What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a term that refers to many things, and a term that can be defined in many ways. Essentially, mindfulness means drawing one's attention to the present moment or experience, whatever that may be. By being aware and attuned to the present moment, with your thoughts, your sensations and your emotions, you can better tune out all the extra stimulation in your life that may be increasing your stress levels.
We all know that present-day life can be stressful. Does it make much sense to add stress by worrying about past problems and future concerns as well? Otherwise stated, it doesn't do anyone much good to worry about a conversation that took place last week when taking a walk today. Simply focusing on the experience of walking, how it feels and what it's like, can carve out an oasis of calm and control in an otherwise busy existence.
Mindfulness is a way of being in charge of all the action that goes on in your head. Music sounds better when there is a special arrangement of instruments and voices-it sounds like noise when there are hundreds of voices and instruments competing to be heard. Being mindful is like being the conductor of your very own symphony in your psyche-you get to tune out some instruments, while allowing others the chance to harmonize.
Mindfulness can also be used increase attunement to one's body, giving us a chance to ease tension there before it gets out of hand. To illustrate this, squeeze your fist together for 15 seconds. No, really...go ahead and do it.
What happened to your breathing while you were squeezing your fist closed? Did you notice that your breath stopped, or at least constricted? When we hold tension in our body, whether it's our shoulders, our legs or our hands, our breath tends to constrict. Conversely, when we hold tension in our body, our breath follows suit. By mindfully bringing your awareness to the places you're feeling tense, and taking a few deep breaths while releasing that tension, we can reduce the wear and tear of chronic stress upon our bodies, and maintain a greater sense of calm throughout the day.