Throughout our lives’ many of us will experience times where we find ourselves lost in our own thoughts. We may find that we are so busy making plans, going from task-to-task, going from one place to the next and pushing forward in many different directions that we don’t take time to reflect and take notice of the world around us. At other times in our lives, we may find that we aren’t very busy in the same way – but are occupying our minds with ‘doing nothing’; we can find ourselves worrying about the future and being bogged-down with unhealthy thoughts and negative feelings. In both cases, we can find ourselves not taking the time to pay attention to the present moment – the here and now. By taking notice and being in the present, we can improve our mental health and sense of wellbeing.
What does it mean to ‘take notice’?
Taking Notice means actively bringing our mind’s attention and interest to the world around us and ourselves; what is going on externally to us and what is happening within us. Taking notice means being present in the moment; observing what’s beautiful or unusual in the world. It means being aware of our thoughts and feelings as they arise, without getting lost in them. It means savouring the moment whether you’re being active, connecting with a friend, learning a new skill, or giving to others.
Why is ‘taking notice’ important for our mental health and wellbeing?
Reduces worry, anxiety and depression
Focusing too much on past events and worrying about the future can have a negative impact on our mental health and wellbeing (Wang, 2016). Numerous studies have shown that ruminating on the past too much and worrying about the future is strongly linked with common mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders and depression (Michel et al., 2013). Although it is natural to respond to the stresses in our lives’ by thinking about them, it has been shown that by taking a break from these thought patterns, by focusing on the present moment, we can help alleviate negative thinking patterns and maintaining a level of calmness, which is good for our mental health and wellbeing. Instead, being aware of what we are experience at every given moment – being aware of our sensations, thoughts and feelings has been shown to enhance well-being for several years.
Taking Notice is a step towards strengthening and widening our self-awareness. By developing a better connection to ourselves (intrapersonal), where we are more aware of our needs, values and interests, we can begin exploring and choosing behaviours that are consistent with these things. The idea for this is supported by a psychological theory called self-determination theory, which suggests that an open awareness is particularly valuable for those choosing behaviours that are consistent with our intrinsic motivations. This ability to self-regulate our behaviours is thought to be important for our wellbeing and mental health.
Promotes Positive Behaviour Change
Research suggests that goals for behaviour change (such as drinking less alcohol, exercising more, learning new skills) need to be aligned with our personal values to be successful. It has been suggested that lasting behaviour change can only be achieved if the proposed ways to achieving these changes are somewhat internalised and owned by the individual. Increasing self-awareness by ‘taking notice’ may have the added benefit of enhancing this process.