Can you give me concrete example of mindless activity and mindful activity? which category "watching movie" or "reading novel" belongs to?

my definition of mindful and mindless? mindful to me is being aware of things I am doing. mindless is doing it without being aware of that activity (like auto pilot)

how to measure mindful and mindless objectively? I honestly don't know the answer to that. but if i may try, maybe from the way I can retrace it back in my memory to the detail information.

I have been doing a lot of activity throughout my daily routine. a lot of those activities has been done mindlessly out of habit. how can I do it mindfully?

  • $\begingroup$ What is your definition of "mindful" and "mindless"? $\endgroup$
    – Seanny123
    Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 14:15
  • $\begingroup$ How would you measure mindfulness and mindlessness objectively? $\endgroup$
    – Seanny123
    Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 15:17
  • $\begingroup$ In that case, are you asking what activities enable greater recollection of details of the activity? $\endgroup$
    – Seanny123
    Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 15:28
  • $\begingroup$ yes. I have been doing a lot of activity throughout my daily routine. a lot of those activities has been done mindlessly out of habit. how can I do it mindfully? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 15:46

2 Answers 2


In think what you are referring to automaticity Vs explicit processes, which according to the dual processing theory are performed from system 1 and system 2 respectively.

Automaticity is the ability to do things without occupying the mind with the low-level details required, allowing it to become an automatic response pattern or habit. It is usually the result of learning, repetition, and practice.

Examples of automaticity are common activities such as walking, speaking, bicycle-riding, assembly-line work, and driving a car (the last of these sometimes being termed "highway hypnosis"). After an activity is sufficiently practiced, it is possible to focus the mind on other activities or thoughts while undertaking an automatized activity (for example, holding a conversation or planning a speech while driving a car).


System 2 is evolutionarily recent and specific to humans. It is also known as the explicit system, the rule-based system, the rational system, or the analytic system. It performs the more slow and sequential thinking. It is domain-general, performed in the central working memory system. Because of this, it has a limited capacity and is slower than System 1 which correlates it with general intelligence. It is known as the rational system because it reasons according to logical standards. Some overall properties associated with System 2 are that it is rule-based, analytic, controlled, demanding of cognitive capacity, and slow.

Examples of explicit processes is finding the result of 312x254, learning a new physics theory etc

  • $\begingroup$ interesting theory. automaticity is mindless, system 2 is mindful. I can relate to that. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 3:21

I'm not sure that a "concrete example" of mindless activity vs. mindful activity is possible, because it requires the use of subjective interpretations of what constitutes either of those two notions.


Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.

Using this definition, it seems as though there are relatively few activities one can perform while being mindful. If an activity requires a high level of concentration to perform, than it would be difficult or impossible to simultaneously focus on the meditative internal and external reflection implied by 'mindfulness.'

Examples of some activities that might be more favorable to such meditation:

  • Going for a walk or hike somewhere
  • Going to a quiet, secluded location
  • Doing chores around the house that require little concentration

Examples of some activities that might not be favorable to such meditation:

  • Socializing
  • Working on a task that requires a lot of concentration or creative problem-solving
  • Watching an interesting movie or reading an interesting book, (unless perhaps you pause for self-reflection from time to time.)


This is also tricky because it may mean different things to different people. Mindlessness might mean simply the opposite of mindfulness, in which case the counter-examples I listed above might be considered 'mindless.'

However, it seems a bit strange to include things like creative problem-solving and socializing as a "mindless" activity; because your mind is absolutely engaged in what's going on, just not in the same sense as it is for a mindful / introspective reflection.

Perhaps a fair definition of "mindlessness" is if you're by yourself with some free time; instead of choosing to engage in some social and/or mental activity, or meditate in a mindful way, you just sit around; being bored, thinking about how boring something is, etc.

Yet even "mindlessness" with it's negative connotations may have some importance. Sometimes when you're undergoing great stress, mindful meditation may be good and useful but you're not ready to do it; you may need to distract yourself from something that's troubling you. You might have to try something "mindless" to clear your head a bit before you can even be "mindful."


The truth is; the human brain never truly slows down while you're alive. There's a persistent myth that we only use 10% of our brain; but while it's true that only portions of our brain are active at any given moment, we actually use 100% of our brain, just not all at the same time. It would be destructive and/or impossible to use 100% of your brain at once, that's not how the brain is designed to work. http://ed.ted.com/lessons/what-percentage-of-your-brain-do-you-use-richard-e-cytowic

In this sense, the question of "mindfulness vs. mindlessness" isn't necessarily about whether or not you're using your mind. You use your mind regardless, even in your sleep. The question becomes whether or not you're using your mind well, and that ultimately is a personal, subjective question.

The closest I can say to understanding it objectively is that it's probably healthiest to strive for balance in how you live your life.

  • $\begingroup$ 'mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience'. if I look at part of that definition, meaning I can be mindful in any activity I engaged in. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 15, 2016 at 7:13

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