A Harvard University study by Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert in 2010 revealed that the average person spends 47% of the day mind wandering by thinking about something other than his or her current activity.* Doesn’t this mean that we all kinda have ADHD?:) With the over stimulation of the modern world, including the endless texts, twitters, emails, and news flashes, it is hard even for the parents to focus on our tasks or enjoy our moments.
This month, my two older sons are not at home. It should have been such a relief because my oldest son’s ADHD is one of the main stresses of my life. But I still felt stressed and my mind was racing even after they left. So at the beginning of this week, I made the conscious decision to enjoy this month to the fullest with my baby son and put all worries away for the month. However, I found out how difficult it is to quiet the mind and stay in the moment.
Over the years, I, and I am pretty sure many other parents, have developed the habit of “mental task listing”. Even when we are doing some leisurely tasks such as reading, our mind soon drifts to think about what we have to do today, tomorrow, next month, even next year. And it inevitably creates the stress that we desperately try to avoid.
For instance, just when I have several hours to relax, I start to self blame for not using this one month’s free time to look for a new and better job. I start to think how to help my parents apply for health insurance…It is quite difficult to focus just on the moment and simply let be.
But we are not alone. This has been the challenge throughout the history. From Budda to Socrates to Thoreau, all Eastern and Western philosophies and religions have fundamentally been trying to address this issue – on how to improve mental well being by stop wasting our time away on all the what-ifs and what-should-haves. I read many books on this topic because I was in a quite an anxious state for the past three months, continuously worrying about this and that and failing to relax and enjoy life.
The tools mentioned by the books to help with the transition to live in the current and don’t let rumination of the past and negative imagination of the future dominate our lives include: meditation, physical exercise, questioning of our own thoughts, and switching our mind back to the present.
For the past week, I have been doing 20 minutes yoga, 10 minutes meditation, and 30 minutes walking each day. It did help. I am in an improved mental state and able to push back some anxiety-inducing thoughts. I simply tell myself that I will think about them when it is their time just Scarlett O’hara tells herself in Gone with the Wind “I will think about it tomorrow.”
Of course sometimes my mind still wanders to the darker places. But with practice, I believe I, and you, can become more present and don’t let worries and distractions eat away our life. Before we address our kids’ ADHD, we should address our modern day semi ADHD first:)