Mindfulness, the practice of focusing all your attention on the present moment, has long been associated with relaxation and stress-relief. In a world with an increasing number of distractions mindfulness can help clear the mind and focus your attention. By concentrating on your own breathing, body and thoughts as they enter and leave your mind, you can remove all pressures and judgements attached to these thoughts. Whilst mindfulness is often associated with meditation, it can also be practised through yoga, and whilst walking or eating.

Mindfulness relaxes us by reducing our levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the blood. Regular mindfulness practiced three times a week will lead to increased gyrification – in other words, the formation of more folds – in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with higher executive functions. These extra folds will help the brain enhance its performance when carrying out these functions, which will have an impact on the brain’s ability to think flexibly and creatively and make good decisions.

Fascinating research conducted on U.S. Marines showed that just 15 minutes of mindfulness a day for eight weeks helped soldiers overcome, stress, depression and insomnia, helping them perform better on the field of battle. Whilst most people won’t find themselves on a battle field, mindfulness will help improve focus when confronted with day-to-day tasks, for example when giving a presentation, switching between tasks and being resilient when faced with stress.

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