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5 Reasons You're Having a Hard Time Being Mindful - Mindful

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Our brains are wired to think, worry, remember, predict, plan, and regret. Mindfulness asks us to swim against the tide of these mental habits. 

We need support in this practice, with books, lectures, classes, and conversations with like-minded friends.

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5 Reasons You're Having a Hard Time Being Mindful - Mindful

5 Reasons You're Having a Hard Time Being Mindful - Mindful

https://www.mindful.org/5-reasons-youre-hard-time-mindful/

mindful.org

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Key Ideas

Understanding mindfulness

One of the reasons mindfulness seems hard is the fact that you don't understand it. Mindfulness doesn't mean perfect focus and happiness at all times.

Mindfulness is about choosing to focus your attention on the present moment, about noticing when your mind wanders and bringing it back to what’s right in front of you.

Be curious

If you want to get better at practicing mindfulness, don't forget to be curious.

Sometimes the details of daily life aren’t all that enjoyable. Traffic is boring, and your colleague at work is annoying. But what if we stop wishing reality was different and got curious about it? We might not miss our freeway exit. And we’d learn that our coworker is going through a messy divorce. Life would feel a little bit easier.

Don't set unrealistic expectations

If you're struggling with mindfulness, maybe you’re making it bigger than it needs to be.

You can notice a wandering mind in the shower or while you’re drinking your coffee. You can take a deep breath before you hit send or snap at your spouse. And you can remember that no matter how spacey, forgetful, impulsive, or reactive you’ve been, you can always begin again.

Your mood matters

Don't practice being mindful only when you're upset.

While mindfulness can certainly be helpful in difficult moments, our brains have a hard time learning or doing something new when they’re under stress. The more you practice paying attention to the present moment when you’re calm and happy, the easier and more effective it’ll be when you’re freaking out.

Ask for support

Our brains are wired to think, worry, remember, predict, plan, and regret. Mindfulness asks us to swim against the tide of these mental habits. 

We need support in this practice, with books, lectures, classes, and conversations with like-minded friends.

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Beliefs about worry
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  • Worrying motivates me. We need to differentiate between unproductive worry and productive concern and problem solving.
  • Worrying helps me solve problems. Extreme worry is more likely to interfere with problem-solving. 
Tools to assist us with worry
  • Calm the nervous system with guided muscle relaxation, meditation, and exercise. 
  • Notice when you're worrying and any beliefs that reinforce worry.  Awareness of the process gives us more choice in how we respond.
  • Embrace uncertainty. Most of the things we care about in life involve uncertainty. It takes considerable practice to begin to embrace it.
  • Live in the present. Practice focusing your attention on the present in everyday activities like taking a shower, walking, or talking with a friend, as well as in more formal practices like meditation or yoga.
  • When we face our fears head-on, they tend to diminish. Deliberately accept what you're afraid of: "It's possible I'll miss my flight." 
Think like Sherlock Holmes

“What Sherlock Holmes offers isn’t just a way of solving a crime. It is an entire way of thinking."

"Holmes provides... an education in improving our faculty of mindful thought...

Engagement
As children, we are remarkably aware to the world around us. This attention wanes over time as we allow more pressing responsibilities to attend to and demands on our minds to address. And as the demands on our attention increase so, too, does our actual attention decrease.

 As it does so, we become less and less able to know or notice our own thought habits and more and more allow our minds to dictate our judgments and decisions, instead of the other way around.

Pitfalls of the Untrained Brain

Daniel Kahneman believes there are two systems for organizing and filtering knowledge: 

  • System one is real-time. This system makes judgments and decisions before our mental apparatus can consciously catch up. 
  • System two, on the other hand, is a slow process of thinking based on critical examination of evidence. Konnikova refers to these as System Watson and System Holmes.

To move from a System Watson- to a System Holmes-governed thinking takes mindfulness plus motivation.

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Take a break

Think about your life. What is really important to you? How would you like to live your life?

Write down the things that are truly important to you, the things that ten years from now...

The things you are doing every day
  • Write them down. For example, wake up, eat breakfast, go to work…
  • Highlight the tasks that you do daily that are in line with your priorities.
  • The highlighted stuff is the important stuff that you do every day. Everything else is urgent.
Cut down on the urgent stuff
  • Some “urgent” activities will just need to go. Maybe you can wait until later after all to check your picture on Facebook.
  • Some “urgent” activities will need to be delegated. Your assistant, if you have one, could actually pay that bill.
  • Some others will be better organized. You could actually make a batch of lunches every Sunday and Wednesday.

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