Mindfulness means “becoming more attentive without judgment.” It is traditionally a state of mental awareness that has been used in meditative practice. Although mindfulness once began as a part of meditation, it is now a popular concept in treating anxiety and depression. When we’re mindful, we’re aware simultaneously of our bodies, emotions, thoughts and actions. Many times self-critical thoughts accompany overwhelming emotion such as, “I’m foolish to be this upset,” or “I’ll never get this right.” Additionally, we may experience a change in our breathing and have the urge to strike out or withdraw. Reacting to stress is a difficult habit to break, since we’ve learned to live a life on “automatic pilot.” But when we become more mindful of our emotions, thoughts, actions, and body sensations, a sense of detachment takes root, and the byproduct is less judgment and reactivity. We feel more in control of our minds and our lives, and are able to handle stressful events.
Mindfulness is a teachable technique but requires some self-discipline to master, since it requires the individual to practice sitting with their discomfort in order to observe it. However when we learn to detach from our thoughts and emotions, we begin to realize that our responses do not define us and we’re more able to let them go. Through improved awareness, we find ourselves less on “automatic pilot” and thus less likely to get caught up in stressful events. The result can be peace of mind, increased compassion, and an improved appreciation of everyday life.