So the best type of mental state is the one that lets you switch to other mental states at will. Our aim is to be in control of our brains and our thoughts and to be able to switch from one state of mind to another with ease.
In other words? All types of thought and all types of mental state are important, valid and helpful.
What is that one? It’s the one where you’re just incredibly distracted by all the constant demands being placed on you.
And this is where the ‘modern ache’ starts to come in.
Earlier, we learned how we were desensitized to much of the natural stimuli coming into our minds through our senses. We take the same route to work and do the same things every day and as a result, we are very much desensitized to everything around us.
The problem is: our modern culture is all too aware of this and it tries to exploit it.
While you’re happily mulling over the day’s events you see, you’re also being distracted by:
All these things are designed to grab our attention and to over stimulate us so that they can get us to spend money/work/pay attention.
And this is what’s killing our ability to focus, relax and concentrate as much as anything else.
Do you know why alarms are designed the way they are? They make a beeping noise because it’s something we would never hear in the wild. As such, it’s strange and unusual to our brain and it sits up and takes notice – in comes that salience network and in comes that cortisol, norepinephrine and general stress.
And this is what wakes most of us up in the morning! We’re startled awake from complete, deep sleep by a loud ‘alien’ sound.
Then what do we do? Normally, we will check our phones.
Bright light = even more cortisol (the stress hormone) being produced in our brains.
Then looking at adverts starts to grab our attention because that’s what they’re designed for.
Then we read our email. What’s this? A message from your boss asking if you can do something for them as soon as you get in?
Now you’re stressed and focussed on that. And thus, as you do your teeth it’s all you can think of.
Over breakfast with the family, your mind is half-watching the television and this is preventing you from properly paying attention to what they’re saying. The TV is much louder, much more colorful and is designed to grab attention.
What do we do on the way into work? Probably play a computer game. And those are all about making us pay attention. They stimulate stress by creating difficulty and when we do well, they reward us with the right sounds and colors. This creataes a dopamine hit in our brain which is very rewarding and which makes the activity very addicting.
All this time we’re missing the view out the window.
Then at work, we feel stressed again because we remember that email while we make coffee.
Coffee which – by the way – also triggers the release of more stress hormones.
Then we sit down and instead of doing the things we need to do first, we start our day by doing that thing that we were asked to do. Now we’re in a ‘reactive’ state of mind and we’re not able to do what’s most productive or most important for us.
And so it continues for the rest of the day. We’re constantly being tugged in every direction by computers, work, money problems, adverts, games, texts… and that’s using up all our ability to pay attention, to focus and to think.
So is it any wonder that you’re struggling to start meditating? Or that you’re so ‘wired and tired’ all the time? Or that you’re struggling to stay on top of things?
Using meditation will really help with this because it will give you the ability to control your focus and your ability to concentrate. Now you can say ‘no’ to worrying about that email. And you can say ‘no’ to focussing on the TV ads. And you can engage with your body and mind whenever you want in order to recharge and in order to start enjoying the world around you.
What’s also really good though, is if you can try and reduce all that noise, distraction, stimulation and chatter. This will just make everything easier for you and will help you to better focus on the things that matter to you.
One example of how you can do this is with your ‘morning ritual’.
A morning ritual is basically a series of steps that you will endeavor to go through every single morning before you leave the house/start with work. This lets you stop being reactive and start being proactive.
It means that you’re now setting the pace and deciding how you want to begin your day – and it can help to make you more productive and efficient for the entire day that follows.
So what might a morning ritual look like?
Similarly, you can also try introducing an evening routine. There are a few things this can help with: