No Pressure, But Your Score Could Predict Future Heart Disease

The first time that I took the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), my score was incredibly (almost awe-inspiringly) bad. Really, really bad. Like there is no way to make that OK level. The MAAS is a psychological test developed by Ruth Baer at the University of Kentucky, and it is in the public domain so I can put it right here so that you can take it and hopefully find out that you are way, way more mindful than I was. Just rate yourself for each of the 15 questions below using this scale: 1 = almost always; 2= very frequently; 3 = somewhat frequently; 4 = somewhat infrequently; 5 = very infrequently; 6 = almost never.

  1. I could be experiencing some emotion and not be conscious of it until some time later.

2. I break or spill things because of carelessness, not paying attention, or thinking of something else.

3. I find it difficult to stay focused on what’s happening in the present.

4. I tend to walk quickly to get where I’m going without paying attention to what I experience along the way.

5. I tend not to notice feelings of physical tension or discomfort until they really grab my attention.

6. I forget a person’s name almost as soon as I’ve been told it for the first time.

7. It seems I am “running on automatic,” without much awareness of what I’m doing.

8. I rush through activities without being really attentive to them.

9. I get so focused on the goal I want to achieve that I lose touch with what I’m doing right now to get there.

10. I do jobs or tasks automatically, without being aware of what I’m doing.

11. I find myself listening to someone with one ear, doing something else at the same time.

12. I drive places on ‘automatic pilot’ and then wonder why I went there.

13. I find myself preoccupied with the future or the past. I find myself doing things without paying attention.

14. I find myself doing things without paying attention.

15. I snack without being aware that I’m eating.

Add all of our scores up and then divide the total by 15. The average score is around 3.86; the higher, the better.

Why does it matter if you have a meager score?  When researchers at Brown University gave the assessment to 382 participants, those individuals who scored low on the MAAS had an 83% higher prevalence of cardiovascular health compared to those who scored higher on the scale. People with low scores struggled more with body mass index, physical activity, elevated glucose, and smoking. It’s kind of a big deal.

6 Ways to be More Mindful Right Now:

  1. Take a few minutes to only focus on your breathing. Some people do breathing exercises which consist of counting the seconds (i.e., 4 seconds of inhalation, 7 seconds of holding breath, then 8 seconds of exhaling). It is important to breathe in through your nose and feel your abdomen expanding and then breathe out through your mouth and feel your abdomen contracting. (Note: If you find that your breaths are to the rhythm of “We Will Rock You,” you need to focus a little more.)
  2. Spend a moment concentrating on each of your senses – what are you seeing, hearing, smelling, etc. at this moment?
  3. Focus on each part of your body from your feet to the top of your head – many of us are so busy that we are not even aware of how we are feeling physically.
  4. Watch nature or an animal with relaxed attention.
  5. Hold a stone or another object and really focus on it alone – is it smooth or rough, cold or warm?
  6. Listen to music and focus all of your attention on it.