This one shocked me! (sorry!)
A study by Psychologists at Virginia and Harvard challenged people to sit and do nothing for 15 minutes. The only alternative open to them during those 15 minutes was to give themselves an electric shock, which prior to the experiment they had agreed they would pay money to avoid.
Two thirds of men and a quarter of the women opted to jolt themselves with electricity to distract themselves from their thoughts. One man shocked himself 190 times!
The results also showed that most people did not enjoy the experience and said they struggled to concentrate. Their minds were wandering even when there was nothing there to distract them.
I do know this is a common issue. When I ask clients why they are interested in mindfulness the answer is normally associated with a desire to slow down the thinking mind as they find it exhausting. A common time when this is most distressing is at night when all is quiet.
So why do we find it so hard to sit with our thoughts?
🙋We are so addicted to doing that we have forgotten how to be. We live in an always on culture where we are constantly bombarded with noise and distraction – although what came first the desire to be distracted or the distractions?
🙋We spend so long on autopilot that we have got used to our mind thinking us, and feel like we have little control over where our thinking will lead us – normally somewhere negative.
🙋We don’t like feeling out of control and thoughts often lead to what ifs about future events, which causes anxiety. To deal with this we try to ignore the thoughts or numb them by keeping busy, planning something else.
🙋We numb ourselves and have coping mechanism to stop ourselves thinking – wine, chocolate, exercise…