Mindfulness is the practice of staying in the present moment without judgment or self-criticism. Mindfulness exercises are usually centered on steadying the breath and calming the mind. At its core, mindfulness is a form of meditation that Western culture is starting to catch onto because of the numerous health benefits. Mindfulness meditation exercises have shown benefits in lowering blood pressure, treating anxiety and depression, decreasing emotional reactivity, and much more.
You can think of mindfulness as the discipline of tolerance and relaxation. With practice, we can learn to tolerate thoughts and feelings that would normally be difficult for us to sit with. As we practice mindfulness, the body and mind are being trained to slow down and rest. Many people describe it as the difference of “doing” versus “being”. Instead of going into our “doing-mode”, or autopilot, mindfulness teaches us to practice a “being-mode”. This being-mode allows us to be present with our thoughts and feelings instead of jumping from task to task.
Additionally, when we learn to sit with uncomfortable thoughts/feelings we become less threatened by things that would typically encourage us to avoid the present moment. There is no longer a sensation to avoid the present when the threat becomes, well… less threatening.
Over time, our thinking patterns begin to change. Instead of waking up and turning our autopilot on, maybe we can wake up and be present with ourselves in order to listen to what our body is telling us. Maybe we begin to hear our body telling us to take a breath before we answer our morning emails, maybe we begin to appreciate the small parts of our day that we usually miss, or maybe we find the present moment is just more enjoyable when we are not always thinking about the moments to come.
If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness I recommend you visit, www.freemindfulness.org. They have a great collection of FREE exercises (I am not affiliated with this website in any way but I do use it a lot in session). If you would like to begin doing some mindfulness/relaxation work of you own, I would be happy to set up a session with you to walk you through the process.