Autism Program Bonus Lesson #12

Bonus Lesson #12 - Active Mindfulness

Click here to access the audio of this lesson

Transcript of Bonus Lesson #12 Below:

In one of this week’s video I talk to you about the importance of mindfulness and how the different centres of the brain activate when we practice it.

I wanted to take some time to elaborate on that conversation, just because mindfulness is going to play an important part in helping both you and your child to feel less anxious about life.

When anxiety is involved, mindfulness will be your best friend!!!

When we hear of the term mindfulness, a word we seem to be hearing everywhere these days, we often think about the passive act of mindfulness – the idea of meditating.

But Active mindfulness is a practice that is just as important, possibly even more important than the sit-down act of mindfulness.

You can meditate and practice being present to your breath or engaging in a guided meditation that helps you stay focussed on different parts of the body and this will be very beneficial to you.

And let’s say you do that for an hour. What are you doing with the other 23 hours of your day?

Quite often you’re thinking, feeling and behaving in the ways that are aligned with NOT being mindful!

If you want to break the habit of negative thinking, feeling and behaviour, you need to replace the old habit with a new one.

So, in addition to doing passive mindfulness – ie meditating, active mindfulness can also be your best friend in training yourself to be happier.

Active mindfulness is very simple to do too. It’s just about being present.

In this week’s video, I talked about the two different networks in the brain that are being activated as we’re experiencing life.

One network is activated when we are being mindful, which is the Task-positive network where the insula area of the brain responsible for bodily sensations and the anterior cingulate cortex area of the brain responsible for attention is being activated.

The other is the Default Mode Network driven largely by the amygdala (the emotional brain) and the hippocampus (the area of the brain responsible for memory).

I talked about how when you’re in the Default Mode Network, you are ruminating, daydreaming, or planning – meaning you are thinking about past or future and running a narrative about what you’re experiencing.

This is what I’ve been referring to as ‘your story’.

You experience an event, and that event gets linked to your story.

You zone out of the present moment and get caught up in the narrative – the running commentary – going on in your mind.

When you’re using the Default Mode Network you inhibit the use of the Task-Positive Network which allows you to be fully present in the moment.

When you are using the Task-Positive Network, you are focussing on what you’re doing.

You are using one or more of your five senses (seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, or smelling) in the present moment without the narrative about it.

You’re engrossed in the experience of the five senses – ie engrossed what you’re doing.

When you’re using the Task-Positive Network you are inhibiting your ability to use the Default Mode Network so you’re NOT getting caught up in your story.

So, why is it so important for you to be in the Task-Positive Network more often than you currently are?

Just think about how your internal narrative usually goes?

Is it positive? Uplifting? Encouraging?

Or is it usually doom and gloom and the four stressful thinking lenses?

The problem with the Default Mode Network is not the fact that most of us are presently using it to experience the majority of our life.

We need to use that area of the brain to think about our life, make plans, learn from our past, have a certain amount of predictability about our future and sometimes using this network can even be pleasurable if we’re remembering a positive event or having a nice daydream.

The Default Mode Network is not bad.

The problem is more because we overuse it with ‘stories’ from our past that are negative and make us feel bad.

Our default way of thinking that’s being accessed by the Default Mode Network is often negative.

And more so, while we’re in this default way of thinking, our moment to moment experiences are passing us by.

We’re not enjoying what’s right in front of us!

When was the last time you took a shower and really felt the water on your back?

When was the last time you sat with a plate of food and really tasted what you were eating?

When was the last time you really looked at your children in the face and appreciated their innocence and felt your love for them?

When was the last time you walked outside and noticed the trees and listened to the sounds of nature around you?

When was the last time you felt your body as you were walking?

When you feel an emotion, do you feel it, or do you have a conversation about feeling it?

Active Mindfulness is using the Task-Positive network in the brain to quieten the Default Mode Network (your story) and help you to experience life in the present moment.

If you train yourself to be actively mindful more often (meaning you are being mindful of your experiences while you’re active during the day), you will experience massive benefits such as:

  • Better concentration
  • Improved calmness
  • Ability to think clearer
  • More Patience
  • More Compassion
  • A Feeling of Balance
  • A feeling of connection
  • Better Productivity
  • Less Stress & Anxiety

I have said it over and over, the peace you are looking for is always in the present moment. Always!

It’s when you switch off the Default Mode network (the running commentary) and come back to the present moment.

What you see, hear, taste, smell and touch (including how you feel) is reality.

Everything else is a judgement based on your beliefs set up from the past.

Remember how we spoke about amygdala hijacking in the first video where the emotional brain (the amygdala) can hijack your rational brain if it identifies a situation as a threat?

Remember how the amygdala is getting its information from the Hippocampus which is responsible for memory?

Well there’s even such a thing called ‘memory distortion’ whereby the way your hippocampus has stored your memories and even how it retrieves your memoires, may not even be entirely accurate.

If the mind doesn’t have all the details of a timeline or an event, it will make it up using other memories, information or reference points of similar events.

You could be filling in the blanks of a memory of the past event using memories from the Bruce Willis movie you saw back in 1995!!

In a court of law, they don’t even take a person’s account of events as hard evidence anymore because they are now aware of how memory distortion works.

So, if you’re letting your Default Mode Network be your most dominant default way of thinking, what you’re thinking is based on a past that may not have even happened the way you think it did!!!

No wonder why we make ourselves so miserable from our thoughts.

The answer to feeling better about your life is always to come back to the present moment and experience it just as it is without judgement.

That’s where peace lives, right here and right now.

I mean now.

I mean now.

Whoops, that moment’s gone now.

All you have is NOW!

Get it?!

So, today’s lesson is about bringing yourself back into the present moment with your attention as often as you possibly can, so you can start to train yourself to do this by habit.

In this week’s mindfulness video, I showed you three different ways you can practice active mindfulness – cognitive mindfulness: being aware of your thoughts; Physical Mindfulness: being aware of the 5 senses; and Emotional Mindfulness: Staying present to how you’re feeling emotionally.

Today I want you to practice focussing on the second way – Physical Mindfulness – being aware of the five senses.

How to Put Today’s Lesson Into Practice

Today’s activity is to practice staying in the Task-Positive Network by keeping your attention on what you see, hear, taste, touch and smell as often as possible.

Stay aware and whenever you catch your mind wandering off into commentary and it’s not necessary (meaning you don’t need to be thinking or planning), just acknowledge it and bring your attention back to the present moment.

Observe how you feel when you are engrossed in the present moment and pay attention to how much more peaceful you feel when you are focussing on the five senses without judgement.