Mind-wandering makes us unhappy. Yet we still do it half of our life time!
A Harvard University Study conducted in 2010 shows that we spend 46.9 percent of our waking hours thinking about something other than what we are doing in a particular moment. This mind-wandering typically makes us unhappy!
Think about it: We spent almost half of our lives either analysing our past, thinking about what might be, or what we need to do and where we need to be next – rather than being truly present in the moment.
In Washington, DC Metro Station, Joshua Bell, one of the world’s greatest violinists, played a beautiful, intricate, moving piece on a violin worth over 3 million dollars. During the 43 minutes he played, 1,097 people walked by. Only seven stopped to listen, and even those seven paused for only a few minutes. After 43 minutes, he finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. Three days before, Joshua Bell had played the same music to a sold-out audience in Boston where the seats averaged at $100 each. His minimum fee for playing a public concert was $75,000.
That so few people stopped was not a demonstration of the cluelessness of these commuters, but how the busyness of our daily life can sometimes prevent us from noticing the beautiful and miraculous world all around us.
The problem with this frantic way of living is twofold:
1. Every new moment offers us the opportunity to feel the joy of life, to be who we want to be and in a way which matters. But when we chronically allow our minds to divert into thinking about things which have either already happened or are yet to come we are not truly present in life. And how many times do we think about the future worrying about what might be?
What’s more, the untrained mind has a strong tendency to let our wandering thoughts make us feel bad. This means that, when we allow our mind to wander, we naturally start focusing on things causing us worry, stress, anxiety, fear, unworthiness or even depression. And all of these emotions are mostly linked to what was or might be. It’s a habitual thinking process of a frantic mind which we do without even realizing!
2. Every time our mind wanders and makes us think about the past or the future, we are missing out on the present moment. Ironically, it is only the present moment where live happens. Both figuratively and literally, we only have moments to live.
The Answer to a Frantic Mind – Mindfulness
An increasing amount of people recognise the detrimental effects of a chronically racing mind. Looking for alleviation, many are becoming open to the idea of deliberately focusing their thoughts on the present moment in an attempt to quieten their mind and to be still. And if they do, they choose to practice Mindfulness – which is a type of meditation.
Jon Kabat-Zinn PhD, the creator of an eight-week course called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), describes mindfulness as:
Paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally.
The Proven Benefits of Mindfulness
The UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) states that mindfulness is life enhancing for those living busy lives who feel they’ve more to offer.
Mindfulness is for everyone. And those who choose to practice it have higher levels of emotional intelligence, improved relationships and reduced levels of stress. They discover a natural state of mind in which they are focused, present and aware. They have more sustained attention, greater emotional regulation and an increased ability to adopt different perspectives.
Studies show that a consistent practice of mindfulness increases working memory capacity. That’s essential for helping you make good decisions. It helps you to respond more and react less and it opens up more choice in how you go about things.
The other main benefits of a regular mindfulness practice are:
- Less distress, depression and anxiety
- Greater sense of well-being and life satisfaction
- Greater awareness and understanding of emotions
- Ability to recover from bad moods more quickly
- Reduced negative thoughts (the ability to let them go more quickly)
- Increased self-esteem (less dependent on external factors)
- Improved communication and reduced conflict
- Reduced defensiveness and aggression when threatened
- Increased likelihood of achieving goals
- Increased sense of control over experience
The Science behind Mindfulness
Research in disciplines such as psychology, neuroscience and medicine provides a wealth of evidence that mindfulness improves attention, cognition, emotions, behaviour and physiology. Mindfulness appears to positively impact human functioning overall.
If you are interested in reading up on some of the relevant research, check out Scientific Research backs the Effectiveness Of Mindfulness.
Do you feel intrigued? I highly recommend exploring the above mentioned eight-week MBSR course. It provides clear instructions and guidance, is incredibly well structured and easy to follow. It was introduced in 1979 and is now the largest and oldest meditation-based clinical programs in the world. Its curriculum is so consistent that it’s one of the most studied forms of meditation in the world.
The courses are run internationally and a simple Google search will help you to find one close to where you are.
The good news is that you can also take an online MBSR course which is 100% free! Also, this course doesn’t require your periodic attendance at a particular venue – only your own daily time commitment!
If you are interested, go to Palouse Mindfulness. It was created by Dave potter, a certified MBSR instructor. The website, materials and instructions are very clear and easy to follow. This course also offers an online community for questions and support. Having completed this particular course myself, I can highly recommend it.
Give mindfulness a try – it’s worth it!
Sonja Kirschner MA
Sonja Kirschner MA is the founder of APOWER 3 - Confidence Coaching, Resilience Building & Mind Freedom®. She is an accredited coach and is passionate about empowering women leaders.