One of the best – and easiest – ways we can support our own mental and emotional well-being is by remembering to slow down and appreciate the little things in life. This isn’t a virtue that is often supported in our culture, which often touts the benefits of “life in the fast lane” or “going for broke.” But it’s still important – and even more so as we grow older.
The little things in life are what we will cherish when we look back on our lives and enjoy fond memories. This could be the joy of time spent with close friends or loved ones, the first moments in a child’s or grandchild’s life, or even a lazy afternoon spent with a good novel. Or it could be enjoying the cycles of the seasons and the beauty of nature. It could be doing a simple kindness for a friend, or receiving one in turn.
Without slowing down to appreciate these small things, what is the rest of life made of? It winds up being nothing more than the daily grind of work, the various disappointments we all face, and the occasional crisis that comes out of nowhere. Between these events are the little things in life. And while individually they may seem insignificant, when they are added up, they’re really what make up the vast majority of what makes us happy in life. While we tend to think of life in terms of years, it’s really composed of the small moments that take place every day. Many of these can be forgettable on their own, but together they provide the richness that results in a life lived well.
So whenever you have a moment, appreciate it. Take time to see the little things that make your life richer, and try to be thankful for them when you can. If you find that you haven’t taken the time to slow down and step out of the daily grind in a while, do yourself a favor and take a quiet moment to spend with loved ones, friends, or just by yourself.
Meditation isn’t just for cloistered monks anymore – it’s becoming increasingly popular in mainstream culture as a method for reducing stress, improving emotional and mental well-being, and grounding oneself. Meditation is practiced by everyone from yoga instructors to high-powered attorneys, and can be done in many different ways. It doesn’t matter whether it involves saying a mantra out loud to calm the mind and focus the imagination, sitting quietly and concentrating on breathing rhythmically, or even praying to a higher power. All of these methods provide similar benefits to the person doing it.
Research has shown that meditation doesn’t just have perceived benefits to one’s mood and overall sense of well-being. It has also been shown to lower blood pressure, mitigate chronic pain, promote healthy cells and even lower levels of stress hormones in the bloodstream. All of these meditative benefits provide improved health in both the short-term and the long-term, leading to fewer health problems later in life. And meditation can provide a calmer, more steady outlook on life. A recent study conducted at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta found that people who meditated regularly for six weeks exhibited less emotional distress and a lower immune reaction when they were presented with a stressful situation.
But that’s not all. Meditation can actually improve cognitive function and help build and strengthen connections in the brain. A number of studies have confirmed that meditating makes neural pathways more flexible and adaptable, which can help reduce anxiety and improve empathy. And a 2012 study in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that regular meditation could actually speed up the processing power of the brain, improving cognitive function. And exciting new research has shown that meditation impacts the areas of the brain that are most effected by Alzheimer’s – potentially slowing the onset of the disease.