Mindfulness Versus Multitasking

Mindfulness Versus Multitasking

The opposite of mindfulness is going on autopilot, paying loose attention to what task or thing you are presently doing. For example, the other day I noticed that I was doing a number of activities simultaneously: turning off the car with one hand, grabbing my coffee cup and smartphone with the other, while deciding I was going to eat the leftover Indian food for lunch and make jasmine tea.

I reflected on this behavior and realized I was not being mindful; however, this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing – I was multitasking and getting lots done. It’s not bad or wrong to multitask, on occasion, but excessive multitasking leads to scattered attention, excessive plan-making, and future-being, which in effect is connecting so deeply to your thoughts about the future that one is unable to enjoy life in the present. Living in the future or in the past leads to unhappiness because life only happens in the present. Living in the future tends to create anxiety and living in the past can have a tendency to create regret which can lead to depression. Anxiety and depression can impair our ability to make healthy choices that have important implications for our well-being. One reason is that fear activates more primal areas of our brain that’s primary function is to keep us alive but we are here to thrive not just live.

Multitasking can only be so helpful and in some cases harmful. Never in the history of humans have we ever had access to so much information. We carry supercomputers (smartphones) in our pockets, after all. That our attention gets scattered is an understatement. Human brains are like Ferrari supercars: they’re incredibly complicated and powerful. Our brains (our other supercomputer) process large amounts of information in microseconds. When we use all of our brain we do incredible things every day, from breast-feeding a baby, playing the piano, or snowboarding down a hill at 40mph. Mindfulness allows us to harness the full power of our brain and body, whereas multitasking allows us to only access part of our brain. It’s like driving a Ferrari and only using the first 2 gears. 

When we harness the full power of our brain so much can go right. When we only access part of our brain so much can go wrong. I’ve never had a Ferrari, but I’ve heard the repair bills are staggering and I wouldn’t want to be distracted while driving one. I don’t need to go into what can go wrong with our health. One need only think about the myriad of mental and physical health disorders, which in most cases are different manifestations of prolonged stress. It’s stressful living in the future or in the past because it’s not what is actually happening. If you think about a stressful future event that might happen or a stressful event that did happen, the body responds in kind by releasing stress hormones and will stop releasing feel-good chemicals like serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin. In other words, multitasking and distraction take us away from the present moment and, in so doing, can create the conditions for developing disease. It’s stressful on the body and brain spending too much time away from the present moment.

Here is where we as humans must continue to adapt and begin to pay closer attention to the precise thing we are doing. Nothing is actually happening in the future or in the past. What you are doing in the present is the most important thing you are doing because it is what is actually happening.

Quantum scientists have now corroborated what mystics have known for thousands of years: when you enter the present moment with your full attention, you enter the “field of all possibilities.” Most of us have already experienced this to some degree. When you give your full attention to something – be it a child, animal, relationship, career, hobby – it grows and expands in amazing ways. When one brings a deeper level of awareness to each and every moment, one’s life begins to grow in all sorts of spectacular and creative ways. For most of us, this is not a switch we flip but a process, a practice that we develop over time. If you’d like to learn more visit Peter Lear’s main website or contact him by phone to make an appointment. Peter Lear is an experienced therapist and life-coach in Lafayette, CO. Peter is also a licensed clinician and available for Yoga instruction, as well as for adult, teen and family therapy.

Benefits of a Mindfulness Practice


Reduce Worry –

Mindfulness is well researched and the data shows that mindfulness has significant benefits, including reduced rumination or worry. Chambers et al (2008) asked 20 novice meditators to participate in an intensive mindfulness retreat. After the retreat, participants experienced fewer depressive symptoms and less rumination. Moreover, mindfulness practitioners had significantly better working memory capacity and were better able to sustain attention during a cognitive performance task compared with the control group.

Reduce Stress and Improved Mood –

Many studies demonstrate that practising mindfulness reduces stress. In 2010, Hoffman et al. conducted a meta-analysis of 39 studies that explored the use of mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. The researchers concluded that mindfulness-based therapies can be useful for counteracting the workings of the mind that lead to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and high-stress states. These findings are consistent with evidence that mindfulness increases positive feelings and decreases anxiety and negative emotions.  Let Peter Lear use his experience and expertise to personalize your cognitive wellness therapy and develop mental wellness activities using Peter Lear’s Life Coach Sessions.

Increase Relationship Satisfaction –

Numerous studies show a significant correlation between the ability to respond well to relationship stress and the skill in communicating one’s emotions to a partner. Empirical evidence suggests that mindfulness protects against the emotionally stressful effects of relationship conflict (Barnes et al, 2007), is positively associated with the ability to express oneself in various social situations (Dekeyser et al, 2008), and predicts relationship satisfaction (Barnes et al, 2007; Wachs & Cordova, 2007). 

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Barnes, S., Brown, K. W., Krusemark, E., Campbell, W. K., & Rogge,R. D. (2007). The role of mindfulness in romantic relationship satisfaction and responses to relationship stress. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 33, 482–500. doi:10.1111/j.1752–0606.2007.00033.x

Davis, Daphne M. and Hayes, Jeffrey A. (2011), What are the benefits of mindfulness? A practice review of psychotherapy-related research. Psychotherapy, 48(2): 198-208.

Dekeyser, M., Raes, F., Leijssen, M. Leyson, S., & Dewulf, D. (2008). Mindfulness skills and interpersonal behavior. Personality and Individual Differences, 44, 1235–1245. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2007.11.018

Hofmann, Stefan G.; Sawyer, Alice T.; Witt, Ashley A.; Oh, Diana (2010), The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78(2): 169-183.

Wachs, K. and Cordova, J. V. (2007), Mindful relating: Exploring mindfulness and emotion repertoires in intimate relationships. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 33: 464–481. doi: 10.1111/j.1752-0606.2007.00032.x