How Being Rather Than Doing Can Change Your Life

So many of us today often feel stressed due to the pressures of modern life: meeting work demands, raising a family, paying the bills, trying to find time for exercise, spend time with our partner and have a social life. One powerful insight from psychology research that we can all benefit from is the difference between Doing Mode and Being Mode [1].

Many of us are usually stuck in Doing Mode all day long from the time we get up to the time we drop into bed at night. This can exacerbate our stress levels, and we can miss out on all the benefits of Being Mode, and its ability to help us deal calmly and skilfully with life, and be much more present and at peace through our day.


What are Doing Mode and Being Mode?

Psychology researchers [2] have found that a certain limited number of core patterns of brain activity and interaction seem to occur over and over again across a wide variety of different mental activities. The researchers named these patterns “modes of mind”, and ask us to think about them as being like gears of a car. Each gear has its own specialised use (starting, accelerating, cruising, etc.), and our brains switch between them as we navigate the course of the day. Two of the main modes we are in through the day are Doing and Being.

The Doing Mode

The Doing Mode is the mode most of us in most of the time. It is the mode which causes us to strive for the attainment of goals, large or small, such as build a house, get from Point A to Point B, answer that email. Doing Mode works great to help us with our circumstances around us, but it can lead to problems if we are ‘locked in’ to it all the time, or when we try and use it to think our way out of emotional states.

The Being Mode

This Mode of the brain is not designed to work towards achievement of any particular goal. It is a state of accepting what is, without feeling the need to change it. In Being Mode we are aware of what is happening in the present moment in a rich sense, including our senses, our thoughts, our bodies, and our emotions.

Many psychologists often incorporate ‘mindfulness’ practice into therapy with clients, as it is the best way for people to ‘change gears’ mentally from Doing to Being Mode. This allows us to:

  • Notice our negative thoughts about the past and future, and even the self-criticisms we may experience, and instead of buying into them as reality we can see them as just mental events.
  • Reduce our focus on achieving all our life goals, and bring our life back into balance, incorporating things into it which nourish and replenish us, rather than continually drain us.
  • Reduce our perfectionism, and encourage acceptance of the way things are, being open to all options
  • Gets us out of our constant stream of thoughts, and more in touch with our senses, our bodies, and with what is happening in the outside world. Allowing us to be really present in our lives, rather than miss the whole thing while we are thinking of something else.
  • Not have to avoid negative feelings or numb them somehow using distractions, overwork or alcohol. All feelings are observed compassionately, allowing negative feelings to dissipate in time, and have less power over you.

How to Enter Being Mode

Being Mode takes practice. Your ability to enter it will strengthen over time if you start regularly meditating for 20 minutes a day, perhaps in two blocks of ten minutes. You can start here for a quick introduction: Learn to Meditate the Easy Way. Also, learn more about the Yoga + Mindfulness Program for Stress & Anxiety.

Psychology research shows that those who regularly meditate are less stressed and anxious, and more relaxed, fulfilled and energised. They are able to use this mode to slow down and become more present while their life unfolds. It is a state of mind ready for you to access at any time. The question is, are you too busy doing things to try it?


Martin Hood
Martin HoodBrisbane City Psychologist
Martin is a Clinical Psychologist with a proven track record in producing good outcomes for clients across a broad range of presenting problems, including stress, anxiety disorders, depression, grief, OCD, eating disorders, anger management, and couples therapy.




[1] Segal, Zindel V.; Williams, J. Mark G.; Teasdale, John D. (2012-11-11). Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression, Second Edition. Guilford Publications.

[2] Segal, Zindel V.; Williams, J. Mark G.; Teasdale, John D. (2012-11-11). Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression, Second Edition. Guilford Publications.