“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them have never happened.” ~ Mark Twain
On April 2nd, we introduced Pillar #4 of “The Year of the Best You” – Live in the Present Moment. Today, we will recap how the month went in the areas of paying attention and meditation. Our April worksheet encompassed 2 tasks – recording one mindful activity each day; and meditating daily.
When I look at the mindful activities I recorded, I quickly realize how many activities we can employ the concept of ‘paying attention’ to. From eating, walking, and folding laundry, to having a conversation, petting my cat and listening to a podcast. I also recorded some more obvious activities such as meditation, which we use to train ourselves to be more mindful, and practicing yoga. However, even these activities required paying attention to the present moment to be effective.
One concept worth considering is the opposite of paying attention – mind wandering. If paying attention is beneficial to our overall perception of well being, I guess you could extrapolate that not paying attention at all may be detrimental. According to researcher Matt Killingsworth, in his article Does Mind-Wandering Make You Unhappy?, he states “As it turns out, people are less happy when they’re mind-wandering no matter what they’re doing. As well, “…there is a strong relationship between mind-wandering now and being unhappy a short time later, consistent with the idea that mind-wandering is causing people to be unhappy.”
Matt also states that mind-wandering is ubiquitous, and that most of us are doing it up to half of the time. In his research, he concluded that people report feeling happier when they are present, even it is during a mundane chore such as washing the dishes.
So how do we stay present?
Dr. Mike Robbins interviewed Nancy Collier, author of The Power of Off: The Mindful Way to Stay Sane in a Virtual World, on this challenge, especially in our technology driven world. Many people would argue that we are more distracted than ever, looking at our phones instead of paying attention to the world around us. As Nancy indicates, we are now stepping back and trying to figure out how to live without technology ‘all of the time’, especially since some of it is designed to addict users. She adds that we run around proclaiming we never have enough time and seem to be chasing after it. She offers mindfulness as a way to slow down time and allow it to expand. Now we can turn to our technology as a way to redirect us to the present moment with apps such as Insight Timer and Mindfulness Bell.
Another way to approach this idea of mind-wandering is to catch ourselves when our mind has wandered and think, what was I just thinking about? In some cases, our thoughts might be productive such as planning or being grateful for something that has happened. However, chances are we are either reliving something negative or worrying about something that has not happened.
Brené Brown talks about how we “dress rehearse tragedy” or “wait for the other shoe to drop”. I can’t tell you how often I have had both of these self-defeating thoughts, especially in moments of intense joy. And as Brené points out, guess what, thinking of something bad happening in advance doesn’t prevent it from happening or lessen the pain.
This pillar is so important in “The Year of the Best You” so I hope you found some inspiration to start practicing ‘living in the moment’ more, or if you already do, that you found motivation to continue.
Stay tuned next Sunday as we discuss Pillar #5 of the “Year of the Best You” – Movement.
Want to be Happier? Stay in the Moment – TED Talk by Matt Killingsworth