Have you ever been in conversation with a friend and realised you’ve just missed the last few minutes and you’ve no idea what they said? Maybe you’ve jumped in the car and ten minutes later found yourself at a destination with no recollection of the traffic on the road or how you got there. Or are you just one of those people, who’s good at ruminating over the past or worrying about the future? Human beings mind wander all the time, in fact research suggests we spend almost half of our time thinking about something other than what we are doing – AND that we are less happy for doing so. Interestingly, the evidence goes so far as to show that even if we mind wander to something positive, we will still BE HAPPIER if we stay in the present moment.
I am not only a worrier, I’m a master of mind wandering too, and all too often I find myself completely detached from what is going on now. It’s that ‘tunnel vision’ that can overtake my life when I am particularly busy or anxious. My journey into work is just over an hour, and sometimes I’ve barely locked the door and I’m off. I’ve got no dinner for tonight. When will I have time to go shopping? What is it about supermarkets that just stresses me out? Actually why am I always stressed? Oh that reminds me I need to call Paul, he’s having a bad week. Talking of which how horrid was yesterday. Before I know it, I’m already on the tube half way to work and I haven’t spent a single moment in the present. I’m planning in my head how to resolve the challenges of the day; wondering what I need to do this afternoon. I couldn’t tell you a single face I’d seen, a sound I’d heard, a smell, a smile. I haven’t noticed the colour of the sky, where I am sitting, the now. I’m lost in my world of mind wander and I have connected with nobody and nothing in the present moment.
Two of my favourite researchers in this area, Matt Killingsworth and Dan Gilbert say this: “A human mind is a wandering mind and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.”
Mindfulness is about being present. It’s a mental state, focusing awareness on the present moment, waking up to sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the now, while calmly acknowledging and accepting feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Practising mindfulness can change your experience of life, delivering in the long-term a happier and emotionally healthier state. So try today to be fully present for just one activity. See how different it feels. Then if you are able, endeavor to be more mindful and present throughout your daily life.
Have a present and peaceful day.
Please click here for further research on Present Moment Awareness.