On those days I’m feeling an underpinning of discontent, I can usually trace it back to one thing: my mind. In my class at the gym, I continually review my to-do list. Instead of focusing on my work, my mind wanders to the worry of the day (there’s always one right?).
Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert set out to discover how often people’s minds wander. From a sample of 2250 adults, they found that mind wandering occurred in nearly half the people. And in it occurred during every activity (except sex).
Killingsworth and Gilbert discovered the same thing I find when my mind is taking over: less joy (even when the thoughts are pleasant). They make the following conclusion:
…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.
So what are we to do? Consider adding a daily practice so you can gradually shift from a wandering mind to a focused mind. Kids can participate too!
Here are three things that help me:
1) Morning ritual: Every morning I listen to a guided meditation for 5-10 minutes. If that’s not your thing, try mindful walks or pick anytime of the day to practice presence.
2) Schedule the day: The night before each weekday, I sketch out what my day will look like and the major task I want to accomplish. This keeps me from going through my day aimless which seems to be a major trigger for mind wandering.
3) Become a mind observer: I never fight the mind. Instead, I try to be aware of its tendency to wander and gently bring it back to the present moment. When trivial problems arise I focus on gratitude.
So this week, let’s be mindful of our tendency to let our mind wander and how it affects overall feelings of well-being. What are some things you can do to help you stay focused and more engaged with life?
Don’t forget this Mindful Minute where I more broadly define health