Highly Sensitive People ~ Wandering Minds

“Highly sensitive people are too often perceived as weaklings or damaged goods.
To feel intensely is not a symptom of weakness, it is the trademark of the truly alive and compassionate. It is not the empath who is broken, it is society that has become dysfunctional and emotionally disabled. There is no shame in expressing your authentic feelings. Those who are at times described as being a ‘hot mess’ or having ‘too many issues’ are the very fabric of what keeps the dream alive for a more caring, humane world. Never be ashamed to let your tears shine a light in this world.”  ~ 
Anthon St. Maarten


I have recently come out of a relationship which lasted 7 years.
It has been sad for us both and we shall remain friends.

As a sensitive man, I can use this phrase without hesitation …… “Mea Culpa”.

In reviewing the lessons learned and therefore hopefully to be cognisant of the mistakes of an HSP (Hyper Sensitive Person) in any future relationship that I may encounter, I have researched various articles which explain how sensitivity in a man is often viewed as weakness to be scoffed at and ridiculed.

I was encouraged to read, in numerous psychology articles, that far from being a weakness, if handled in the correct manner by the individual, sensitivity is in fact a positive trait.

Where it unravels is when love relationships come into play.

A highly sensitive man has an inbuilt desire to ‘help’ and when he finds a possible prospective partner who has a ‘problem’, he feels the need to solve it.
It is a challenge of sorts but a very damaging one.

I am not particularly religious but should you ask me which passage from the Bible I really connected with as a child, ‘The Good Samaritan’ would be my answer.

Had I been aware and addressed these Psychological finding earlier on in my life, I should have become both more circumspect and careful with regard to my choices of relationships.

I was told not unreasonably, by my last partner, that I could never ‘stay in the moment’.

This frustrated her and I can see why. To her, I must have seemed detached and disinterested.
This was certainly not the case.
It is a classic symptom of the Hyper Sensitive Man
Too much in his head and not ANCHORED in the present moment.

You will now understand the reason for my inclusion of the following, as It describes me to a T.

Stimulus-independent thought does not have a focus and often wanders from topic to topic heedless of any conscious direction.

Let’s call it “wandering thought.”
Wandering thought uncritically darts from present sensations or emotions, to past events, to imagined future occurrences.
Wandering thought is the form that likely consumes up to 50% of your day.

In their study, Drs. Killingsworth and Gilbert revealed that people are happier when engaged in focused thought than when they are engaged in wandering thought, regardless of the focus of their activity.

In fact, even typically disagreeable tasks such as commuting or doing housework were associated with greater levels of happiness than any form of wandering thought.

Almost 50% of wandering thought seems to involve pleasant topics while a little more than 25% involves unpleasant topics.

However, even a pleasant wandering thought that inserts itself into a given activity does not enhance an individual’s reported happiness.
Unfortunately, unpleasant wandering thoughts do tend to decrease a person’s happiness when these thoughts inject themselves into an activity.

A seemingly logical explanation would be that unpleasant wandering thoughts are caused by negative moods.
Yet Drs. Killingsworth and Gilbert demonstrated just the opposite, namely that wandering thought seemed to cause negative moods.

Finally, wandering thought was a stronger predictor of a person’s mood than was focused thought and the activity of focus.
In other words, it seems that wandering thought may trump focused thought and activity when it comes to happiness.


So what does this all mean?


 Wandering thought is a byproduct of evolutionary pressure that honed the human brain into a hypothesis-testing machine.
Humans have an amazing capacity to review past information and plan for future situations.
Unfortunately, if not handled properly, this machinery can hurt the operator.In a world awash with distractions, all it takes is a cell phone chirp to derail us from a given task and open the door to wandering thought.

Thankfully, there are ways of decreasing wandering thought.


Mindfulness uses the anchor of the present moment to steady a mind buffeted by distractions.
There are numerous techniques that allow us to hitch our mind to the respite of a mindfulness anchor. 

How many times have you driven, taken the bus, or walked the same route to work? The first few times that you did, you were likely acutely aware of the novel sights, sounds and smells of your surroundings.
But it is likely that these details slowly receded into the backward as the route became routine.
You can change this.

The next time that you are walking into work, briefly pause and complete the Five by Five exercise.
The Five by Five exercise entails taking mental note of five items as perceived by each of your five senses.
The exercise will purposefully engage you in focused thought and help you reconnect with your surroundings.

Another exercise is called the Take Ten.
At some point during your day when you are feeling particularly distracted, I would challenge you to pause and take ten deep breaths.
The power of this exercise is proportional to the amount of focus that you bring to your breathing.Focus on the cool sensation at the tip of your nose as you slowly inhale, the neutral point between your inhale and exhale and the warmth upon exhale.
(There are many more exercises that use mindfulness to engage focused thought, and I would recommend that the interested reader enter “mindfulness exercises” into his or her search engine of choice.)

Focused thought connects us to the here and now, while wandering thought pulls us away from it.
Numerous philosophical traditions across the millennia have recognized the healing power of the present moment.
Science is just now beginning to catch up with this ancient wisdom.
We need not wait for any further scientific proof.

The next time that you find yourself lost in thought, pause, take a deep breath and bring yourself back to the present moment.
I would venture that you’ll be surprised by the results.

Go well ..Nuffzed


Hat Tip MatthewWilliams M.D.

Matthew Williams M.D.

Matthew Williams, M.D. is a psychiatric resident physician at the University of Washington who researches and writes about the neuroscientific intersection of mental health, mental illness, and mindfulness. Dr. Williams runs MindfulnessMD.com, a site dedicated to the exploration of science, mindfulness, and day-to-day life.


The Neuroscience of Mindfulness

Exploring the science behind the mindful brain and mental well-being


  1. Smallwood, J., & Schooler, J. W. (2015). The science of mind wandering: empirically navigating the stream of consciousness. Annual review of psychology, 66, 487-518.
  2. Killingsworth, M. A., & Gilbert, D. T. (2010). A wandering mind is an unhappy mind. Science, 330(6006), 932-932.
  3. Mrazek, M. D., Franklin, M. S., Phillips, D. T., Baird, B., & Schooler, J. W. (2013). Mindfulness training improves working memory capacity and GRE performance while reducing mind wandering. Psychological Science.
  4. Kane, M. J., Brown, L. H., McVay, J. C., Silvia, P. J., Myin-Germeys, I., & Kwapil, T. R. (2007). For whom the mind wanders, and when an experience-sampling study of working memory and executive control in daily life. Psychological science, 18(7), 614-621




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