Mind control: how being mindful can scientifically improve your health

Mindfulness is the big new thing in the world of health and fitness: the art of being actively aware of the present, or being “in the moment”. Shown to improve an incredibly wide range of ailments and diseases, from improving anxiety disorders to slowing HIV, the practice of mindfulness has still been dismissed by many as “just relaxation”. But skeptics, listen up, because science has just found out why it actually does work.

Published in Biological Psychiatry, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have found that practicing mindfulness fundamentally alters your brain’s connectivity patterns, which was shown to reduce the amount of systematic inflammatory marker Interleukin-6 in your body. As inflammation has been conclusively linked to such a vast amount of diseases, it’s no wonder that reducing inflammation through mindfulness can improve your health.

The study compared the effects on stressed adults of a 3-day crash course in mindfulness against a 3-day relaxation course, without the mindful component. What they discovered was that the adults who participated in the mindfulness course had a decreased amount of inflammatory markers in their blood, even up to four months later.

If you want to try mindfulness for yourself, you don’t need to sign up for expensive courses or long retreats — there are plenty of resources online to get you started, and lots different mindfulness practices to suit your brain. You can even try this mindful breathing exercise right now:
  • Take a moment to be still and focus on your breathing. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to make each breath last 4-6 seconds, in and out.
  • As you focus on your breathing, consciously let go of all your thoughts. Think instead about how your breath feels entering and exiting your body, about your chest expanding, and how you move and react to each breath.
That’s it. Well done, you’ve successfully practiced mindfulness!