The brain is plastic. It develops throughout our lives in response to how we use it. This is one of the key insights from neuroscience. Our thinking habits are constantly getting further strengthened by practice.
It means we can train our minds to do what we want: to concentrate, to be creative, to be positive, to be intelligent, even to be happy. We have incredible potential to learn and change even those thinking habits that seem to be ingrained as part of our personalities.
It also mean that non-constructive thoughts can easily become habitual in an unconscious cycle of re-enforcement. For example, the more we play computer games, the more we crave that certain mind stimulation, even when we know it is not good for us. If we get good at being critical, our brains will tend to jump into that familiar pattern, even when we want to be encouraging. If we spent a lot of time multitasking, it will feel more tiring to stick with one task and concentrate more deeply, even if this is what more complex tasks require. We are always training our brains to do what we most often do. Change takes effort.
Do you feel like you are in control of what you think? Thoughts come into our heads without our consent and we have never been taught how to handle those thoughts: how to take control of our minds. For most of us, our thinking has only been trained by outside forces –advertising, computer games, parental programming, work place pressure etc. The new insights of neuroscience and renewed interest in traditional mindfulness practices now give us the opportunity for new levels of self-determination.
This is the essential benefit of regular mindfulness training: to gain control of your thinking, and therefore of your life.
When you practice mindfulness, you gently and purposefully guide your thinking to follow your will. With practice it soon becomes easier, and you will be able to observe your own thoughts, gaining increasingly deep awareness of your own thinking and the impacts it has on you.
Thinking is the basic building block of so much of our lives. What we think affects how we see and interact with the world, and thereby it affects all of our results and experiences. That is why this essential benefit of mindfulness leads to so many secondary benefits including:
- greatly enhanced focus and concentration,
- a general improvement in overall health,
- less stress, anger and mood disturbances,
- freedom from our habitual thought patterns,
- increased empathy and kindness, and
- greatly increased general happiness.
Even a small investment of 10 minutes per day can yield discernible results. Are you ready to give it a try?
Learn all about mindfulness and how to start your own mindfulness training at the Mindfulness @Work seminar on October 9, 2012.
For support in starting your own daily mindfulness training with the 8-week ‘Make It Happen’ series.