Mindfulness reduces stress, staves off anxiety, improves productivity, and even lowers individual health care costs and your risk of heart disease. The myriad benefits of meditation run the gamut from lower blood pressure to healthier romantic relationships.
But can mindfulness save lives?
The power of mindfulness for disordered eating
Holistic health practitioner Sarah Anne Stewart certainly thinks so. In author and speaker Jared Kleinert’s book 3 Billion Under 30, Stewart recently shared her mindfulness-based life overhaul.
Stewart’s childhood was steeped in organic nutrition, yoga, and regular meditation. her self-worth nose-dived, however, during a modeling career plagued by unrealistic beauty standards. A series of toxic relationships didn’t help much, either.
Stewart quickly developed dangerous eating habits. Her stress levels and disordered eating eventually landed her in the hospital. After that wake-up call, she returned to the well-worn mindfulness path she’d left behind.
And Stewart isn’t alone: Clinicians are increasingly incorporating meditation into treatments for anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorders. Being aware of each and every moment—and of everything we eat—allows us to develop a healthy, conscious relationship to food.
And when it comes to saving your own life through mindfulness, “You can do it,” Stewart insists. “You just need to quiet your mind and find a place of self-love.”
Meditation and chronic pain
After a spinal cord injury that left him in so much pain it left him contemplating suicide, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini turned to—you guessed it—mindfulness.
Bertolini told attendees at an Asia Society event in 2018 that mindfulness helps him manage the pain from his injury much more effectively than the heavy-duty medications he was originally prescribed.
Now, the high-powered exec uses mindful mantras to harness his mind-body connection and his natural potential for healing. He reminds himself every day that he may have chronic pain, but chronic pain is not who he is. He credits practices like yoga and meditation not only with his success but with his survival.
Can meditation heal addiction?
Freedom from the weight of addiction is another of the many potentially life-changing benefits of mindfulness.
Researchers at the University of Washington recently designed a mindfulness-based protocol for addiction treatment. The results were stunning, with participants reporting far fewer relapses and more follow-through than patients in more conventional clinical settings.
No one knows more about the connection between meditation and sobriety than Gabrielle Bernstein, author of the memoir Spirit Junkie: A Radical Road to Self-Love and Miracles.
The stress of a busy career as a New York City publicist led Bernstein to develop a severe drug, alcohol, and work addiction. She used the practice of “turning inward,” or prayer and meditation, alongside a steady diet of acceptance, to heal her addictions and rebuild herself from the ground up.
“When you think you’ve surrendered,” Bernstein advises her comrades in recovery, “surrender more.”
Mindfulness practices like meditation are rightly touted as carrying the potential for great personal and professional change. We all know that mindfulness can change people’s lives. It might just be able to save a few, too.