Choice (part 1)

Exploring the Link between Mindfulness and Decision-Making.

When facilitating mindfulness groups, I always encourage and invite participants to experiment with their postures and make adjustments as needed. I have observed that many individuals make skillful use of this opportunity. However, some individuals struggle with feeling trapped and unable to move their bodies during the practice, which limits their ability to fully engage in meditation. Despite their difficulties, they persist with the practice and work hard to contain their suffering internally.

I wanted to delve deeper into the reasons why individuals experience difficulty when faced with making choices.

Choice is a fundamental aspect of human experience.

From the moment we wake up in the morning, we are faced with a multitude of choices, both big and small. Yet, when it comes to our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, we often feel like we have no control over what happens to us. However, research has shown that we always have a choice, even in the most difficult and challenging situations. In this article, we will explore the concept of choice and how it relates to mindfulness and personal growth.

What is research saying?

One of the most ground-breaking studies on the power of choice was conducted by psychologist Martin Seligman. In the 1960s, Seligman conducted a series of experiments with dogs, where he exposed them to electric shocks that they couldn’t avoid. As a result, the dogs learned to become passive and helpless, even when presented with opportunities to escape the shocks. Seligman called this phenomenon “learned helplessness,” and it has been extensively studied in humans as well.

Seligman also discovered that the dogs could be taught to become active and resilient if they were given an opportunity to control their environment. This led him to develop the concept of “learned optimism,” where individuals can learn to reframe their experiences in a more positive light by focusing on the choices available to them.

In essence, this research demonstrates that even in situations where we feel helpless and trapped, we always have a choice.

We may not be able to control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to those experiences.

Too much choice can be overwhelming.

A study conducted by psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper found that too much choice can be overwhelming and lead to decreased satisfaction. In the study, they set up a tasting booth with either 6 or 24 varieties of jam. While more people were drawn to the booth with 24 jams, only 3% of those who stopped made a purchase. In contrast, 30% of those who stopped at the booth with 6 jams made a purchase.

Another study found that the perception of choice can influence our physiological responses. Participants were asked to complete a task and were given either a choice or no choice in how to complete it. The group that was given a choice showed decreased levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, while the group that was not given a choice showed increased levels.

Furthermore, researchers have found that the way in which we frame our choices can impact our decision-making. For example, framing a decision as a loss can make us more risk-averse, while framing it as a gain can make us more likely to take risks.

Overall, the research suggests that choice is a complex and multifaceted concept, and that our perception and experience of choice can impact our behaviour and well-being in a variety of ways.

How can mindfulness help? Exploring the Link between Mindfulness and Decision-Making.

So, how does this concept of choice relate to mindfulness? Mindfulness is all about becoming aware of our thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations in the present moment, without judgment or reaction. By cultivating a mindfulness practice, we can learn to recognize the choices available to us in each moment. This can help us to break free from habitual patterns of thinking and reacting and to respond in more intentional and skillful ways.

For example, let’s say you’re in a stressful situation at work and you notice yourself starting to feel overwhelmed and anxious. In that moment, you have a choice. You could choose to react by getting defensive, shutting down, or lashing out at others. Alternatively, you could choose to respond by taking a deep breath, recognizing your emotions, and practicing self-compassion. This second option may be more challenging, but ultimately it can lead to greater personal growth and resilience.

Of course, recognising our choices is often easier said than done. It’s important to acknowledge that we may have internal barriers that make it difficult to see our choices clearly. These barriers can include past trauma, negative self-talk, and limiting beliefs. By working with a therapist or mindfulness teacher, we can learn to identify these barriers and develop strategies for overcoming them.


In conclusion, the concept of choice is a powerful tool for personal growth and transformation. Through mindfulness and other contemplative practices, we can learn to recognise our choices in each moment and to respond with greater intention and skill. As Seligman’s research demonstrates, we may not always be able to control what happens to us, but we can always control how we respond. By embracing our choices and cultivating a mindset of learned optimism, we can develop greater resilience and well-being in our lives.

Get yourself of the cushion and meditate in nature.

I just came back from Europe where I meditated quite a few times in nature. Every morning I cycled to a lake for my morning swim and on the ride I could hear the sound of nature, bird sound, leave sound, air and water sound. I could smell the soil beneath and see the lush green of the trees and grass wrapping the path I was cycling on. I fell in love with my early morning routine in this summer in Germany. One morning I stopped to record the sound of nature to be able to share this with like-minded friends (please feel free to click on the below meditations for your practice).

Being in nature makes me feeling fully connected on the inside and outside, to the space and the relative stillness – it makes me feeling one with this moment. Arriving at the lake I always felt welcomed by the ducks and the wild geese on the grass or in the water. Sometimes, we shared the lake and swam together. I could see the ducks and geese paddling through the water and I could hear them communicating with each other. I watched the duck mothers walking their little ones to the water and helping them to swim, cute and simple. No reason for me to leave or to change anything – just to be and to meditate with my eyes.

People often think that meditation has to be done on the cushion in a cross-legged posture and unmoving. I am so glad that there is always choice and there are many different ways of meditating. The invitation of this post is that you make time for meditating in nature. Meditation in nature offers you working with all senses and it helps you seeing more clearly how the here and now is unfolding. Continue reading “Get yourself of the cushion and meditate in nature.”

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.