Mindfulness is the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at that moment — free from distraction or judgment, and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them.
That might seem easy, except for the annoying fact that we so often veer from the matter at hand. Our mind takes flight, we lose touch with our body, and pretty soon we’re engrossed in obsessive thoughts about something that just happened or fretting about the future. And that makes us anxious.
Mindfulness is about observation without criticism; being compassionate with yourself. When unhappiness or stress hover overhead, rather than taking it all personally, you learn to treat them as clouds, and to observe them with friendly curiosity as they drift on past. In essence, mindfulness allows you to catch negative thought patterns before they tip you into a downward spiral. It begins the process of putting you back in control of your life.
Over time, mindfulness brings about long-term changes in mood, levels of happiness and wellbeing.
People that incorporate it into their lives also report higher levels of patience and compassion as well as lower levels of stress, frustration and sadness.
Scientific studies have shown that mindfulness not only prevents depression, but that it also positively affects the brain patterns, underlying day-to-day anxiety, stress, depression and irritability so that when they arise, they dissolve away again more easily. Other studies have shown that regular meditators see their doctors less often and spend fewer days in hospital. Memory improves, creativity increases and reaction times become faster.