Mindfulness is the practice of becoming more fully aware of the present moment--non-judgmentally and completely--rather than dwelling in the past or projecting into the future. It generally involves a heightened awareness of sensory stimuli (really noticing your breathing, feeling the sensations of your body, etc.) and being "in the now." While mindfulness has origins in Eastern philosophy and Buddhism, there is no necessary religious component to mindfulness -- anyone, with any belief system, can enjoy the benefits of mindfulness.
Mindfulness can be achieved through meditation, but one can also practice mindfulness through daily living. Simply focusing on the present moment and quieting your inner dialogue can help you attain mindfulness.
As Eastern practices gain more popularity in the West, mindfulness has been paired with cognitive therapy. Early research shows some very promising results. Practicing mindfulness, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)have been found to be helpful with the following:
The practice of mindfulness has been shown to have lasting positive effects with benefits that increase with practice.
Studies show that mindfulness can be helpful in stopping ruminations over things that cause stress; it helps people keep from dwelling on negative thoughts. Mindfulness can also be used to decrease anxiety over the future. It can provide a break from stressful thoughts and allow you to take a mental break and gain perspective, among other things.
As mentioned earlier, mindfulness can be achieved most simply through meditation. Regular practice of mindfulness meditation has benefits for your physical as well as your mental health. (See this article for more information on these benefits and different meditation techniques.)
For those who tend to get "antsy" during meditation (don’t worry, you’re not alone), there are other ways to ease into the practice of mindfulness. Gardening, listening to music and even cleaning house can become a practice in mindfulness if you take the right approach: focus on the present, and quiet that voice inside -- the one that offers the running commentary on what you’re doing, what you’ve done, and what you will be doing.