How often do you use your phone while eating? Chances are that your answer is most of the time. We go about our everyday lives passively, going through the motions without actually digesting what we see. That's where mindfulness comes in. David Schiller best describes mindfulness as "intentional seeing" in his book See Your Way to Mindfulness: Ideas and Inspiration to Open Your I. To break it down, it means to "hit pause, slow down, try to let go of the endless stream of thoughts, and just focus on what's in front of us." It means to be aware of your surroundings and your thoughts and to be fully present. We are all capable of mindfulness; it's just a matter of tapping into it.
When we get wrapped up in and worried about what has happened or what hasn't yet happened, we get anxious. It's easy to get overwhelmed by our endless thoughts, but mindfulness is an effective solution to help ease the panic. By recognizing your feelings at that moment and thinking of each thing individually, instead of as one big clusterf*ck, you'll feel more in control. And while it's difficult to be able to slow your mind down, it takes practice like anything else.
A simple way you can practice mindfulness right now is to put your hand over your stomach and breathe slowly. Pay attention to your breaths, and feel the rise and fall of your belly under your hand. In those few moments, you are shutting out everything else around you by focusing on your inhalations.
It's important to stay connected with ourselves, especially when life gets a little chaotic. But mindfulness should be practiced regularly so that it becomes natural. It's been proven to help lower stress, boost focus and memory, and help you be more in control of your emotions. So the next time you're waiting in line or walking somewhere, recognize where you are, how you're feeling, and who's around you. Turn off autopilot and make it habit to think about what you're doing. You'll be able to make better choices, feel calmer, and be more present.