Metacognition: Awareness of Awareness


How Mindfulness Practice Cultivates Metacognition

Metacognition is a valuable outcome of mindfulness practice. Mindfulness is the practice of noticing what is in your awareness without judging it as good or bad. For example, consider the mild pain associated with a splinter in your finger. Mindfulness of the mild pain would simply acknowledge the pain signal and suggest removing the splinter to relieve the pain. In contrast, suffering would involve negative self-talk and worry about potential infections.

Mindfulness is an example of being aware of what you are aware of, which is a form of metacognition. Practicing mindfulness can help you develop metacognition.

Cultivating Metacognition in Daily Life

1. Meditation

Regular meditation stimulates the pre-frontal cortex, which is responsible for metacognition. The diaphragmatic breathing technique, which can be found in this meditation article, helps stimulate this part of the brain. A specific focus, such as focusing on the breath, helps to keep the mind focused on mindfulness and tame the “monkey mind.” Giving the mind the task of observing the breath helps it stay grounded and focused on the present moment. If the mind wanders off, bring it back to the breath.

2. Ask Yourself Good Questions

Throughout the day, ask yourself questions that encourage introspection and inner focus, such as:

  • How do I know I’m awake right now (vs being in a dream)?
  • Who am I showing up as right now? My best self? My outgoing self? My shy self? Etc.
  • Is what I am doing right now an example of my authentic self?
  • What is each part of my body feeling right now?
  • What emotions am I feeling right now?
  • Any other questions that move you towards an inner focus on your experience of this present moment?

Notice that these questions all emphasize the present moment. Mindfulness and metacognition happen in the present moment. Your answers may shift from moment to moment, and that is okay. Just observe the shift and consider how it feels. Writing down your thoughts can be a helpful tool for introspection.

3. Journal

Cathartic writing can be a powerful way to express your metacognition regarding your thoughts about your daily experiences, your inner life, and how you write your “life script.” Focus on the present moment when journaling. Stay with whatever catches your attention and move to the next moment’s experience. If you find yourself writing about experiences from earlier in the day or about things that may happen in the future, make sure to capture your thoughts and feelings in the present moment as you contemplate those non-here-and-now moments.

Remember that cultivating metacognition is a process of practice and patience. You will gradually notice progress.

Learn more about Minfulness-based Counseling in Austin.

Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s has worked in the helping profession since he started college in 1990. After completing his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas, Austin in 1994, he attended the highly-regarded University of Minnesota to earn his Master’s degree in 1997. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is recognized as a Board Approved Supervisor by the State of Texas Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. Jonathan has completed Level-2 of the Gottman Method of Couples Counseling, and in 1998 received training from the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation in Advanced Critical Incident Stress Management & Debriefing. To learn more about Jonathan’s practice, click here: Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s.

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