Why do people have difficulty staying mindful?

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Calm: How to relax your mind when there is so much going on?

….   When your thoughts are not going to ten thousand other things, and when you are experiencing what is happening at the moment, you become mindful. When you are present-minded—besides avoiding accidents—you can feel more relaxed, and you can enjoy your life. You can focus better and become more productive. When your mind is present, you can think clearly and solve any problems that come your way.

Being mindful also helps to lower your blood pressure and your body’s inflammatory reactions, thus improving many health conditions.

You may ask, “If it is good for us, why do people have difficulty staying mindful?”

There are a few reasons for not being able to stay mindful. Most people can focus on a specific task or project when it is unique, challenging, or novel, but their minds start wondering when they are doing something that is routine. Do you ever notice that you arrive at a destination and have no recollection of the path you took or what beautiful scenes you passed, especially when you are driving on familiar routes? Your mind tends to go on autopilot.

A mechanism that was initially meant to help you decrease the work, stops helping when used without awareness. Instead of staying focused on the task of driving, your mind starts rewinding and reviewing the mental videos of past events or imagining future events, which is what happened when I got into that accident.

This wandering mind is natural, and scientists call it to default thinking (I call Mindlessness).

In this default thinking mode, your thoughts are automatic, undirected, and superficial. These thoughts are sometimes useful, but they are generally irrelevant to what you are doing at the moment. You are looking outside, but not paying attention to anything. Most people spend half their lives in this default thinking mode. It is not necessarily bad…the problem is how much time they spend in that mode versus the time they spend in a focused, sensing mode.

One of my friends said that she is always thinking, even when observing. She has a tendency to observe all the things that are going wrong and that causes more problems for her. If mindfulness is helpful and if it is thinking about what is around you, why is it causing a problem for her? Is she practicing mindfulness? No.

Mindfulness is not thinking or finding faults in everything.

Mindfulness is experiencing the moment. Although thinking and experiencing are occurring together, becoming aware and giving attention to your experience, including your thoughts, without judgment, is mindfulness. Let’s take the example of observing a sunset.

Scenario One:

You are sensing (seeing), appreciating the colors, and enjoying the experience. The thoughts are still there about the colors and how much you are appreciating them, but they are not dominant. They are in the background. You are aware of them, but your focus is mostly on the experience of the sunset.

Scenario Two:

You notice the sunset and the very next moment you start thinking about it, judging, or comparing it to some other experience you had in the past. Or, you start thinking about something different. Before you know it, the sun is gone and the moment has passed. You missed enjoying the experience because you were lost in your thoughts. You were not mindful. What happened?

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Dr. Rozina

#1 Best Selling Author, Speaker, and Psychiatrist

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