Digital devices constantly vie for your attention. Email alerts, text messages, flashing advertisements, and social media seek to distract you from the tasks at hand.

But it isn't just electronic devices that try to derail you from your goals. There's a tug of war going on inside your brain as well.

One minute your brain is replaying that mistake you made yesterday, and the next minute you're worrying about all the things you have to get done by tomorrow.

A study by the Microsoft Corporation found that the average attention span in today's world is a dismal eight seconds. That means humans now have shorter attention spans than goldfish.

That also means, if you're like most people, you're rarely ever living in the present moment. And that could take a serious toll on your well-being.

How Mindfulness Helps

The only time you can change your behavior is right now. You can't undo that mistake you made last week. And you can't fast forward into next week to change the outcome of your life.

All you can do is change how you're behaving in this very moment. But you can't change your actions unless you're fully present in the here-and-now.

When you're dialed in on what you're doing right now, all your brainpower can be used wisely. And that's the key to performing at your peak.

Benefits of Mindfulness

Everyone from top CEOs to elite athletes are harnessing the power of mindfulness to improve their performance. And emerging research continues to reveal just how powerful living in the moment can be.

Here are five things you'll gain when you start practicing mindfulness:

1. Laserlike focus

In addition to improving attentional performance, studies have found that mindfulness improves cognitive flexibility. That means you'll be able to think about things differently, which is key to updating your belief systems. When you encounter something that refutes your previous beliefs, you'll adapt quicker to a new way of thinking.

2. Better relationships

Researchers have found that mindfulness could be the key to relationship satisfaction. Couples who practice mindfulness report less conflict, improved communication, and a healthier relationship overall.

3. Improved physical health

Studies have found that even short mindfulness programs can produce positive effects on brain and immune function. Mindfulness has been linked to a multitude of health benefits, ranging from lower blood pressure to reduced pain. Mindfulness can event boost your immunity against illness.

4. Increased mental strength

Don't get caught up thinking mindfulness is for wimps--nothing could be further from the truth. Mindfulness will make you mentally strong. Studies have linked mindfulness to improved psychological health. Practicing mindfulness can reduce your overall stress level and lower your risk of mental health problems.

5. Decreased emotional reactivity

Studies indicate that mindfulness decreases the intensity of painful feelings. Even when you're going through tough times, you won't experience negative emotions as intensely when you're able to focus on the here-and-now. Mindfulness can also reduce harsh self-criticism and help you develop a more self-compassionate inner dialogue.

Train Your Brain to Be Mindful

The good news is, people can train their brains to be mindful. Just like any other skill, it takes practice to get better.

Learning mindfulness can be as simple as concentrating on your breath. Pay attention as you inhale and exhale. When your mind wanders--and it will wander often--simply return to thinking about your breathing.

There are many resources available to help you improve your mindfulness skills. Whether you choose a mindfulness app or you attend a weekend retreat, learning how to be present in the moment can change your life.

Published on: Aug 2, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.