Research shows that ‘cues’ in our environment, and the words we hear, ‘prime’ us to behave in a certain way. We are not consciously aware of them, and so instead of being ‘mindful’ about their potential effects we respond to the primes ‘mindlessly’. (There is a solution though, and so read on).
For example, in one study, two groups were asked to solve anagrams. One group had words related to stereotypes of ‘old age’ such as ‘forgetful’, and the other group had non-age-related words. Both groups were timed as they walked to the lifts. The experimental group walked more slowly. They had been primed for negative effects of old age.
When we are ‘mindless’ we hand over our decisions to others. That ‘handing-over’ may be about our health, but it also applies to many other decisions that we make, based on marketing ‘primes’ that we see and hear.
There is a solution though, and it is to become ‘mindful’ of our thoughts, our environment, our responses to others, and to the symptoms we have when our body is telling us that we need to make some lifestyle changes. If we learn to become more mindful we are much less likely to simply hand our life over to others.
No-one knows their body better than you do. No-one knows the information that you receive each day from your body and mind better than you do. And no-one can feel the beneficial results of changes that you make more than you do. Doctors can do tests, which show what your body was doing at a moment in time, and which can be very useful; but you receive 24-hour information with constant updates. You are your expert.
The primes don’t just affect behaviour. Research has now proven that our brain structure changes because of thoughts that we have. Those thoughts are created by your brain because of word-primes that you hear, and environmental-primes that you see. They can lead to wellness and wellbeing, or not.
So, the choice is yours. You can mindlessly respond to ‘primes’, or you can mindfully tune in to your body, mind and environment; actively notice what you are hearing, doing, and seeing in the present moment, and make the decisions that are right for you. This will then develop the part of your brain that will enable you to do this more easily and more quickly.
Neuroscience also shows that simply making choices mindfully also leads to joy and a sense of purpose, which are, in turn, linked to a reduction of health problems. There really isn’t a downside to mindfulness.