part of the core curriculum in high schools.
It can play a leading role in helping young people to manage depression and reduce anxiety. This means they can look forward to a more peaceful and calm future.
Last year, Dr Bailey obtained a grant to fund his study into whether experienced meditators are able to maintain concentration during periods of distress. The aim of the study is to enhance our understanding of how mindfulness improves mental health, and potentially provide a more targeted approach to the treatment of specific illnesses.
Despite a growing body of evidence highlighting the benefits of mindfulness, many people remain unaware of its benefits. It is often placed firmly in the ‘new age’ category without a second thought. Yet if something so simple, non-invasive and beneficial, has such a wide range of benefits, then it makes sense to adopt it as part of our daily practice.
Even if the only thing you end up experiencing is a little bit of peace and relaxation — that’s worth its weight in gold in a word as stressful and hectic as ours.