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mindfulnessBy this point, you’ve probably heard something about mindfulness and how it may be beneficial to your health. So what is it? And what it have to do with your mouth?

You might think that mindfulness is some mystical thing that only monks “om-ing” in some far-flung Himalayan cave can achieve. This is simply not true.

It is true that mindfulness and meditation have been practiced by Buddhists for centuries, but you don’t have to be religious to develop mindfulness. You definitely don’t have to be a monk!

So what is it? In short, mindfulness is about focusing your attention on the present moment without judgment, while acknowledging your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. It’s the opposite of how most of us usually go about our days, running on autopilot, multitasking.

Science has shown some real benefits of mindfulness meditation.

Neuroplasticity
If you’re old enough, you may have learned that the brain doesn’t change. Basically, it was thought that the brain was hardwired and, barring a traumatic injury, never changed – certainly not for the better. Yet researchers publishing in the Brain Research Bulletin reported that

a functional reorganization of brain activity patterns for focused attention and cognitive monitoring takes place with mental practice, and that meditation-related neuroplasticity is crucially associated to a functional reorganization of activity patterns in prefrontal cortex and in the insula.

In short, with regular meditation, you can change how these parts of the brain function.

Attention & Focus

A study in NeuroImage found that regular meditation also helps you focus. More, “meditation training improves efficiency, possibly via improved sustained attention and impulse control.”

Anxiety & Depression
In a study involving patients with anxiety and depression, 75% of the participants showed a decrease in their anxiety and depression symptoms after an 8-week weekly meditation program. No one showed an increase in symptoms.

Pain
Several studies, such as this one in Neuroscience Letters, show that mindfulness meditation moderates pain.

But wait! There’s more!

 
The most common way to develop mindfulness is to meditate. Again, you don’t have to be into New Age mysticism or practice an Eastern religion to do this.

One great way to begin is with what’s known as concentration meditation or mindful breathing meditation. Here’s one way such a meditation can go:

 
Just five minutes of this each day can give you the benefits of regular practice.

But you don’t have to stay still to practice mindfulness. Anything you can do, you can do mindfully and continue to develop your practice – even something as simple as brushing and flossing your teeth.

As you brush or floss, think only about brushing or flossing. How does the brush feel in your hand as you move it around your mouth? How does the floss feel around your fingers? Moving up and down and around the sides of your teeth? What sensations do you feel? Focus on the teeth and the brush or floss.

By staying in the present moment, you don’t think about what you should have said in the meeting earlier in the day. And you’re not planning your grocery list either.

And with an increased focus on your task at hand, your teeth and gums will thank you!

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