Have you ever had one of those days? You have to take an unplanned detour because of construction or your daycare provider is sick on the same day that your backup daycare provider is on vacation. Perhaps you've found out that you are going to be out of a job in 90 days due to layoffs or your company has been bought out. These types of events increase the stress in your life. You might find it hard to be productive and focus. You may find yourself crying or getting angry at those around you. If your stress is chronic or long-lasting enough, you may find that you have health issues. Of course, there are positive types of stress, but that is a topic for a different post!
Mindfulness can be an antidote to stress. It can change your brain. The Harvard Business Review calls mindfulness a "must-have" for business executives as a way to insulate ourselves from the negative effects of excessive stress. While there are several definitions to mindfulness, I like the simple one from the same HBR article: "non-judgmental, present-moment awareness".
I play the piano, and sometimes I have enough time to just sit and play. I'm not trying to learn something new or work through a difficult passage. I am just playing and getting lost in the music (in the best possible way). I am not thinking about the past or the future, I am simply in the present moment.
This is an example of mindfulness. I am not in this state all of the time because I certainly rehash the past while thinking how I could have done or said something differently. Or I think about the future - is something going to turn out like I hope? What will happen if...? But, oh, those moments of being purely in the present moment - it's like a temporary respite from stress.
I have heard other people describe the experience of being in the moment when they swim or hike in nature, or when they are meditating and focusing on their breath, or doing yoga. But you can also build moments of mindfulness into everyday moments. Here are some of my favorite ways to do this: