How to create a positive state of mind wandering and release our creativity?

In a recent study by Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert, in which they observed more than 2,000 adults during their daily activity, it was concluded that these adults were in a state of wandering for47% of the time. That means, half of their time they were not being attentive.

The most curious thing about this study is that the people who participated in it reported being less happy during their wandering states than when they were focused on a specific activity. The reason for this seems to be that when we are in a state of wandering, our thoughts have a marked tendency towards negative rumination and stress.

This wandering mind plays an important role in creating AHA moments, in which we suddenly get important insights or find solutions. Our wandering seems to imply the activation of the Default Mode Network (DMN), the neural network of the brain, which is activated automatically when we are not focused on the performance of an activity or forcing ourselves to find a solution. The latest research suggests that states of mental wandering increase divergent thinking and creativity and that these states could be a fertile ground for creative inspiration.

Knowing this, the question is: How can we transform our tendency towards negative rumination and stress during our wandering states into more positive feelings?

Being in a bad mood or feeling sad will lead to negative states of wandering and feelings of unhappiness.

We can use mind training to transform our habitual patterns of negativity into habitual patterns of positivity and create positive mental states of wondering. I will give a few guidelines that might help you on this.

First, through practicing and cultivating compassion we can alter our emotional states. Thanks to compassionate training our states of wandering are directed more to pleasant events than unpleasant ones and this produces positive emotional states instead of negative ones. It is in this aspect that Tonglen's practice of Tibetan meditation has proven to have a great impact. In this practice we imagine that when we inhale, we are inhaling the stress, discomfort and suffering of others and how when we exhale, we transform it into happiness and well-being that we send to others. Compassion practices also increase our ability to take care of ourselves and care for others, which translates into an increase in levels of happiness, both ours and others.

A second guideline that we can follow to increase our well-being and combat the rumination of negative thoughts is to stop and observe at least 20 or 30 seconds the moments of happiness or well-being that we have experienced throughout the day. We can do this, for example, while we are eating. We can stop and observe the smells, colors, food shapes, textures, the flavors that appear in our mouth as we taste them.

A third guideline would be to do only one thing at a time and avoid multitasking. Allow yourself to finish one thing and then be able to continue with the other. Savor the moment and enjoy finishing tasks and freeing yourself of obligations.

A final guideline that I propose is to release expectations about how things should be and, instead, put the focus and enjoy all the pleasant things that are happening to you every day. Look at simple things, such as the pleasant sensation of freshness or heat on the skin when in contact with the air or the softness you feel in your hands when stroking your pet's hair.

Let go of the thoughts that come to you from the conditioned mind that tells us everything that should happen in order to be happy and, instead, just observe everything nice that life brings you, with the curiosity of a small child who allows itself to be surprised and play with life.

Alejandra Sánchez Yagüe

Alejandra is an internationally accredited consultant in sustainable development for both organizations and high-performance individuals. She is the founder of Mindtrainingdirector of the MBSR Program at University of Barcelona. Originally from Venezuela, Alejandra has helped companies develop their internal training programs throughout the US, Europe and South America.

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