Before clicking on this article, what were you thinking about?
Maybe future thoughts, like getting to work, making a dent in that laundry pile, perhaps you needed to make a phone call or run a few errands that would simplify your to-do list.
Or maybe your mind drifts to more profound issues, mind full with the recent Ferguson case, thoughts on what is right or if justice will ever be served; if it was self defense, an act of racism or merely a police officer doing the best he could in a moment of vulnerable raw danger, completely overlooking the tint of anyone’s skin. Regardless of everyone else’s posts and opinions from the handful of few educated social media users, your thoughts on the case begin to form. Nevertheless, most of these posts are unquestionably nonsensical status updates on Facebook, Twitter, news articles, or posts on Instagram, trying to get their voices heard, even when there’s not much happening in their opinionated, uncultivated minds.
Maybe your thoughts drift towards your future career, money, bills, life paths… deciphering the proper way to make your 5 year plan come to life. Perhaps you were preoccupied with relentless thoughts pressing from your past. Relationships, divorce, breakups, school, debt, poor decisions in a moment of weakness you wish you could take back. Or maybe you were honestly thinking about nothing and were just bored surfing the internet before going to bed.
According to the featured TED talk I included in this article;
Our minds are lost in thought 47% of the time.
47%! This statistic was found from a research study at Harvard that claims our distracted, overwhelmed, stressed, wandering thoughts make up 47% of our thought process. And that this type of mind wandering is a direct cause of our unhappiness.
I don’t know about you, but knowing that close to half of my thoughts are “lost,” wandering around in my head daily, leading to overthinking and unhappiness is far too great of a percentage, if I have a choice in the matter.
So what does it mean to practice mindfulness?
“It means paying attention on purpose.”
Essentially, the practice of mindfulness, is practicing being alive. Right now. There are nearly 7.2 billion people in the world, yet no one has found the cure to curbing these feelings of unease, unhappiness, scattered thoughts corresponding with past and future stressed perceptions. How has this concept of being aware of the present moment not gone mainstream?
Is it too difficult to grasp that we have the ability to control our own minds and our wandering thoughts? Are we too lazy? Are we a culture that demands instant results and governing our mind is just too hard?
I think this type of thought processes is not something we are innately born with. Excluding buddhist monks, positive psychology practices along with a handful of religious traditions that habitude mindfulness and purposeful now thinking, this idea of controlling one’s thoughts are not as common as this phenomenon should be.
If I want to be organically and rawly honest, if it weren’t for this research in the last few months of my life (and my faith above all else), I know I would have had a far worse 1/4 life crises.
In January 2014, I come home from nearly two years of travel and move back in with my dad (after a previous 4 years of independent college living).
In February, I undergo an event in my life that I wish to never relive and experience a rather large form of heartbreak.
In March, I concentrate on retaking a math class to better my grade for graduate school applications in the winter, study for the GRE and search psychology graduate schools outside of Oregon.
In June, I find out my very best friend was diagnosed with Leukemia.
In August, I experiment with non-processed eating along with a healthy workout regimen and achieve the healthiest body I had yet to acquire.
In September I spend as many weekday and weekends in the hospital with my friend whenever my work schedule allows.
September and October drug by while I struggled with my sense of self, felt stuck in my financial plan, hit with the debt I owe to my university, I became overwhelmingly sensitive and struggled with anxiety attacks at work and at home. I stopped running, stopped reading, stopped writing, slept more during the day for the creeping insomnia that would occur at night, I didn’t know where my life was headed. I realized I put in more than required into relationships that were not even relationships, just wishful, impassioned, future “maybe” plans.
I guess that’s just life though. And until there is clear communication and mutual understanding between two people, how are you to know what’s real and what’s wishful thinking.
At the end of October, I met someone that shook me from my own reality and showed me what passion mixed with a beautiful intelligence and full blown butterflies felt like. A mutual, captivating, addicting, natural, unprocessed chemistry that I had never felt before. And even if it doesn’t work out in the long run, I will never forget that type of connection and confidence I feel right now.
In November, an amazing, smart, talented guy in my friend circle passed away in the middle of the night from a believed to be brain aneurism.
Death is never something I will get used to or be able to comprehend. It jolts your entire foundation and forces you to focus on what we are doing with our fragile lives.
Cancer, death, loss of loved ones, breakups, moving, financial burdens and work can ultimately break you down, make you feel things you have never imagined feeling before.
But there’s hope.
You are alive. You are not your thoughts, but you can choose to be the watcher of your thoughts and begin to reign your mind. You have the choice to let these feelings of sadness, grief, stress, unhappiness and fear engulf your being, or you can practice this beautiful coined term called mindfulness.
Here are a few techniques to help implement the act of being mindful;
- Wake up, and be. Breathe. Take a moment to wake to your surroundings and be here. Shower, eat breakfast and pay attention to what your eating and simply taste it. Feel your current mood and realize that yesterday is over, that you have a new day ahead of you and in this moment, nothing is wrong in the world.
- Practice minimalism. Buy less, get rid of clutter, turn off notifications, stop overcommitting and know your priorities. Make room for things that truly add value to your life. Make a list of the top 5 things that matter and are vital to you.
- Driving. Notice your surroundings. Is there a lot of traffic today? Leave 5 minutes earlier than normal and play music that makes your heart smile. When you stop at a red light, notice the tension in your body and relax your shoulders.
- Daily activities. When you start to realize how habitual your thoughts get, set reminders or write notes to remind yourself to think in the moment again to prevent meaningless habit.
- Ending of your day. Stretch, read, drink tea alone, practice breathing slow, and think of absolutely nothing, even just for one moment. Set your phone on airplane mode and set a timer for 60 seconds. Close your eyes, feel your breath, feel your body begin to relax and your thoughts start to clear.
I know that this list might seem difficult to implement throughout your day, but these are things we do regardless of how busy our days are. We all have daily activities and endings to our day, and it truly only takes one minute to help clear anxiety, stress, regulate emotions, reduce body tension and clear our muddy thoughts.
“Accept – then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. This will miraculously transform your whole life.”
Maybe by transforming our beautiful brains we can begin to tap into this new thought process of self discovery and “become intoxicated by the romance of the unusual,” begin to expand our minds to new dimensions.
We are so capable of governing our thoughts.
Practice being mindful with me, and treat our minds with the comfort and contentment that that squishy, brilliant organ deserves.
So tell me, are you mindful or is your mind full today?
We’re only here for so long, experience the simplicity of the here and now and transcend.