Question & Answer

دوره: The Science of Well-Being / فصل: Putting Strategies into Practice / درس 4

Question & Answer

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My read is that the data are like, any way that you shut off your mind wandering, and that you do it as a practice, like you do it for some amount of time, not like once, but like regularly every day, has a lot of these same effects. I think the key is to kind of figure out for you what shuts off that mind wandering and it doesn't have to look like you on the cushion with your fingers like this. It's having time to spend a half hour every day thinking about nothing but your breath and meditating.

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I’m interested in meditating more, and I was wondering if there are any specific kinds of meditations that are aimed at doing certain things or changing certain things? Which meditations are the best? Yeah, totally good question. So, when I got into this, learning about this work, I assumed that I would have a specific answer to your question, that certain ones would be like better than others. My read is that the data are like, any way that you shut off your mind wandering, and that you do it as a practice, like you do it for some amount of time, not like once, but like regularly every day, has a lot of these same effects. The differences is in kind of the nuance. And so, if your goal is kind of more social connection, more gratitude, some of those loving kindness sorts of meditations work a lot. If your goal is kind of noticing more things like body sensations or kind of getting more in touch with your body, your healthy eating, you’re in that sort of thing, these kind of body noting practices or body scan. It’s often talked about as good. You kind of think about the different parts of your body. And for all the cognitive ones, there’s more nuance to doing the kind of breath or the sort of noting practice where you stay within, and you note all your external experiences. But the upshot is that all of them seem to do a lot of the things. You saw on those data. I think Cober and colleagues are really looking to see, okay, which one of these is going to shut off the default network. And the answer is they all do. And I think they all do for the right reason, which is like anything you can do to just focus on one thing in the here and now, no matter what it is, is going to like shut up the scatter, that is your mind, and it kinda almost doesn’t matter what you do. What I would suggest is that try different ones and see which one sticks. I’m terrible at the thinking about the breath. It’s just kind of super boring for me. So it takes a lot more work. I’m much more into the like kind of choiceless noticing of what’s going on. And I kind of dig the loving kindness. It’s sort of like cheesy in the right way for me. Is there evidence the yoga has a similar effect? Yeah. So I didn’t present that because it ends up being kind of a combination of the meditation part and some of the physical exercise part. And so, if you do yoga in a way that you’re really focusing on your breath, like doing a meditation practice as part of yoga, where you’re really kind of like in the here and now focusing on that stuff, it can have similar kinds of effects. I say that if, because some people do yoga and they’re like, power yoga. There are different forms of it. But if you’re really focusing on your breath and getting in the here and now, you can do that stuff. And this is also true that we think of the meditation of like “I’m sitting on a meditation cushion and doing this”. You can actually meditate in all kinds of different ways and exercise is a really good one. Some people talk about like training for a marathon and stuff, and they claim that when they’re training for a marathon, their head is empty. Like they are just in the here and now. They’re just like focusing on the steps of their feet hitting the ground. If you can do that in anything that you do functionally, like anything you can do to kind of force yourself to be in the here and now and focus, in some sense, is a form of meditation. That’s why I kind of left the definition so vague. Some people do like walking meditations where you walk around and pay attention to your breath. I think the key is to kind of figure out for you what shuts off that mind wandering and it doesn’t have to look like you on the cushion with your fingers like this. It can look like all kinds of different things. And yoga is definitely one of them. Yeah. Do you have a question? I kind of have two questions. One of them is kind of being motivated, like finding ways to motivate yourself throughout the day. An idea I had was that, I could put like a poster of some motivational quote that inspires you, or a picture of some motivational person. But then I felt like I have to get a lot of posters because then I get used to that poster, I get motivated like two weeks in, and then I have to keep buying posters, buying posters. It’s this weird getting used to thing. That’s one thing I would like to ask about. And two is a question just about sleeping. So according to this – there’s an app that I use that kind of tracks my sleep. And it says my average is around like five hours, which apparently is deprived. That’s sleep deprivation, yeah, yeah. So, I don’t really know. So like say it’s one o’clock and I have a ten-o’clock class and I have to finish this reading. I have to get this thing out. I have to send out this email. I know that I should be getting seven hours, but I can’t. I feel really anxious. if I just go to bed and just ignore all that. If I was going to make the seven-hour thing a reality, I guess I’d have to make a huge life shift or something. It’s just really, I’m going to sit. I really can’t get around to doing that. Spoken like a second semester senior. Who knows? Seriously, I made that shift, sophomore year. No, no. The whole point of telling you this stuff. I mean you said you’re going to have to make this huge life shift. This is what this is about, right? You didn’t walk into