With the many ‘How To’ guides sprouting all around, I have thought of coming up with my own pointers on….. wait, I forgot. Oh, okay that’s it – "How to Keep Your Mind from Wandering". Sounds very challenging, don’t you think? I will be able to provide useful hints on how to stop this pervading psychological phenomenon called mind-wandering from ever bothering our mental faculties again. Mind-wandering is that abstract nuisance that prevent students from keeping their focus on textbooks and lectures, drivers from keeping their minds on the road, and employees from concentrating on beating deadlines set by their bosses. I am thrilled no end by the prospect of seeing everyone starting to do something and finishing it without being interrupted even for a second by a wandering mind.
I am sure many of you now are eagerly waiting for my pointers to come out and are probably asking how I am progressing with this set of hints. Unfortunately, I have not even started it yet. My mind simply goes astray faster than I can put in those first few words of my supposed first suggestion. It doesn’t matter how hard I try, I seem to be so overwhelmed by this mind-wandering thing and realize that I can’t avoid it myself. Which brings me to this question: "Can mind-wandering be stopped?".
While the prevailing current psychological activity has failed to focus on this widespread mental behavior, the efforts of some scientists are now beginning to gain ground. For instance, a spate of new scientific researches is hewing away at this enigma and many other researchers are putting in their ten cents worth in trying to unravel the mysterious shroud off mind-wandering. These concerted researches may someday help in shedding light on attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder which includes an uncommonly harsh lack of sufficient capacity to focus that result to disturbances in the various fields of life. On a more general scope, scientists believe that mind-wandering deserves serious consideration because it is just too familiar to be simply ignored.
A recent study revealed that, on the average, students are not thinking about what they are doing thirty percent of the time when their thoughts were sampled for a week at eight random times per day. For some of the other students, it was alarmingly higher at between eighty and ninety percent of the time. Of the 126 students who participated in the study, only one denied any mind-wandering at the sampled moments. This lone denial represents a negligible 0.79% of the total number of thoughts evaluated. And supposing that this solitary denial is accurate and was not a product of mind-wandering, then our scientists have the daunting task of turning the other 99.21% into completely focused minds!
Of course, many mind-wandering instances are harmless as when you are thinking about a problem at the workplace while sipping a hot cup of coffee. Or when you are mulling at what goodies to bring home to your kid tonight while talking on the phone with your sister. However, the problem arises when mind-wandering diverts your attention from something that you should be fully focusing on. This can result to lamentable consequences. Take for example an incident in which a young mother stepped out of the house and drove to the nearest grocery for some fresh vegetables. Whatever was going through her mind, she had forgotten about her toddler who was left playing alone on the floor of an upper level room near the stairs. The succeeding scene was tragic!
In order for us to fully understand people’s mental lives, we ought to think about this psychological phenomenon. But let me ask again. Can we really keep our minds from ever wandering? Before you give your answer, think about the math problem your daughter brought home from school as her assignment which she asked you to help her solve. While your brain is calculating the math problem, in a pen-and-paper approach (without the aid of a calculator, because you were showing off), in a mindful state, it is subconciously processing data from millions of nerve cells that handle the visual input of the paper and surrounding area, the aural input from both ears, and the sensory input of millions of cells throughout the body. Does this mean anything to you?
If I am to provide the answer to my own question, I guess that will be in the negative. And I am afraid I won’t be able to deliver on my promise to come up with those pointers on how to prevent the mind from wandering. More especially so if you have not been paying attention to what I am saying here.