Mindfulness is often defined as paying attention on purpose. Or you could define it as simply paying attention to what you’re doing while you’re doing it. We often do things mindlessly: When we DON’T think about what we are doing while we’re doing it.
We can do almost any common task without really thinking about it — from washing the dishes to driving a car. When we do things mindlessly our thoughts slip away from what we are actually doing — i.e., the present moment — and slide back into the past or forward into the future.
When our thinking goes forward into the future, we often get anxious. We worry about things that may never come to pass. When our thinking goes backward into the past, we often get angry. We upset ourselves thinking about things that have already happened and CAN’T be changed.
But when you focus intently on what you are doing while you are doing it, you tend to stay calm. The act of doing any task mindfully is really one of the best ways to manage stress. That’s one reason why mindfulness is becoming so popular: You can do it on the fly, and prevent stress from happening in the first place.
So the next time you’re doing something that you DON’T have to think about, notice where your mind goes. Does it go to a happy place, or does it go to a stressful place? If it goes to a stressful place, just try focusing intently on the subtle (sensory) aspects of what you are doing: Like how it feels or what it tastes like, what you are hearing and what you are really seeing.
You can apply this technique when you are eating, when you are walking, when you are driving and especially when you are listening to another person speak.
— James Porter, president of StressStop.com