Mindfulness? With 70,000 Thoughts Per Day?
Have you ever spent your time driving somewhere and barely remembering the journey or exactly how you arrived to your destination? This happens frequently and I find it VERY challenging to drive in silence. For many, driving is often consumed with other activities ranging from daydreaming, listening to music, entertaining children, talking, texting, flossing, Facebook status updating, applying makeup, reading directions, and so on. Even when the illusion of silence appears present, the mind is drifting away into the past or future. Researchers at UCLA’s Nuero Imaging Lab suggest we have approximately 70,000 thoughts per day. How do we calm the mind and focus in a fast-faced world with all of the demands, expectations, and advances in technology? Many behavioral therapists and post-traumatic stress counselors recommend practicing mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment fully without judgment or criticism. Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere at anytime, whether you are performing a daunting task or observing your breath. Through continued practice, mindfulness can aid in weight loss, reducing stress, enhancing emotional intelligence, lowering blood pressure/cholesterol, and has been proven to increase overall levels of happiness.
3 Steps to Mindfulness
Mindfulness involves paying attention in a particular way:
- On purpose –When you are actively cultivating awareness on purpose, the mind will appear overly active or feelings of boredom may arise. Sit through the feelings and notice as an observer. Set a phone timer for three minutes and an intention to stay present to your breath or surroundings.
- Paying attention to the moment – This is a state of active awareness where the senses are engaged to fully experience the present moment. The mind may consistently dwell in the past or future without your attention anchored to the present moment. While practicing mindfulness, allow thoughts to repel away before a stream of thoughts creates a story; thus pulling you away from your practice.
- Without judgment – Judgments are opinions we have learned and many are often formed from our childhood where we assign a meaning or label to everything as we learn a language. Paying attention without judgment is the tricky part as our thought patterns revert to auto programming. As you begin to refine this skillset, you will become less judgmental with your self and others.
Mindfulness is like a muscle in that it must be constantly exercised in order to expand. You may practice mindfulness at any time of the day and it can become especially helpful when completing routine tasks such as laundry, dishes, driving, or being present to what you may label as a boring moment. As you bring awareness to the present moment, tasks become more enjoyable and easier to complete with acceptance.
Stay tuned for mindfulness techniques, including an exercise on mindful eating, as more thoughtful eating can support healthier eating habits!
Go nuts for your health!
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever you go, there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life. New York: Hyperion.