I have been coming across a lot of research on the effect of mindfulness on the human experience. Psychology today defines mindfulness as a state of active, open attention on the present moment. Many studies have shown how being mindful makes you refreshed, more in control of your emotions, and ultimately a happier person (Killingsworth, 2010)(Puddicombe, 2012). It has made me reflect a lot on my own day and how much time I spend in the present moment vs. letting my mind wander.
Happiness researcher Matt Killingsworth conducted a study in 2010 where he gathered data from over 15,000 people with a variety of backgrounds. He created an app that tracked moment-to-moment experiences (i.e. what are you doing, what are you feeling, what are you thinking about) with a survey sent at random intervals throughout the day. Using trackyourhappiness.org he gathered 650,000 reports – enough data to start to analyze the correlation between our experiences, thoughts, and mood. What he found is that on average people were more unhappy when their minds were wandering (i.e. thinking about anything other than their present experience) no matter what activity they were doing.
One statistic that was shocking to me was that people reported mind-wandering 40% of the time that they were exercising. To me, exercising is one of my greatest opportunities to be present as I turn inwards to think about my form, breathing, and overall physical state. I get to leave my worries at the door and simply just be for the time I am exercising.
A Pilates class is a great example of mindful exercising because your instructors are constantly requiring you to pay attention to what your body is doing. How are you breathing? How does your core feel? How is your body aligned? These are all questions that stimulate attention towards present sensations. This attention allows us to be more aware of what is happening around us and more in control of our body’s presence.
How often throughout the day do you find your mind wandering – ruminating on past events or worrying about hypothetical outcomes? This daydreaming is often accompanied by poor posture as your body “rests” in the path of least resistance. This lack of awareness and attention to your current experience not only takes a toll on your mood, but simultaneously exposes your body to maladaptive movement/rest patterns.
What if we all took more time during the day to turn our attention towards current experiences? Put down the phone, turn off the TV, and simply be. Check in with your body. See if you can improve your posture or relieve some unnecessary tension. Your mind and body will thank you for the attention and you will find yourself better off because of it.Share