The alarm goes off and before you can wipe the sleep from your eyes, your mind is planning for the madness of modern life that is about to ensue.
You shower, stuff food in mouth and dash out the door. Commute, coffee, work. Meetings, phone calls, deadlines. Workout, shower, eat. Mind racing with a thousands of thoughts and a million distractions.You get home, fall into the arms of your partner… PAUSE…DEEP BREATH….Intimacy, touch, sensuality. Presence, mindful movement, stillness. What just happened? You just partook in modern human’s most enjoyable and mindful activity: sex.
Harvard psychologists Dan Gilbert and Matthew Killingsworth created an iPhone app called Track Your Happiness. They studied 2500 people around the world and asked them at random intervals what they were doing and what they were thinking about.
The results were astounding. The quarter of a million responses yielded a powerful dataset proving that mind wandering is almost our default state of being. On average respondents reported that their minds wandered 46.9% of the time.
Not during sex however. It is not known if these people waited until after the act to fiddle with their phones, but the results were emphatic: People having sex gave a 90 out of a 100 enjoyment rating, more than 15 points ahead of the next most enjoyable activity, exercise.
Even more interesting, those having sex reported that they were focused on having sex for 90% of the time. That’s 30% higher than the second most mindful activity.
It came as no surprise that people having the most fun were the ones having sex. But this study highlighted that one of the reasons why sex is great is that our minds wander less when doing it.
A wandering mind is an unhappy mind. A person’s happiness depends less on the activity and more on his/her mindfulness level during the activity.
“Mind wandering is an excellent predictor of people’s happiness. How often our minds leave the present, and where they tend to go is a better predictor of our happiness than the activities in which we are engaged.” ~ Dan Gilbert
For centuries philosophers from the East and the West have pointed out that being present and aware of the moment is the key to happiness.
As Zen Monk Thich Nhat Hanh puts it: “When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.”
Here are 3 powerful ways we can increase happiness by decreasing mind-wandering.
1. Limit distractions
Sex is one of the few occasions in modern life where we are not hostage to the distractions of modern technology. So, when you take on a challenge or a task requiring focus, make it sacred by creating a distraction-free environment. You know that the ping of an email and the red dot of a Facebook notification take you out of your flow, so why not take action? Dedicate time to checking emails and social media and, otherwise switch off your phone and turn off your emails. Create a zen-like space for your art and creativity to flourish.
2. Forget multitasking
The myth of multitasking has been firmly rubbished. Scientists now know that what we think of as really clever juggling of several tasks is actually inefficient and damaging micro-sized single tasking. It is bad for the brain, and terrible for our attention spans. Multitasking splits our attention and allows mind-wandering. Organise your schedule so that you focus on one thing at a time. Be firm with those who demand your attention, and remain focused on your agenda.
3. Find your Flow
Flow is a psychological state of total immersion in an activity, resulting in optimal performance and enjoyment. The flow state has been used by athletes, adventurers and high performers in every field to harness full potential. Flow is the opposite of mind-wandering, a state of deep focus—that state of mind when you are having sex, where your attention is locked on the present moment. There are many gateways to the flow state, the most powerful being focused attention. Without this foundation, you won’t find your flow. Meditation is a powerful way to build attentional stamina.
Another major flow trigger is creating the ideal level of challenge, so that your tasks are optimally engaging. The outside edge of your comfort zone is the flow zone. You can tweak any activity so that the challenge goes up. If you are writing an essay, set the time limit to give yourself a challenge. If you are surfing, go deeper, go bigger. If making breakfast, make it a game. See how efficiently you can move, or how silently you can cook.
Having the knowledge that mind-wandering equates to unhappiness and mindfulness equates to happiness is a solid foundation from which to build new habits. There are many more ways to infuse your life with mindful attention.
If this article has been useful to you, please share it and let me know in the comments how you have added mindfulness to your life!
Bonus! How to have a fun, sexy, heartfelt, genuine, mutual experience when making love:
Author: Jiro Taylor
Editor: Caroline Beaton
Photo: Kira Ikonnikova/Unsplash