In the middle of a stressful event, you might ruminate about the future (What is going to happen?) or anxiously review the past (How come I didn’t try harder?). Mindfulness teachers urge you to hit the pause button and come back to the present. One way to do so is to pay attention to what is happening in your body and mind right at that moment. Go ahead and give it a try now: Sit with your eyes closed and simply pay attention to your breath. Feel your belly, lungs and nostrils as you breathe in and out. As thoughts fly into your mind, notice and describe them (I’m thinking about my work now; I feel a bit hungry). Breathing practice is a first step toward being present in the moment.
If you have more time, try sitting for 10 minutes each day and paying attention to your breath and thoughts. Research shows that this type of mindfulness meditation slows your breathing rate, blood pressure and heart rate. It may also change the structure of your brain, increasing your ability to focus and remain calm in stressful situations. In 2005, Sara Lazar, PhD, an instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, researched brain changes that occur with mindfulness meditation. She found that brain regions associated with attention, sensory awareness and emotional processing are thicker in people who meditate than in those who don’t, indicating an apparent reversal of age-related thinning and signifying that our brains can be rewired through meditation.
"When we pay careful attention to the present moment, we can trust that an adequate, adaptive response will appear. - Tom Borkevec