What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is like exercise for your brain. Contrary to what some might think, it’s not about “checking out” of the stresses of daily life, but about “checking in” and developing an easily accessible set of tools you can use to help manage daily stresses, big and small. It’s about cultivating the ability to actively be present in whatever experience you are currently having, whether being a better listener in a conversation, a stronger decision-maker in a stressful moment, or a more grateful participant in a celebration. It’s about being able to act intentionally, instead of reflexively, in reacting to the daily events of our lives.

Mindfulness comes in many forms. It utilizes techniques like meditation, mindful movement (walking, hiking, yoga, etc.) or breathwork, among others, to provide a focal point for a mindfulness practice, which like any workout, is time you set aside to practice a skill. The point is not to get “perfect” at it, but rather just to keep coming back and doing the work to strengthen your “mindfulness muscle” and make it more accessible to you when you need it. Even a few minutes a day can make a difference, and you don’t need anything more than your breath and your awareness to try it.

With practice, mindfulness can make you feel more clear, calm and centered throughout your daily life. It can make you more capable of responding to stress the way you want to, instead of letting your reflexes and habitual responses take the lead.

We spend a lot of time in our heads, reflecting on the past and planning for (and worrying about) the future. Life is happening right now, though, and you might be missing some important parts of it. At the very least, those moments may be missing part of you, if you’re distracted and not fully present in them.

So, give it a try. Inhale, exhale. Give yourself the chance to find your breath, and in turn, unleash your true potential.