Mindfulness vs Mindlessness: What is better for mental health?

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Written By Margonoe Tumindax

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Are you living in a mindful state or mindless one? Know the signs and find out if mindfulness is better than mindlessness for mental health.

Sometimes, while doing daily tasks, we don’t always pay attention. We may be on an automatic mode while chopping vegetables or washing clothes. This proves that focusing our attention on the present moment at all times is not possible. It is true that being mindful has many mental health benefits. It may help to reduce stress, which we all have to deal with. But is being in a mindless state bad for you? Know all about mindlessness and mindfulness, and decide which one is better for your mental health.

What is mindlessness?

Mindlessness is a state of being inattentive, unaware, or unconsciously going through actions or thoughts without complete awareness or intention. It involves operating automatically without consciousness, where actions are habitual and reflexive rather than consciously chosen, explains mental health and behavioural science expert Dr Rahul Chandhok. In such a state, people may not fully engage with their surroundings or experiences, resulting in a lack of mindfulness and presence in the present moment.

Mindlessness may be due to stress. Image courtesy: Freepik

Mindlessness can result from various factors –

  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Simply falling into routine behaviours without conscious reflection.

Here are some signs of living in a mindless state:

  • Engaging in daily activities without conscious awareness or reflection. Being physically present but mentally absent.
  • Often being preoccupied with past or future concerns.
  • Frequently forgetting details or events because of lack of attention or focus.
  • Reacting to situations impulsively without thoughtful consideration, often driven by habit or emotion.
  • Trying to do multiple tasks simultaneously without dedicating complete attention to any one of them.
  • Feeling a disconnect between actions and experiences, which causes a sense of detachment or numbness.
  • Experiencing repetitive or intrusive thoughts without actively engaging with them.
  • Difficulty in concentrating.
  • Reduced ability to enjoy things in life.

What is mindfulness?

In contrast to mindlessness, mindfulness is all about intentionally focusing your attention on the present moment. It involves being fully aware of sensations, thoughts, emotions, and surroundings as they occur, with an attitude of openness, curiosity, and acceptance, says the expert. Mindfulness techniques typically include meditation and breathing exercises.

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Here are some signs that indicate you are living in a mindful state:

  • Being fully engaged in the current moment, without being distracted by thoughts of the past or worries about the future.
  • Having a non-judgmental attitude.
  • Accepting things as they are, without trying to change or resist them.
  • Responding to situations with calmness and clarity, rather than reacting impulsively.
  • Ability to focus and concentrate.
  • Sense of gratitude.
  • Better self awareness.
  • Engaging in meaningful connections with others.

Is mindfulness better than mindlessness?

Mindfulness is generally considered to be better than mindlessness because it promotes greater self-awareness, emotional regulation, and overall well-being, says Dr Chandhok. According to a 2021 study published in the Frontiers journal, there is an association between mindfulness and lower stress.

Another study published in the Clinical Psychology Review in 2011, researchers found that mindfulness brings about various positive psychological effects, including increased well-being, and improved behavioural regulation.

A woman being mindful
Practice mindfulness for better mental health. Image courtesy: Freepik
  • Mindfulness helps in improving concentration and cognitive function, resulting in better focus and productivity, whereas mindlessness can result in decreased attention and effectiveness in tasks.
  • Mindfulness promotes better decision-making, while mindlessness may lead to impulsive or uninformed choices, says the expert.
  • Mindfulness fosters empathy, compassion, and better communication skills, enhancing relationships with oneself and others while mindlessness, can result in misunderstandings, conflicts, and disconnection in relationships.

How to be more mindful?

By practicing mindfulness, people can develop greater self-awareness, emotional regulation, and resilience to stress, among other things. To be more mindful, do the following:

1. Body scan meditation

Do a body scan meditation, where you systematically focus on each part of your body. Pay attention to any sensations or tension you may be experiencing while doing so.

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2. Practice mindful eating

Don’t go on an automatic mode while eating food even if it is not your favourite dish. Enjoy the flavours, colours and textures of the food on your plate.

3. Focus properly on your daily activities

You may be doing dishes every day. But doing it mindlessly may lead to mistakes. You may drop a plate while cleaning it if you are not paying attention. Feel the water or smell the fragrance of the soap.

4. Practice gratitude

Gratitude is one of the ways to be happy. Always acknowledge the goodness in your life and be thankful for what you have every day, says the expert.

You should also take time to observe your surroundings and communicate thoughtfully.

Remember that consistency and patience are necessary to develop mindfulness.

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