Did you know that we spend about half of our waking days ‘sleep-walking’ through our lives? Not only do we have our days of trying to keep our minds focused on daily chores and activities... but, we also have various habits and unconscious patterns that we follow, without being completely mindfully aware of doing them. Therefore, keeping our minds in the present and clearly focusing on the activity-at-hand is a major undertaking for most of us.
Mindfulness is the act of paying attention to the present. It is going through our lives and daily activities with awaking-awareness and presence. And, that is a difficult thing to do.
Try this. See how long you can stay awake and focused on every little chore that you do while getting up and getting dressed in the morning. How long did it last? Use a timer.
When you are driving your car to a destination, focus on being aware and awake at every moment of driving the car. How many times have you found yourself making a turn when you did not intend to? Most probably, the wrong-turn was the habitual way that you most usually follow, and you were too distracted and unfocused to catch yourself before making the wrong turn. That’s because you had fallen into your sleep-walking non-awareness mode.
Neuroscientist Amishi Jha, who is the Director of Contemplative Neuroscience for the UMindfulness Initiative, has found effective exercises that help to strengthen our ability to be mindful and pay attention.
Dr. Jha believes that in order to be good at keeping our minds focused, we need to train ourselves. She says that a person without mindfulness training will lose attention when under stress far more quickly that one who has learned how to focus in general.
In a very interesting Ted Talk below, Dr. Jha explains how to train our minds to be focused and she provides exercises for building our mindfulness capabilities.
Today, neuroscientists are proving the value of mindfulness meditation, as well as other integrative body-mind exercises, such as Pilates, yoga, tai chi, and even dancing. According to an article in Science Daily, they have found that there are neural networks that connect the cerebral cortex to the adrenal medulla that activates the body to react in stressful situations. These findings are uncovering how mental states, such as depression and stress, can affect organs... and, further, the fact that psychosomatic illnesses may be real. They are learning WHY integrative exercises and meditation practices help the body deal with stressful situations... and the fact that these techniques actually DO help individuals improve their health. Learn more HERE.
For more information and ideas for training our minds to pay attention, check out the sources below:
4 Simple Exercises to Strengthen Your Attention and Reduce Distractibility
Mindfulness Exercises by the Mayo Clinic