Mindlessness is Important… Really
If you did a double take at the headline, you're probably not alone. People talk about mindfulness all the time but I can’t ever recall anyone talking about mindlessness. Let’s get everyone on the same page. Many people confuse mindfulness with meditation. Meditation is a tool you can use to achieve mindfulness, but meditation isn’t a requirement. Mindfulness is being aware of what’s going on inside and outside of your body. It is about being in tune with your surroundings and taking advantage of that knowledge to help you see the world and your problems in new ways that enable you to be more productive and innovative.
So, if you are new to mindfulness and want to give it a try, take five minutes when you are alone and sit still. (You can set a timer) How does your body feel? What thoughts/ emotions come up? If sitting in silence isn’t your thing, drink a cup of tea or eat a meal slowly - consciously savoring every mouthful.
Ok, this is where it gets interesting. Mindfulness is an expression of non-doing. Well doesn’t that sound mindlessness? It does! But the key difference is our level of consciousness. We are in a state of mindlessness when we are unaware of what is happening to us or around us. We are on autopilot without a clear connection to what we are feeling or doing. For example, can you remember a time when you came home and crashed on the couch, channel surfing, but not really watching anything in particular. Or, maybe you remember driving and missing your turn because you weren’t paying attention. I have been there.
So here is the big “ta da” - mindlessness and mindfulness work well when used together If you have an important presentation coming up, spend focused time preparing, then take a break and do something that allows you to be on autopilot - like playing Angry Birds. When you come back to the presentation, you will likely find yourself with more clarity than if you pushed yourself to get everything done in one sitting.
This finding isn’t an endorsement for long periods of mindlessness or driving on autopilot, but it does acknowledge that resting your mind has real benefits. So, what is the best balance of mindfulness and mindlessness in your life? Now that you know that they both are beneficial, you can make a mindful decision.