Think of it in terms of a ratio: mental energy being spent on the task at hand vs. total mental energy presently being spent. Mindfulness means this ratio is close to unity, lacking inefficiency and waste. Focus is mindfulness combined with prolonged high energy expenditure.
Introverts’ brains tend to be overactive, using breaks in activity as opportunities to envision the future, make plans, worry, and speculate. Extraverts generally don’t have mindfulness problems because their focus is always on the present moment, and breaks between dopamine-seeking activities simply cause them anxiety. Extraverts suffer psychotic episodes in solitary confinement, whereas introverts become zen masters of mental focus. Many great books were inspired by prison sentences.
I just spent a week without speaking aloud to anyone. (My part-time overnight job doesn’t require it.) Between this, the ambient quiet, diet, and a lot of walking I was able to work through a ton of anxieties, worries, plans, etc., and then afterward…peace. Silence. My mind became whole again in spite of modern society.
Anxiety in particular wastes a lot of mental energy. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to air it into the silent expanse of the natural world. Talking it out with a therapist may formalize it into a form you can get your head around, but then it becomes a social narrative and you feel like you need to respond to it as if it’s something tangible. That’s not the case- or rather not the whole story- what we need to do is coalesce these things into tightly packed bundles, and then let them go. The starry night sky is too big for our hopes and fears to make a dent as they drift away. It’s the ultimate heatsink for anxiety. In the silence you can get back to basics and learn what you are in the absence of social pressures to do or be this or that.
Imagine how your personality would change if you woke up in a strange country with amnesia about your life beforehand. Probably you’d be uncertain, but there’d be an angelic quality to your face because you’d lack the tension that comes from years of hoping, striving, fearing, and built-up feelings of guilt. This is the feeling of being mindful. Uncertainty, and just a sliver of tension and anxiety to focus on the next action.
It’s almost a return to innocence. Almost.