Mindfulness is a somewhat vague term for many people, invoking ancient Buddhist beliefs. While the practice of mindfulness does go back thousands of years and includes meditative practices, it is much broader. Mindfulness refers to a specific learned state of awareness. The more out-of-focus our mind is, the less we are actually aware of the immediate moment. Mindfulness keeps us in touch with the present.

Practicing mindful means living in the present. Many of us are controlled by past pain and future uncertainties in such a way we never experience the here and now. Our thoughts can naturally shift from today to yesterday to tomorrow. When we stress over bad sales, unpaid bills or failed past relationships, we effectively invite distractions into our minds instead of focusing on solutions to our problems.

Mindfulness allows us to control our meandering thoughts and shift the focus back to today. When we are trying to get something done, a wandering, distracting mind can make it much more difficult. That’s why establishing control over our thoughts rids us of distractions and helps us accomplish our needed tasks. Mindfulness is an inner voice that tells us, “Hey, this is what’s important. Focus on this, not that.” This effectively reduces our stress, which then helps us concentrate even more effectively.

Practicing mindfulness is using building blocks to a better, more effective you. One of the ways we can increase mindfulness is through meditation. Mindful meditation focuses our attention on our breathing as we let go of any intruding thoughts. This simple exercise, when practiced regularly, helps us control the way we concentrate.

Practicing mindful meditation is easy and very pleasant and relaxing. Just find a quiet place and take a comfortable seat. Close your eyes and just focus on your breathing. Put everything else out of your mind. Follow your breath as you inhale and exhale. If thoughts intrude, and they will, simply accept them without judgment and bring your focus back to your breathing.

This exercise is very powerful and effective in handling intrusive thoughts and emotions without being controlled by them. While you should set aside a specific time each day to meditate, perhaps 15 to 30 minutes, a short breathing meditation at your desk can bring you back in focus during stressful days at the office.