Have you ever driven home from work only to have no recollection of the actual drive? Have you ever mentally drifted off in a meeting or conversation only to find you have no idea what the other person was talking about?
Living life on automatic pilot creates a series of events like the two mentioned above. It is going through the physical motions of daily life while the mind is focused on something else. When this occurs, we are not present in what is happening and end up missing opportunities, information, and the joy of living in the moment.
Mindfulness is the opposite of living on autopilot. Instead, it is the intentional focus on what is occurring in the present. Mindfulness is not about judging or attempting to change the present; it is about accepting thoughts, feelings, experiences, and emotions as they are happening. As Sylvia Boorstein states, “Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience.”
There are several key ways staying present and focused on the experiences of the moment helps in all aspects of your life. The more mindfulness becomes a part of your life, the greater the benefits from this practice.
Important and positive changes in life from mindfulness include:
- Reduced anxiety – worrying about the future and what might happen or stressing about what happened in the past is simply wasted emotional and mental energy. By staying in the present, you reduce the stress levels around future and past events – both of which cannot be controlled today.
- Better relationships – when you are fully present in conversations, you can give your attention to the speaker. This means more than just listening to the words; you can watch their body language, sense their emotions, and connect on a deeper level. People feel heard and valued in conversations, leading to a better relationships.
- Less reactivity – being focused in the moment and staying present helps to avoid reactive types of behaviors that may create challenges and problems. Rather than immediately assuming the worse, you are able to find the time and space to explore the possibilities and choose the best solution based on information and reason rather than on assumptions and emotions.
- Better mental and physical health – by reducing stress, anxiety, and depression and boosting relationships, connections with others, and connections with the world around you, you can develop a healthier body, mind, and spirit.
Mindfulness doesn’t have to be complicated. Focusing on your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and what is happening around you is a habit anyone can develop at any time in life.