There is more good news for those of us who practice mindfulness! As you may already know, I have embarked on a course of daily meditation due to the many positive health benefits. As a born-again mindful addict I am going to get all smug now, thanks to interesting research recently released by Brown University.
We should start with defining mindfulness. Normally, we rush around, barely aware of what is going on. Our minds race with a list of things to do and we are oblivious both to our surroundings and to our body. Mindfulness is the opposite of this. When you are being mindful your mind is clear and you are relaxed. You are merely observing what is happening, what you are feeling, what your breath feels like, where you are carrying tension in your body…
Meditation is a method to practice and develop mindfulness. It is often associated with Buddhism but anyone of any faith or none can practice mindfulness. I know I probably haven’t given that impression by choosing a photo of Buddha, but chubby Buddha, mindfulness and obesity just seemed a sight gag too good to pass up!
Mindfulness and Obesity
The study measured physical and psychological health indicators in 399 volunteers. One of these health indicators was blood glucose level. Another was dispositional mindfulness or, how mindful the person was in everyday life. Other indicators included age, sex, race, family history, education level, perceived stress levels, perceived sense of control and a host more. These indicators were taken into account and adjusted for.
So what did they find? Basically, the people who score highest on the scale for mindfulness were significantly more likely to have healthy blood-glucose levels than the others in the study. Unhealthy blood-glucose levels can contribute to conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, the data were not strong enough to determine if mindfulness has an effect on diabetes. The mindful volunteers were 20% less likely to have diabetes but this was not statistically significant. As usual, a larger study needs to take place.
“There’s been almost no epidemiological observational study investigations on the relationship of mindfulness with diabetes or any cardiovascular risk factor. This is one of the first. We’re getting a signal. I’d love to see it replicated in larger sample sizes and prospective studies as well.” – Eric Loucks, assistant professor of epidemiology, Brown University
Of course we can’t say for sure that mindfulness causes healthier blood sugar levels, but the researches think that the practice helps people to feel more in control of their lives. Therefore they are better at making choices that benefit their health.
“This study demonstrated a significant association of dispositional mindfulness with glucose regulation, and provided novel evidence that obesity and sense of control may serve as potential mediators of this association,” – Loucks
Why would mindfulness increase your sense of control? In essence, by practicing mindfulness you are training your brain to disregard distractions, to clear your mind and to concentrate on something simple like your breathing. Regular practice can help ease disruptive emotions and anxiety. Mindfulness is like flexing your focus muscle and meditation is the gym session that strengthens it!
Do you have a good, or bad, experience with mindfulness and meditation? I’d love to hear it!