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How Your Brain Wishes You'd Cope
Not exactly, suggests Alice G. Walton in this essay for Forbes. Walton coherently runs down how some of our favorite methods of coping -- you know, smoking, drinking, hiding under covers while weeping (okay, she doesn't mention that one) -- actually engage our minds in negative feedback loops that feed the bad feelings. Annoying, I know. Drinks are so delicious. But according to Walton, researchers have found that unhappiness is directly related to a wandering mind. Which is to say they found that "if you’re awake, your mind is wandering almost half the time,[and] it also found that this wandering is linked to a less happy state." Darn it all, your yoga teacher is totally right when she reminds you to meditate. Which makes you think of how hard it is to meditate. Which makes you...right, the wandering. So, wait, why does a wandering mind lead to unhappiness?
A wandering mind usually wanders toward trouble: the unchecked items on the to-do list, the unpleasant interaction from earlier in the day, the dread of some unpleasant, unchecked thing ahead. And these things are all about the self, about you and your trouble, your own corner of the world. As this essay puts it, happiness is all "about shifting our tendency away from focus on ourselves." Of all our favorite coping techniques, meditation is the only one that quells the wandering, that helps us to look outside of our (no offense) piddly existences. Walton writes, "These findings may suggest that for people who practice meditation or prayer, the focus becomes less on the self as a distinct entity from the external world, and more on connection between the two."
I'd like to see a cocktail that could do that.
(No, really, I would. Then after that I would meditate. I promise.)
Don't know how to start meditating? Try...
Mini-Meditations to Clear Your Mind
The One-Minute Meditation Course
Oprah on the Power of Meditation
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