Matt Killingsworth: Want to be happier? Stay in the moment

November 12, 2012

While doing his PhD research with Dan Gilbert at Harvard, Matt Killingsworth invented a nifty tool for investigating happiness: an iPhone app called Track Your Happiness that captured feelings in real time. (Basically, it pings you at random times and asks: How are you feeling right now, and what are you doing?) Data captured from the study became the landmark paper “A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind.”

Here’s an extract of Killingsworth’s fascinating talk (see the video below), which backs up what Buddhists have been saying about mindfulness for centuries: being in the present moment brings happiness.

People are substantially less happy when their minds are wandering than when they’re not. Now you might

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Practice mindfulness: don’t become roadkill on the information superhighway

November 7, 2012

I just stumbled across a lovely column by author Pico Iyer in the New York Times on “The Joy of Quiet.”

He discusses how overwhelmed we are:

In barely one generation we’ve moved from exulting in the time-saving devices that have so expanded our lives to trying to get away from them — often in order to make more time. The more ways we have to connect, the more many of us seem desperate to unplug.

I tend to think of us — well, most of us, anyway — as being a bit like early 20th century rubes from the sticks who have just arrived on Times Square, and are dazzled by the … Read more »

Seven steps to taking control of your attention

February 23, 2012

Moment to moment, the flows of thoughts and feelings, sensations and desires, and conscious and unconscious processes sculpt your nervous system like water gradually carving furrows and eventually gullies on a hillside. Your brain is continually changing its structure. The only question is: Is it for better or worse?

In particular, because of what’s called “experience-dependent neuroplasticity,” whatever you hold in attention has a special power to change your brain. Attention is like a combination spotlight and vacuum cleaner: it illuminates what it rests upon and then sucks it into your brain – and your self.

Therefore, controlling your attention – becoming more able to place it where you want it and keep it there, … Read more »

Eat, smoke, meditate: Why your brain cares how you cope

September 25, 2011

Alice G. Walton: Most people do what they have to do to get through the day. Though this may sound dire, let’s face it, it’s the human condition. Given the number of people who are depressed or anxious, it’s not surprising that big pharma is doing as well as it is. But for millennia before we turned to government-approved drugs, humans devised clever ways of coping: Taking a walk, eating psychedelic mushrooms, breathing deeply, snorting things, praying, running, smoking, and meditating are just some of the inventive ways humans have found to deal with the unhappy rovings of their minds.

But which…

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A little calmness can go a long way

September 6, 2011

I just read a news story about an 18-year-old woman whose car went out of control and hit a dump truck. The woman and her 10-month-old son were killed. On her phone was a half-finished text message.

Now, not all multitasking is as catastrophic as that. We do it all the time, don’t we?

But why do we do it? Sometimes we say it’ll make us more efficient, but if you’re trying to type a report and keep interrupting yourself to send text messages and check Facebook, you’re not exactly being very efficient. It seems to me that what’s really going on is that we’re being anxious, and trying to find a distraction from our … Read more »

Meditation may help the brain ‘turn down the volume’ on distractions

April 23, 2011

The positive effects of mindfulness meditation on pain and working memory may result from an improved ability to regulate a crucial brain wave called the alpha rhythm, say researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This rhythm is thought to “turn down the volume” on distracting information, which suggests that a key value of meditation may be helping the brain deal with an often-overstimulating world.

The researchers report that modulation of the alpha rhythm in response to attention-directing cues was faster and significantly more enhanced among study participants who completed an eight-week mindfulness meditation program than in a control group. The report will appear in the journal … Read more »

How to meditate and live mindfully

March 4, 2011

Meditation can be a mystery. It brings up questions.

How do I meditate?

Am I meditating correctly?

What is the purpose of meditation?

I would like to begin with a story. The story takes place each morning when I am on my way to work. I drive to the end of my road, take a left onto another road and then take a right onto a highway that brings me to work.

Very often, in the evening, I drive to the end of my road, take a left onto another road, and take a right onto the highway when, actually, I should take a left to go to the grocery store. When I do this, … Read more »

Finding comfort in my own skin

February 22, 2011

After tossing and turning through some sleepless nights, Sunada discovered a few things about the discomfort at the root of her insomnia. Realizing that it’s always there on some level, it’s given her something real to work with, day and night.

I turn to look at my bedside clock. 3:18 am. Here I am again, wide awake, staring at the ceiling. Darn it.

This has been happening a lot lately. So I thought, how about trying something different? Why not use that time to meditate? You know, lie in bed, completely present with my body and mind, and being with how it all just IS? You’d think this would be ideal conditions. No distractions. The … Read more »

Zen meditation, a cure for unhappiness in South LA

December 8, 2010

As you read this article your mind is likely to wander off onto other thoughts; trouble at work, your evening plans, a mounting to-do list… and you might be all the more unhappy in life as a result of such distracted thinking.

According to a recent study in the November issue of Science Magazine, whether and where people’s minds wander is a better predictor of happiness than what they are doing. The study included more than 2,200 people around the world who agreed to use an iphone app called trackyourhappiness.

A team of Harvard psychologists contacted the participants at random intervals to ask how them how they were feeling, what they were doing and what … Read more »

Travelling into the breath

November 18, 2010

Day 1

Preparing myself with consideration of my back problem, balancing the pelvis, and seeing that my neck is as least as possible strained. I feel a slight tension in my belly and this possibly has to do with an expectation of resistance to listening once again to the instructions of setting up a posture, a resistance to resistance, i breath into it and i experience that the resistance doesn’t come.

For a moment i am aware that i am sitting a bit sloped, sometimes i have the impression that my right shoulder is hanging more towards the earth than my left one after the injury at work.

So adjusting this posture…

…sitting with … Read more »