Mindfulness can be defined as the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience. In other words, mindfulness is about being aware of what we are thinking, feeling, doing, and experiencing, right now. Often, we aren’t really paying attention to what is happening around us, but rather, we’re thinking about what has happened in the past, what might happen in the future, or just daydreaming about something else altogether. For example, we might be washing the dishes not to wash the dishes but to get to the end of the task.
Being mindful in the present moment isn’t easy – particularly when our emotional reactions threaten to overwhelm us. If it was easy, we’d all do it and the world would be a much easier place to negotiate. Mindfulness is a skill that can be learnt, and is a central focus of many psychological therapies. Meditations such as mindfulness of the breath and the body scan can help us to feel less stressed, while adopting mindful attitudes such as non-judgement, loving kindness, and non-attachment can help us to manage difficult thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness based therapies have been shown to decrease emotional reactivity, increase flexibility in thinking, and improve stress tolerance.