Most of us spend very little time in the present moment. Instead we spend a lot of our time in our heads, dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. In fact research suggests that we spend about 47% of our waking hours thinking about something other than what we are doing.
It’s normal for our minds to wander off to thoughts at times; after all, our mind is a thought machine. Telling your mind not to think is about as effective as telling your eyes to stop seeing or your ears to stop listening. However, research suggests that spending too much time in our heads, rather than in the present moment, reduces overall happiness and can lead to the development of mental health issues like depression, anxiety, eating disorders and substance dependence.
There are many definitions of what mindfulness is. We describe it as being more aware in every moment of your life. It is about intentionally paying attention to each moment, being fully engaged in whatever is happening around you and within you. It involves being curious and open to whatever is experienced, rather than habitual patterns of avoidance, judgment and criticism.
Research shows that when we are not deliberately paying attention to something, our brain clicks off into Default Mode. This is a type of attention characterised by mental chatter, mind wandering, operating on ‘automatic pilot’, dwelling on the past and worrying about the future, judgment and criticism. In contrast, when we deliberately pay attention to what we are doing, we experience things directly, through the senses, and avoid getting caught up in worrying, dwelling, judging and fight/flight reactivity. You have probably experienced the present moment while engaging in activities such as exercising, playing music, being in nature, engaging in hobbies and spending times with loved ones.
Mindfulness begins with learning to focus on the moment. Becoming deliberately aware we start to notice that while things can change from moment to moment, the awareness itself remains unchanged. When we bring open and accepting awareness to ourselves and others, we tend to act and relate with more compassion and care. We become gentler and kinder and our relationships start to change. And as we become better practiced at deliberate, open awareness in each moment, we become able to better maintain emotional equilibrium in any situation.
At Bridge Street Psychology our psychologists are trained in the application of mindfulness for a variety of different issues. To find out more about our experience in mindfulness visit our psychologists’ profiles by clicking here or call us today to make an appointment on 9876 1800.