03/14/2012 07:42 pm ET Updated May 14, 2012

Stuck on Something? Use Your Inner Reset Button to Get Free

Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one. -- Charles J. Sykes
[Note: Thanks to JeriWarren for the correct attribution of this quote.]

No matter how powerful the hard drive or current the software, computer programs get stuck sometimes and freeze. When a computer program gets stuck, there's an underlying problem that needs to be fixed. But because the screen is frozen, you can't see it. No amount of clicking your mouse or hitting the escape key will release the lock on your computer. Your only recourse is a reset button.

Parents' and their children's minds and brains get stuck sometimes, as well. With mindfulness, parents and youth notice that they're stuck and have a strategy to free themselves up and reset their mental 'screens' like the reset button on a computer, thereby allowing them to better see what's happening in their inner and outer worlds and start again. Here's how this computer metaphor works in the real world:

Start by thinking of your brain as the hard drive on your computer where information about your inner and outer worlds is stored automatically. Thoughts, smells, tastes, sounds, sights, sensations and emotional reactions are registered and stored in the brain much like data is stored on the hard drive of a computer. There's a lot of data stored on your hard drive you have probably forgotten or were never aware of in the first place. The same is true with the information stored in your brain.

Next, think of your mind as a software program. It's active and needs to be updated regularly to eliminate the software glitches, or bugs, that build up over time. These software glitches can be compared to getting stuck on something. Focused attention works like a software upgrade to reset them.

Like a reset button, mindfulness notices confusion and gives us ways to dissolve it. When we notice we're stuck on a thought or emotion we can shift our attention toward a physical sensation (the sensation of breathing, for instance, not thinking about it but feeling it) and create a physical and emotional environment more likely to free us up. We break the lock, so to speak, and are no longer stuck. Then, we can use introspective awareness to look at what's happening inside and out and see it more clearly.

Mindfulness is not a panacea. But when parents and youth put in sustained effort and practice they can develop a strategy to notice when they're stuck, de-bug their mental software and optimize their inner hard drives to transform many aspects of their lives.