Mind & Body

How Mindful Are You? Measure It With the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale

Mindfulness has been all the rage in the past few years. Everyone from mental health professionals to Fortune 500 companies has touted the benefits of being aware and in the moment, some with more evidence to back up their claims than others. Regardless, in a world full of distractions, you could probably stand to be a little more attentive — couldn't you? Take the research-backed quiz at the end of this article to find out.

Related Video: What Kind of Meditation Is Right for Me?

Focus Pocus

Mindfulness — that is, sustained moment-to-moment awareness of and attention to ongoing events and experiences — might be the new hotness, but it's got a very long history. Its role in Buddhism dates back thousands of years. And in 1907, philosopher and father of modern psychology William James hinted at the need for centered attention when he wrote, "Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake."

You've probably had the experience of eating a meal while ruminating on something that happened at work — until you look down and see you've finished your food without realizing it. A more mindful version of that experience might involve paying attention to the flavors, aromas, and sensations of the food you're eating, or maintaining ongoing awareness of the gradual feeling of fullness in your stomach. Almost any task can be done in a mindful way — listening carefully to what a friend says in conversation instead of thinking about what you'll say next, taking in the sights and sounds of your commute instead of planning what you'll make for dinner while you drive, even focusing on the feeling of the warm water and slippery glass while you do dishes instead of wondering what's on TV.

Why is this important? Mostly because it's the stuff we don't pay attention to that gets us in trouble. Bad habits and negative thoughts, for example, aren't usually conscious; they tend to happen automatically when you're not paying attention. The attention that mindfulness brings can help you keep those automatic processes at bay while you work to replace them with more constructive habits. Mindfulness can also boost your memory since it's obviously hard to remember something you weren't paying attention to. Likewise, research into mindfulness has linked it with benefits for people's focus, stress levels, and even relationships.

Experts differ, however, on whether mindfulness is something you do or if mindful is something you just are. Or, to put it in more technical terms, is mindfulness a state or a trait? According to one view, because it's a moment-to-moment practice, by definition, it's a temporary state. But according to researchers Kirk Warren Brown and Richard M. Ryan from the University of Rochester, you really can be a "mindful person."

How Mindful Are You?

In 2003, Brown and Ryan published a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology describing the development of the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale, a questionnaire designed to uncover the differences between how frequently different people experience mindful states. It's since been validated with a variety of groups, and you can try your hand at it below.

For this questionnaire, you'll want something to write with. Below, you'll find 15 statements about your everyday experience. All you need to do is indicate how frequently or infrequently you currently have each experience on a scale from 1 (almost always) to 6 (almost never). Try to answer based on what actually reflects your experience, rather than what you think the right answer should be.

  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.
  14. I find myself doing things without paying attention.
  15. I snack without being aware that I'm eating.

Got your answers? Now add them together and divide by 15. Scores around 3–4 are average. If you got somewhere around 5–6, you're very mindful, and probably don't experience much trouble concentrating or enjoying the moment, which is good for your well-being overall. If you got around a 1 or a 2, your mindfulness could use some work. If you want some pointers, check out our video about the best way to meditate at the top of this article!

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"Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% Happier How-to Book" by Dan Harris, Jeffrey Warren, and Carlye Adler is a no-nonsense guide to mindfulness and meditation without the wind chimes and new-age speak. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Ashley Hamer January 25, 2019

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