To care for our bodies, we exercise, control what we eat and buy ergonomic desk chairs. It’s time to take the same care of our minds, explains Dr Asma Naheed
Metacognition may seem like a foreign word. But it is, in fact, something we have all done at one point or another. Metacognition is simply understanding that the mind can be aware of – or control – its own activity.
This can be done through the simplest activities, such as focusing your attention, regulating an emotion, or even putting away your phone when it’s too distracting.
Metacognition is all about recognising a mental state, then using that information to control your state of mind. The more we understand our senses, the better we can use all our mental facilities. One essential is the regulating of emotion – a core element of wellness.
Why is it important to understand our minds better? Let’s look at our understanding of our immune systems. We have a basic knowledge about why we should wash our hands, wipe down kitchen counters, and wear a mask in small spaces. Yet the science of immunology – to which we have all recently been exposed – has given us more clarity about our immune systems and how to prevent the spread of disease.
Similarly, the science of metacognition offers a profound awareness of how our mind can understand and control its processes. Through a growing body of research, we hope to develop the tools to achieve deeper psychological and emotional wellbeing.
How we think determines our outlook on life and thus affects us mentally and physically. Positive thinkers are more likely to feel good than those trapped in a cycle of hopeless pessimism. And if we can avoid falling into the trap of instant gratification, we will have put our metacognition to good use. One easy solution is to be mindful of the information and entertainment we consume.
Meditative practices such as yoga encourage us to reflect on their thoughts; in other words, to think about our thoughts and evaluate those thoughts in respect to our emotional state. We see advantages when we consciously monitor thoughts that would otherwise remain subconscious.
To care for our bodies, we exercise, control what we eat and buy ergonomic desk chairs. It’s time we took the same care of our minds. Doing so will allow us to be more deliberate with our thoughts, attention and emotions, improving every aspect of our lives.