This blog has MOVED!

Please visit for the most updated content. All these posts and more can be found over at the new URL.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Wandering Minds

We’ve touched on before that my mind does not “shut off”. I’m always thinking something – and some of those thoughts become full-fledged posts. I’m usually thinking either about the future and “what if” plans, or I’m thinking about the past in the context of how I can do something better in the future. Or analyzing the why’s.

This kind of thinking shuts off during periods of great effort – 100 milers, backpacking, marathons etc.

My mom made a comment during our trip this weekend that expressed perfectly what happens.
When I think of being “out in nature”, I often imagine the intellectual conversations I will having, the philosophical thoughts. Finally, I will have the time to think on those things and come to conclusions that elude me because of the everyday interruptions of my normal life! Instead, while on the trail, the thoughts are – “I’m hungry”, “I’m thirsty”, “I’m sleepy”, “My feet hurt”. Everything is an immediate need or want. It’s impossible to let my mind wander. The same thing happens during 100 miles or marathoning. I am forced to live in the moment, because the moment surpasses any theoretical need or concern my brain could dream up. And I’m happier for it.

I’ve often thought that my tendency to “think” made me happier, but looking at my activities that I “lose” myself in, it appears that NOT “thinking” makes me actually happier.

By recognizing this, there is a possibility that I can reach that point of living in the moment of immediate concerns faster, with less physical pain because I know what I’m looking for.

A friend sent me an article which I have put into Google Docs here. It describes this phenomenon and gives me more reason to believe that I’m on the right track.

A wandering mind is part of who I am, so I’m not eager to excise it from my life. With knowledge comes power – the power to be happier and more content, while still engaging in stimulating thought that’s important to me. Some of my more important takeaways:

  • Pleasant mind wandering and not mind wandering have similar “happiness” ratings.

  • Neutral mind wandering is not necessarily neutral for my “happiness” rating.

  • Try to limit neutral and unpleasant mind wandering. This might mean setting a time limit. For example – I allow myself to think about all the “what ifs” and “contingency plans” for x amount of hours. At that point I either drop it and focus on living in the moment, OR I write it down (writing something down let’s me let go of something better) and file it away where it’s not in plain sight.

  • Focus on strategies for living in the moment. An example might be to quit using my walks and runs as time to rehash over and over a particular looming situation and instead either think only pleasant wandering thoughts, or live entirely in the moment – foot fall by foot fall. Another strategy that I’ve been using successfully when I’m almost in panic mode because I can’t let go of something, especially before bed, is to have a mantra. My current one is a bible verse. I just repeat it in my head over and over until I go to sleep. As long as I repeat that phrase over and over, my mind seems to not be able wander and I can go to sleep peaceably.

  • If an activity brings me joy because it allows me to live in the moment, don’t ruin it by over analyzing it. For example – my backpacking trip was wonderful. I don’t have the words to describe it. I learned a lot of things that would be easy to apply to both endurance and life. I could talk and write about it at length. But I’m not going to. I’m going to let the weekend stand as it is and quietly try to apply some of the “lessons learned” without thinking about it too much.

  • I’ll try to do less over-analyzing of the activities that were once my escape, but perhaps I haven’t been enjoying as much lately. I haven’t found my “escape” in riding for a couple of months now. Some of that could be because I’m not really RIDING lately, due to crappy weather. As the weather improves and I start riding more, I’m going to make an effort to just go along for the ride more and enjoy the ride and the moment. I’ll be a little less critical and a little less quick to overanalyze and create a post. I may post less often or chose not to share a really cool observation by overanalyzing, but I also may enjoy riding more.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.