Why So Many People Try To Stop Their Own Mindfulness Practices Without Really Understanding Them

It seems like every time we say, “Try to think more deeply,” people immediately turn off the thought and move on to the next topic. We can’t help but keep pushing ourselves, wondering why the “thought was so powerful,” or “how could I change it?” To understand how mindful practice actually helps improve mental and emotional wellbeing, and how we can benefit from it in our everyday life, we want to start by answering three of the most common questions about mindfulness.

This is one of the most common questions I hear: “Why should I try to pay attention?” “Why should I try to be more present in the moment?” “How can I really be mindful all day long?”

“Why should I try to pay attention?” Why not, really?

As is the case throughout this entire series of articles, I can’t provide a single magical answer for why we should or shouldn’t pay attention. However, there are numerous studies that can be found online that are helpful in understanding the phenomenon of attentional bias, or the difficulty we often have in noticing the positive events of our life while we’re distracted or distracted ourselves. For more info, check out the article: Attentional Bias is a Problem, Not a Luxury – The Research Behind Attentional Bias Prevention.

“I’d rather have a healthy mind/body connection than a well-fed mind/body connection” I don’t know about you, but I enjoy eating a whole, nutritious and delicious meal! It helps that food that is healthy isn’t expensive or hard to find, but that doesn’t make it any easier for people to enjoy a treat without being bombarded with thoughts and worries about their weight.

We can’t stop our minds and bodies from feeling hungry, but we can try to eat a bit more mindfully and be mindful while we’re waiting for that treat to come our way. How? By using a few simple mindfulness practices.

“How can I learn to be less distracted?”

While most of my readers would probably say that they’d rather be distracted by other, more immediate, problems in their lives, we can’t ignore the fact that our thoughts are a powerful thing. If I try to think too hard, it can be difficult to see the patterns that the mind works, or the mistakes that it makes. Instead, I sometimes try to be aware of how I can be taking “mindful” thoughts like “How can I change my mind from a negative one to a positive one?!” and using them as stepping stones to a more positive state of mind: “What negative thoughts can we use as stepping stones to a more positive state of mind?”

Instead of turning attention to what we think or feel (e.g., “I worry about my weight, or lack of time/money”), we can try not to dwell on them and to simply see them for what they are: ideas or thoughts that we keep on repeating, whether they make us happy or frustrated or anxious or sad.

“How can I be more mindful of what I’m thinking?”

Another one of the big “why’s” why questions I hear when it comes to being mindful and paying attention. The answer is pretty simple. How we choose to think about experiences is a powerful influence on our emotional and physical experiences. The key to being mindful in our thinking is to not jump right into an issue or challenge (such as dealing with the pressures of the moment), and instead to ask ourselves two things: “Am I already making an effort to stop thinking/feel the way I’m thinking/feeling? And if so, how can I take another step to change that?”

This is something that we can do today by becoming more attentive to our thoughts and what they are saying. We can also choose to think differently by simply changing how we interpret and respond to whatever happens. We can choose not to “answer” the thought (even if it makes us sad), but to turn it around, and ask “Have I just created a new thought?” This creates an opportunity to examine our response and, most of all, our response creates an opportunity to examine their response.

“What if I just take more notice of the world around me?”

A simple yet effective question that I frequently think to myself. What if I stopped talking, stared out the window, or read one of the countless good books out there, and paid more attention to things around me? After all, our thoughts are the very thing that keep us connected to our world and to one another. Instead of constantly having a thought in our minds, we should pay attention to the things that are around us. A quiet corner of your apartment can be much better than your bedroom at night when you’re awake. By paying attention to what’s going in our world, we can open up a new and better world of connection and joy.