Mindfulness meditation can reduce stress, increase energy, and improve focus.
But have you ever wondered how?
It’s well-known that mindfulness can strengthen the brain, but according to emerging research, there’s also a strong link between mindfulness and mitochondria (the energy factories of your cells).
Exactly how mindfulness boosts mitochondria may surprise you, but more on that later…
HINT: mitochondrial dysfunction is one of the biggest signs of aging!
Here’s how to enhance your health with mindfulness and mitochondria.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a type of meditation where you observe your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgement.
Can you be fully present and in the now?
It might be hard at first, but developing mindfulness is well-worth the effort.
In the midst of a hectic, fast-paced life, your brain is constantly forced to switch gears.
Mindfulness, however, can help you stop fighting and go with the flow.
When you’re mindful, you’ll feel every hug and taste every bite. Smells are fuller. Sounds are sharper.
Your thoughts flow through you, and as you watch them float by, you draw one more breath.
Mindfulness can help you cope with pressure, heavy work loads, and sickness.
When times get tough, mindfulness can be your rock.
What makes mindfulness so effective?
As it turns out, mindfulness strengthens the body and brain at a subcellular level, and it starts with the mitochondria.
What Are Mitochondria?
Mitochondria are specialized parts of cells that perform a variety of functions, but their main job is to produce energy.
First, they extract energy from electrolytes.
Next, they use that energy to make adenosine triphosphate (ATP): the energy currency of cells.
Finally, your body uses ATP in a process called cellular respiration.
And viola! You’re a lean, mean, energized machine.
Why Are Mitochondria So Important?
Do you want to live a long, healthy life?
Then you should care deeply about your mitochondria.
90 percent of the ATP in the human body is made by, you guessed it, the mitochondria.
Without ATP, you can suffer from low energy and poor cognition.
Don’t let your cells run out of fuel!
Instead, boost your mitochondria with mindfulness.
But that’s just the beginning…
Mitochondrial fitness also supports every system in the body and slows aging.
Healthy mitochondria are essential to…
Generation of free radicals
Apoptosis, or apoptotic cell death, is when the body recycles cells before they can mutate and cause disease.
All-in-all, healthy mitochondria protect against…
Eventually, everyone has to deal with aging cells, but by boosting your mitochondria you can age better.
The Powerful Effects of Mindfulness and Mitochondria
One of the best ways to boost mitochondria is with mindfulness.
Here are a few of the profound effects of mindfulness and mitochondria:
1. Triggers the Relaxation Response
Does it seem like you always feel stressed, anxious, or on edge?
If so, you’re mitochondria are probably hurting too.
Psychological stress can have a profound impact on mitochondria and physical health. (1)
For example, stress can change the structure of your mitochondria by elevating stress hormones. (2)
Luckily, mindfulness can trigger the body’s relaxation response, reduces stress hormones, and protect the mitochondria. (3)
2. Changes Gene Expression
Regular mindfulness meditation can turn on genes that support healthy mitochondria.
In the end, this can lead to changes in energy metabolism, insulin, and inflammation.
In a 2013 study at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, mindfulness effectively changed the gene profiles of 26 volunteers. (4)
Participants learned a 10-20 minute mindfulness routine and performed it every day for eight weeks.
Groups of beneficial genes became more active, and harmful ones became less active.
The healthy genes had the following effects:
Improved mitochondrial function
Reduced blood sugar
Stabilized DNA that slows aging
At the same time, mindfulness turned off genes that cause inflammation: the root cause of most disease.
In fact, chronic inflammation can contribute to autoimmune disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, insomnia, chronic pain, anxiety, and depression.
Plus, mindfulness meditation’s effects on blood sugar and insulin may reduce the risk of diabetes. (5)
As a result, mindfulness has become a common treatment for many chronic conditions.
3. Increases Healing Emotions
Negative emotions like anger and fear can trigger the stress response.
However, a bigger problem is that when you’re experiencing negative emotions, you can’t experience positive ones.
That’s too bad, because going to bed with positive emotions can boost mitochondrial health.
Sleep is the time when mitochondria remove waste and recharge.
According to a 2018 clinical trial, being in a good mood before bed bed is linked to healthier mitochondria. (6)
But the power of healing emotions doesn’t stop here…
Mindfulness is also one of the best ways to develop compassion: the ability to love yourself and others.
Compassion has evolutionary advantages because it strengthens your ability to communicate.
This is great news, because when stress affects your mitochondria, it can damage the immune, endocrine, and nervous systems.
How To Practice Mindfulness
If you can train your mind to focus on the present moment, you can practice mindfulness.
Believe it or not, you’ve probably already practiced mindfulness without even knowing it.
Have you ever danced for hours at a concert?
Or maybe you were so into a game that you completely lost track of time.
In fact, you can use those experiences to help you practice intentional mindfulness.
Think back to how you felt at those times, completely in flow and in the moment, and use it to keep you grounded.
