It is well documented that the brain uses shortcuts to increase its efficiency. The brain relies on information from past experiences to direct your thoughts and behaviors for the task at hand.
For example, Rita considered herself a very busy working woman. Everyday her default activity in the car on her way to work would be to check in on her family and friends over the phone. She repeated this behavior day after day without giving it a second thought. For many years she held onto the idea that she was so busy that she had no time for the things she really wanted to do. She was stuck in a thinking loop in which she believed she could not do things to nurture herself.
Like this loop, there are several negative thinking patterns and worries that the wandering mind may jump to by default without reality testing or taking a pause to be present and accurately assessing the facts at hand.
According to Harvard psychologists, Killingsworth and Gilbert about 47% of our waking hours are spent thinking of things other than the task at hand. Their research shows happiness is inversely proportional to how much the mind wanders. According to them “the wandering mind is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.”
If one’s automatic patterns are negative beliefs such as “I don’t have time for myself” or “I don’t deserve better” then one’s actions will always be in accordance with these beliefs and one actualizes a very limited and mediocre life.
However, it is possible to actualize a life of abundance. A life filled with nurturing relationships, warmth, caring, enough resources and contentment. The age-old wisdom which says “Live in the present moment” may actually be the answer to breaking out of the cycle of limiting beliefs.
Easier said than done! How does one live in the present moment? Research shows us that mindfulness meditation might be a tool that actually trains the mind to stop wondering and focus on the task at hand. Mindfulness meditation is proven not only to be an antidote to anxiety but also to be present enough to make better decisions.
According to Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, mindfulness meditation helps people “to distinguish between a problem-solving thought and a nagging worry that has no benefit.”
Research from the Forest Baptist Medical Center has even been able to identify that mindfulness meditation activates areas of the brain such as the anterior cingulate cortex, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, among others that are responsible for executive function and course correction while making decisions.
Mindfulness meditation trains your mind to focus on a single thing such as your breathing. Once the focus has been achieved, the mind is freed to focus on observing its own inner workings instead of being distracted by its own chatter. Once one can observe how one’s mind works one is actually able to deconstruct limiting beliefs and replace them with nurturing beliefs that allow abundance to flow into your life.
With mindfulness meditation Rita was able to stabilize her focus enough and examine her core beliefs. She realized that she did not need to spend two hours on her commute checking in on others. If she let go of some of her limiting ideas that she had to be there for others at the cost of herself; then she had time to nurture herself. With this awareness, she let go of the excuses she was making to herself about time and started using her travel time to do an online course, doing pranayama breathing and even occasionally watching her favorite TV show!
Ashika Mehta practices psychotherapy in Mumbai. She has completed her Master’s in Clinical Social Work from Columbia University along with a BA in Psychology from Vassar College. Ashika also facilitates training programs for corporates and has conducted training for YPO and ASCENT.
Ashika has done intensive post-trauma work with those affected by the 26/11 terror attacks at the Breach Candy Hospital and facilitates therapy groups for those with chronic illness.
Ashika is passionate about working towards the prevention of the sex trafficking of at-risk women and children. As a Board Member of Apne Aap Women’s Collective, Ashika helps rehabilitate women in prostitution and creates educational and job opportunities for the children of sex workers.