How Contemplative Activities Generate Wellbeing

Contemplation has been simply defined as regarding steadily. The act of sustaining attention on any mental ‘figure’ which could include a construct, a perspective or even an image or feeling involves filtering out distractions. This steady regard or holding in mind is an awareness of the content as well as the space wherein the content resides. It is not ruminative thought or remembering or analysis. This manner of observation does not have a goal and the emphasis is on ‘looking’ rather than ‘doing’. The suspension of discursive thinking means that we can allow mental habits to recede and insight to arise. Contemplative activities thus generate the ability to simply observe without structuring our experience into any perceivable tone or valence.

contemplative activities

The complexities of the structuring of mental experience have been debated for millenia. Perhaps a lot of this structuring is automatic and implicit. This means that the nature of our experience is at least to some extent unmodifiable. More often than not, we are at the mercy of our senses, our perceptions and our feelings and mental formations. Social, cultural and organismic imperatives fashion our views, priorities and actions. While this is not necessarily harmful, it might lead to inflexibility and limit true joy and fulfilment. Contemplative activities involve among other things, attention to the process of observation rather than what is observed. In this fashion, the contemplative way reorganizes the appraisal of the content of our experience and possibly regulates the role that the pre-reflective mode of awareness plays in the construal of salience of competing stimuli. Simply put, the act of contemplation leads to wellbeing by reframing how we process stimulus.

We include below, an article discussing tips for wellbeing inspired by contemplative psychology.

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May 24, 2019 ... Dr William Van Gordon, Associate Professor of Contemplative ... Mindlessness not only leads to health issues for ourselves but also reduces ...

Contemplative activities can be varied and in fact any activity done contemplatively can bring about a sense of absorption and completeness. An activity is contemplative when it is conducted with an awareness of its execution and process rather than an emphasis on fruition or results. This means that there is present moment awareness and a defusion from thinking. Another manner in which the contemplative way is beneficial is that the act itself is the reward rather than its effects or results. In many ways, attention is key. Deep focus or regard limits the attending to and appraisal of extraneous internally generated or environmental stimuli. What this means is that we are better able to regulate what we give credence to. It becomes easier to connect with what is of genuine value to us. Being value driven in turn engenders better focus and reduces the intensity of distress that accompanies any difficulties that we might encounter. Thus, consistently engaging in contemplation leads to wellbeing.

contemplative way

Newly emerging research highlights how ancient practices like Mahamudra meditation can facilitate the experience of what is termed ‘groundlessness’ by reducing or suspending the cognitive activity of sense making. We engage in sense making to maintain or increase adaptivity. The urgency of defining who we think we are, of how we can secure the resources to meet our needs and our autonomy direct most of our behavior and actions. Contemplative activities may temporarily lessen the pervasiveness of this survival imperative. Our sense of satisfaction or completeness is probably determined by deeply ingrained reward centers or mechanisms. It is possible that reducing regard for reward and loosening measures of progress or achievement resets our happiness setpoint. A healthy balance of goal oriented activity as well as process awareness enhancing activity is likely more conducive to productivity and flow rather than a singular focus on goals and results.

It might be accurate to say that we have to engineer profit and improvement but happiness or fulfilment are probably not fashioned in the same way. Absorption in any activity leads to a sense of fulfilment that is not dependent on the prospects of reward. Recognizing the value of this immersion subtly changes our intentions and consequently our confinement by mind, body or environment. We can be constrained by these factors or we can be absorbed in them. The practice of contemplation leads to wellbeing by generating the ability to sustain attention and absorption without the need to create specific conditions. This greatly increases the ease with which we can experience wellbeing and joy.

contemplation leads to wellbeing

The search for happiness and prosperity can easily become excessively goal oriented and effortful. This is more often a cause of stress than joy and fulfilment. Activities such as contemplation or meditation can help refashion the mental structuring that we habitually employ and help us access wellbeing with much greater ease.

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