Work harder by remembering you don’t have to work

What things will you do this week, not because you particularly want to, but because you feel you have to? For many people, this probably includes everything work related, from waking up early in the morning, to gritting teeth through a rush hour commute, to trying to stay awake through a particularly torturous meeting. Whatever…

Be mindful, forgive a political opponent

As a cognitive psychologist, I am naturally drawn to the potential beneficial impacts of mindfulness on the mind and brain: The possibility of fostering better attention, of improving children’s self-regulation, of wiring the brain in more sensible ways than the barrage of Internet and smartphone chatter will. But in the political mayhem of election season,…

Counting breaths to measure mindfulness

One of the greatest challenges to the scientific study of mindfulness is finding a way to objectively measure how mindful someone is. Only with a clear, unbiased measure we can we feel confident in when and why a person’s mindfulness changes, and what greater levels of mindfulness can mean for us. But mindfulness is a…

The animated default network

Some days I think I must live in the golden age of teaching, because I am spoiled for choice in most of my demonstrations. Pop over to YouTube, enter a few search terms, and find an incredible assortment of possible videos to show, many of which have surprisingly high production values. My most recent find…

Do we really prefer shocks to thoughts?

If you found yourself left in a bland room for 15 minutes, with instructions to remain in a chair and just think, and the only alternative to just sitting and thinking was to deliver a mild electric shock to your ankle…would you shock yourself? Does the thought of being alone with your thoughts for just 15 minutes…

Awe and the Supernatural

Majestic mountains, vibrant vistas, stunning scenery – and, perhaps, the transformation of a blob of molten glass into a rearing horse – these are sights that can truly be awe-inspiring, generating those feelings of reverence and wonder. They make time seem to slow down. But do they also make it seem more likely that there must be…

Obstacles to meditation in the college classroom

Imagine, if you will, this scene: just under two dozen first-year college students have, somehow, dragged themselves out of bed at the near-crack of dawn, eschewed changing out of nightclothes in favor of shoving bare feet into flip flops or possible Uggs, and slouched into a third-story classroom. They rest their heads on their tables…

Meditation may not be for epileptics

In epilepsy, a seizure begins with just a few neurons that – for reasons that still elude medical professionals –  get overstimulated. That excess stimulation then gets passed through the synapses to other neurons, which become overstimulated in turn, and the spread of that intense chaotic activity produces the behavioral features of a seizure. These…