Stop nexting, be in the now- The New Indian Express


Express News Service

Let’s face it; we are all guilty of it to some degree. We doomscroll our social media feeds, binge-watch TV shows, engage in compulsive buying and do countless other things that a dopamine addict will do. This phenomenon of ceaseless stimulation and compulsive fixation now even has a name: nexting. Defined as a continual process of predicting the immediate outcome based on external stimuli, nexting is what keeps our eyes away from the richness of our present. But what if there was a way to break free from its grasp?

A study published in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Sciences in 2012 explains the science behind this behaviour. According to it, we are surrounded by environmental triggers that can sub-consciously initiate our sense of anticipation and reward. These triggers can vary from seeing an advertisement or catching a familiar scent to even noticing a particular word choice. This, in turn, activates the release of dopamine, aptly called ‘the pleasure hormone’ or ‘the molecule of more’. It is this neurochemical response that explains the addictive associations that our brain forges with a specific mental desire or an emotional urge.

Mindfulness, often referred to as being in the moment, has been shown to counterbalance the detrimental desire for nexting. Instead of fixating on controlling future outcomes, adopting a mindset of “owning” enables one to fully engage with the present in a nonjudgmental manner. 

It means embracing the present moment without trying to anticipate or judge what happens next. Studies suggest that mindfulness practices can reduce the activation of the brain’s default mode network, responsible for mind-wandering and restless thoughts. Recent MRI analyses also indicate that consistent mindfulness practices can reduce the activity in brain structures that lead to thoughts like “if only” or “when I get” or “I have to get”.

Think of mindfulness as reclaiming the steering wheel from the brain’s daydreaming and endless scrolling tendencies. It doesn’t erase the thoughts; it guides the attention to the present moment. So, the next time you are tempted to binge-watch till the wee hours or scroll until your thumb aches, pause and take a deep breath. Take ownership because life unfolds in this moment, not the next.

Translate it into action

1. Recognise when the urge to ‘next’ strikes. It might be during an office meeting or while waiting in line. When the itch surfaces, take a pause. Hit the mental brakes.

2. Take a deep breath. Feel it—both the inhale and exhale. This breath is your invitation to the present.

3. Observe your thoughts from a distance. You are not your thoughts; you are the observer.

4. Feel your feet on the ground or your hand on your chest. This serves as your anchor to the moment.

5. Embrace the now, exactly as it is. No rushing, no daydreaming about the future. Just fully engage with what’s happening. This is genuine ownership.

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