A Wandering Mind is an Unhappy One: Scientific American

We spend billions of dollars each year looking for happiness, hoping it might be bought, consumed, found, or flown to. Other, more contemplative cultures and traditions assure us that this is a waste of time (not to mention money). ‘Be present’ they urge. Live in the moment, and there you’ll find true contentment.

Sure enough, our most fulfilling experiences are typically those that engage us body and mind, and are unsullied by worry or regret. In these cases, a relationship between focus and happiness is easy to spot. But does this relationship hold in general, even for simple, everyday activities? Is a focused mind a happy mind? Harvard psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert decided to find out.


What about the kinds of activities we do, though? Surely, the hard-partiers and world travelers among us are happier than the quiet ones who stay at home and tuck in early? Not necessarily. According to the data from the Harvard group’s study, the particular way you spend your day doesn’t tell much about how happy you are. Mental presence – the matching of thought to action – is a much better predictor of happiness.

So, according to these researchers, basically focusing on what you’re doing, being present and not distracted letting your mind wander is what brings us a greater state of happiness.

Crossed my mind that it seems like David Allen (“Getting Things Done”) is not only helping with productivity, but also happiness!

Love will tear us apart… but at least it also provides a potent painkiller

So we all know how love can create those euphoric feelings… how it feels that you’re almost addicted to the person, want to see andtalk to them all the time?

Well, previously it’s been clear that the way that the initial period of love, the attraction phase, signified by elevated levels of dopamine, has very similar ways of operating in our brains as cocaine and similar drugs.


Now, a team at Stanford took this one step further and gave postdoc students (a.k.a. campus guinea pigs) mild doses of pain while at the same time showing them pictures of their loved ones.

The result, as seen through the fMRIs, revealed that love acted very much like other pain killers. So, sure love hurts, it tears us apart, but apparently it’s also a terrific pain killer – at least until the relationship turns bad…

Check out the publication release at eurekalert.org & thanks to Alex for sharing the link with me!

Photo by jdvolcan.

Is there a soul?

Well, at least the notion of a one, unified, mind doesn’t seem to hold
much ground.

Read about it here:

Sex Boosts Brain Growth, Study Suggests | Rat Sex | LiveScience

Sex apparently can
help the brain grow, according to new findings in rats.

Sexually active
rodents also seemed less anxious than virgins, Princeton scientists discovered.

Past findings had
shown that stressful, unpleasant events could stifle brain
cell growth
in adults. To see if pleasant albeit stressful experiences
could have the opposite effect, researchers studied the effects of sex
in rats.

Scientists played
matchmaker by giving adult male rats access to sexually receptive females
either once daily for two weeks or just once in two weeks. They also measured
blood levels of stress hormones known as glucocorticoids, which researchers
suspected might lie behind the detrimental effects that unpleasant experiences
have on the

When compared with
male virgins, both groups of sexually active rats had cell proliferation, or an
increase in the number of neurons, in the hippocampus, a part of the brain
linked with memory whose
cells are especially sensitive to unpleasant experiences. The rats that had
more sex also had adult brain cells grow, as well as a rise in the number of
connections between brain cells.

However, the rodents
that only saw females once in two weeks had elevated levels of stress hormones,
while the rats that had regular access showed no increase in the hormones.
Sexually experienced rodents also proved less anxious than virgins, in that
they were quicker to chomp down on food in unfamiliar environs.

These findings
suggest that while stress hormones can be detrimental to the brain, these
effects can be overridden if whatever experiences triggered them were pleasant.

The scientists
detailed their findings online July 14 in the journal PLoS ONE.