The thinking mind is a funny thing – agile, adaptive and inquisitive by nature – genius at solving problems, planning and moving us toward goals and aspirations. This same mind, on a moment’s notice, can take us back in time to cherish a memory, ruminate on past difficulties and then to leap ahead again in worry and anxious anticipation.
We humans truly are time travelers – and if you pause to consider your own experience, it may not surprise you to learn that recent research confirms the mind’s tendency to roam. It turns out that the human mind is a wandering mind. If what’s happening right now isn’t compelling, the mind will predictably meander into the past, fly to the future or sink into commentary about what has been, what is and whatever might come. The results of one very large study (see below) showed that across gender, age, income and culture, human minds tend to wander away from the present moment nearly 50% of the time.
The same research suggests what we may already suspect: That a “wandering mind is an unhappy mind” and greater wellbeing is associated with spending more time right here, in the present moment. Exercising the mental capacity for presence turns out to correlate closely to increased happiness overall.
Living more in the present is a skill we can develop – and mindful movement, yoga and meditation are some of the most effective ways to cultivate that skill – moment by moment. Practicing presence through the doorways of sensation, breath, movement and stillness, we develop neural pathways in the brain that allow us to choose living more fully into the “here and now” instead of in the “there and then”.
Stay tuned for more on the relationship between mindfulness and movement and how nurturing that connection supports greater resilience and wellbeing.
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