Whatever people were doing, whether it was having sex or reading or shopping, they tended to be happier if they focused on the activity instead of thinking about something else. In fact, whether and where their minds wandered was a better predictor of happiness than what they were doing.
“If you ask people to imagine winning the lottery,” Dr. Gilbert says, “they typically talk about the things they would do — ‘I’d go to Italy, I’d buy a boat, I’d lay on the beach’ — and they rarely mention the things they would think. But our data suggest that the location of the body is much less important than the location of the mind, and that the former has surprisingly little influence on the latter. The heart goes where the head takes it, and neither cares much about the whereabouts of the feet.”Interesting stuff to be sure. Another reason for focus and possibly some meditation. (There is another article in today's NYTimes about moods and creativity, Tracing the Spark of Creative Problem-Solving.)
Susan U and Bill G gave me Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom. Even before they sent me the book, I had been reading 101 Theory Drive: A Neuroscientist's Quest for Memory. So, I was already exploring what might be out there. I was initially driven to read 101 Theory Drive because I have an unusually good memory. And I am also clinically depressed. Both are proving to be interesting, challenging, and useful reads.
My mother is a practitioner in the Church of Religious Science. Over the years, we have had many arguments and disagreements about "positive thinking." And I haven't changed my MIND about organized religion or (what I perceive to be) simplistic, reductive answers to the complications of being human or just alive.
Notwithstanding that, there seems to be both scientific and spiritual evidence for the power of thinking more openly, and not dwelling on the negatives in life. I'm not qualified to discuss The Church of Religious Science, or really any other religion, other than 'zinfandel, cats, music, and take responsibility for yourself' but I am having ... um .... positive results from my thinking (not quite contemplation), focus, and actually writing.
Hanson says, "The mind is what the brain does." Change your chemistry, change your mind? My early indications are that this may be true (for me at least). Just sayin'.