Here’s how to make mindfulness as smooth as possible:
Mindfulness Habits for Success
Before you start meditating, it’s important to lower your expectations for what may or may not happen.
Some new practitioners report life-changing stress reduction in a matter of weeks.
Others have bonafide spiritual experiences.
However, most people experience gradual, deeply-rooted change over the course of months and years.
There’s no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness, but the following habits should set you up for success:
1. Learn proper posture:
Mindfulness can be practiced sitting cross-legged, kneeling, or laying down.
In fact, when you’re good at it, you should be able to practice mindfulness walking around.
However, when you’re first starting out, it’s important to sit or lay in a comfortable position and align your spine.
Relax, breathe deeply, and envision a string pulling on the top of your head.
Full-body awareness is key to the practice of mindfulness, but more on that later…
2. Choose a meditation sanctuary
Always meditate in the same place.
Some people like to make a small shrine with candles and pictures of loved ones to help them get in the right headspace.
However, the only thing that’s necessary is comfortable spot where you feel safe and at ease.
Preferably, it should be quiet as well.
After a few sessions, the space itself should start to trigger your mindfulness brain.
3. Pick a time
Morning mindfulness can be a great way to set the tone for the day.
But if you prefer, there’s nothing wrong with meditating in the evening too.
No matter what, pick a time with the fewest distractions.
At the same time, make sure that you’re fully alert. It’s meditation time, not nap time, and you’d be surprised how easy it is to doze off when you’re exhausted.
4. Put together a daily meditation routine
Now it’s time to put all of these elements together into a consistent daily routine.
Ultimately, mindfulness should be a reflex rather than something you have to work for.
In order to help you do that, all of the components should be predetermined.
Meditation is an exercise for your mental muscles—the more you do it, the easier it will get.
Each meditation should be at least 10 minutes long.
If you want, try doing a short session in the morning and evening.
Whatever you decide, pick something you know you can be consistent with.
Once you have a couple weeks under your belt, go ahead and push yourself to meditate for longer periods.
5 Underlying Principles of Mindfulness
In the daily grind, it’s easy to get used to denying your true feelings.
After all, acknowledging your back pain, the chirping birds, and the wind in your hair isn’t going to help you meet that deadline.
At the same time, it’s easy to develop subconscious defense mechanisms.
When it comes down to it, the world can be a threatening place, and underlying fears can lead to close-mindedness and impatience.
But thankfully, you can overcome these tendencies with these core principles of mindfulness:
Open-mindedness: look at your new meditation practice (and the world) through a new lense. Mindfulness is an opportunity to see the world in a new light. But in order to do that, you can’t let past experiences cloud the present moment.
Patience: chances are, mindfulness will be a long, fruitful journey. It might not happen instantly, but your mind and mitochondria will change over time.
Trust: we live in a logical world, but mindfulness can teach you to reconnect with your intuition, trust others, and embrace uncertainty.
Acceptance: the past is the past, and holding onto regrets is a self-destructive habit. Mindfulness can help you let go and live in the now.
Embracing imperfection: you will never be “perfect” at mindfulness—it’s always a work in progress. Knowing that, give yourself permission to be flawed.
3 Steps to Mindfulness Meditation
Are you ready to take action, be mindful, and transform your mitochondria one meditation at a time?
These instructions are your permission to stop problem-solving your life, and to start living it.
Ironically, by letting go and being mindful, you’ll probably solve more problems faster (and health will skyrocket).
When it’s finally time to start meditating, here’s how:
1. Set Your Intention
Step #1 is to decide what benefits you want to take away from your session.
Why are you meditating in the first place? Answer that question each time before you begin.
Maybe you’re meditating to strengthen your relationships or to be more productive at work?
Defining your “why” will help you stay anchored when your mind starts wandering.
As you drift, gently remind yourself why you’re here and return to the present.
2. Start By Relaxing the Body
Step #2 is to relax every inch of your body.
Unfortunately, meditation can hurt sometimes, especially if you have chronic aches and pains.
However, you can’t let that stop you from pursuing mindfulness.
After all, your mitochondria need you!
Starting at the crown of the head, focus on each part of your body one at a time, recognize any tension, and then release.
All the while, maintain a focus on your breath.
By the time you scan every inch of your body, you should be solidly rooted in the present.
3. Embrace Your Feelings and Senses
Step #3 is to let the emotions, smells, sounds, and sensations of the moment flow through you.
Experience them as if you’re watching a vivid movie.
What’s happening exactly?
Is there a car horn in the distance? Someone yelling in the driveway? A barking dog?
Does a certain smell stir up old childhood memories?
Mindfulness is the art of observing and being aware—that is all.
Your mind will be tempted to drift into the past or future, but don’t give in! Stay in the present.
The health of your mitochondria and the quality of your life depends on it.
If you’d like more advice about mindfulness and mitochondria, feel free to contact us at Complete Care Health Centers.
We’re happy to answer any questions you may have about how to boost energy and invigorate your health with mindfulness.