here. Many of you walked into here thinking that the stuff I started with should be the priorities, right? And I’m telling you that those shouldn’t be the priorities. The priorities should be like having time affluence, like having time to just go sit around the courtyard and think. It’s having time to spend a half hour every day thinking about nothing but your breath and meditating. It’s getting out of this focus on like being perfect at your grades and worrying about accolades. It’s like having the time and the space to hang out with your friends and do acts of kindness. This is meant to be a big life shift, right? And so, following a lot of these suggestions is going to be like a restructure. It’s going to feel like a paradigm shift to a certain extent. So, yes, it’s going to be a paradigm shift, I guess, is the answer. Or I guess, doing this right to see these benefits is going to feel like that. That said, on a local level, what can you do to do that stuff? My guess is a few things. One is, try it. Try the idea of just not doing that stuff before you go to bed and get some sleep. People have really horrified reactions, it’s like “NOOO”. But try it. If you’re too anxious before you go to bed, get your little insight meditation thing and like play a sleep meditation and literally, the sleep meditation will be like, all you’ve got to do is sleep. This is your time. And then see what happens. My guess is your grades won’t go down as much as you think. My guess is you’ll wake up, if you’ve been getting five hours a night for most of your time at Yale, you’ll wake up with like the kind of cognitive efficiency that you’ve like never experienced before. And you’ll be like Superman and you’ll get that stuff done. So I would say, as a first pass, try it and see. And then go from there. But it is going to take a big restructuring and stuff. On the poster thing, I think you don’t need to buy all the posters unless you want to. But your intuition is right, which is that changing your environment so you see this stuff matters, and all the way we set, visualizing it, having reminders, all that stuff is good. And you don’t want the reminders to get stale, right? If it’s the same reminder every day, as we saw, you just won’t notice it. And so, I think this is where you guys are good at this stuff, right? Because you guys know about technologies that’s not just like putting a big poster on your wall. You know ways to digitally intervene on yourself and all the cool apps to do this, right? So I would say, more powerful than a poster is like imagine you set a reminder to yourself to like change your desktop background every few days, or just like every Monday morning when you get up, you put another icon on your desktop that you notice. And you guys know apps that will ping you in your Google calendar or whatever calendar thingy you’re using to get you to do this. You guys are good at harnessing technology to do that stuff. But I think that’s intuition is like you do want to change it or you’re going to get stale about it. Having it there in a form that you will notice it is useful. For me, again, poster on my wall would be less effective than like in my background on my phone, the phone screen that you swipe everyday and stuff like that. But it’s pretty good. But I think, get creative about your use of technology. And I bet you guys, because you know this stuff better than I do in my old age, will know good ways to do that. I just wanted to comment. I think it’s not necessarily a choice between sleep and doing all of your work. I think there’s a lot of other stuff you do that takes up your time. Just like prioritizing which is like the hardest thing for me. Like picking what I want to spend my time on, but yeah. And this is the thing, I think, if you do that, it’s really wonderful advice, then you’ll learn two things. One is, you’re just going to see that your a default, if you really kind of non-judgementally try to figure out, is that helping you – it might not be. And I have this in spades. There are many nights that I’m stressed and I come back and I just want to watch something dumb on Netflix, or even worse, I want to scroll mindlessly through random links on the internet. And I’ll do that for like. I mean, if I just stop doing that, I would have two extra hours of sleep a night, really, right? But if you look non-judgementally, what am I getting out of that? I’m at my lowest point in flow, I’m low arousal, low challenge. I’m probably by myself when I’m doing it. I’m not getting any social connection. I’m not sleeping. There’s an opportunity cost. I could be meditating and I could be exercising. I could be doing something else productive, and so on. So part of it’s like non-judgementally looking at what do you get out of this stuff that you’re spending your time on. That’s part one. Point two, when you take that suggestion as I think, you’ll just be like, “I don’t have enough time”. I have all these activities. I have these things I’ve signed up for. I have these obligations. And that’s where you really just need to take the sharp knife, cut things out. There’s no rule that says that you have to do all the extracurriculars, all the things you committed. You’ve committed to that. You’ve chosen those, I think, because you think they’re meaningful or they’re gonna make you happy. And if you really have done that to the point that your time affluence is at zero, and your extracurricular affluence or wealth affluence or whatever super high, then the data might suggest that you need to cleave some of those off. There just isn’t enough time in life to do all the cool things that there are to do at Yale. There’s just not. And if you carve off too many of them, then you miss out on the time affluence and all these other things that are making you happy. So you’re like meeting all these goals, and you’re like, “Why does this feel so stressed and so miserable?” It’s because you’ve kind of cut out the stuff that your mind didn’t tell you was important to put in there but it really is.

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