Search “diet” on an image site like Shutterstock and you’ll be presented with dozens of photos of miserable looking people surviving on rabbit food or exercising until they’re exhausted. But is this really what eating healthy and regularly exercising does to the body and brain? A new Shape magazine article says no, and we wholeheartedly agree. Turning the corner with your health is not only a cause for celebration, it will literally make your mind and body want to celebrate.
A study conducted by two Harvard University researchers suggests that people’s wandering minds are to blame for their unhappiness. In addition, they found that happiness was not necessarily a consequence of what someone was doing, but how focused they were while doing it.
Using an Internet-based cell phone application to gather feedback, the researchers asked their subjects if they were focused while engaged in certain activities, or if their minds were drifting towards something totally different. The subjects were then asked to describe their level of contentment during each activity.
The results concluded that people’s minds wander at least 50% of the time and while the mind is wandering, most people feel unhappy. It is worth noting that in this experiment minds wandered less during sex, exercise or while engaged in conversation and more in those who were working, using a home computer or resting. However you want to interpret this, the important message is that we only spend half of our waking hours focused and experiencing happiness.
Do you want to be happy more than 50% of the time, whether you are working, exercising or spending time with others? The following tips will help you focus, and “be here now” as esteemed spiritual leader Ram Dass famously states.
If your biggest accomplishment in 2012 is to simply be happy, you’ll be tickled to know there are many ways to achieve success. Scroll through the following unique ways and find out how a happy smile can be forever yours. Pick one, or practice them all.
1. Ask not, “What was I thinking?” but rather, “What did I learn?”
2. Smile more often. Frowns make you feel old and tired while smiling gives you a face-lift.
3. Call a friend. Some girl talk or male bonding will work wonders for your mood.
Compassion meditation is a type of practice that can actually physically remodel the brain. The results of several studies confirm how practicing meditation can change your brain patterns to make you a nicer, happier person.
At the University of Madison Wisconsin, researchers tested the electrical activity of Buddhist monks during meditation compared with just sitting and doing nothing. The electrical brain waves of the meditators were off the charts, suggesting meditation has an impact on neurological occupation, versus just vegging out.
In another study at Emory University, a group of people meditated 30 minutes a day for two weeks. Results indicated key areas of the subjects’ brains had changed in addition to making them more generous. Researchers hooked up microphones and recorded the subjects at random times during the day and found they were saying nicer things to people.
One of the principles I was taught early on as a psychology student is “correlation is not causation”, which means that just because research finds trends does not mean that we can prove that one variable caused another.
A correlation has been reported of a higher percentage of the population that bikes to work in the cities considered the most fit in the US. Since biking to work requires regular physical exercise, it is not surprising that those that commute via bicycle increase the fitness quotient for their cities. Richard Florida also found correlations between those populations with a greater percentage of biking commuters and higher earnings, more creative jobs and fewer working class jobs, more diverse populations, and higher ratings of happiness.
Brian Cantrell, a web developer at Media Refined (parent company of DietsInReview.com), is an avid bicycle commuter who also mentioned happiness as a reason why he enjoys biking to work. “There are a lot of reasons I enjoy riding to work. The first is that I feel better when I get to work because I’ve got my blood pumping a bit so I really feel awake. I also like that you experience your city unmediated. When you are in a car you are traveling at a higher speed and there’s a wall between you and the neighborhoods you pass through so you don’t see much as you would on a bike. Lastly, I’m just happier when I’m active every day. I barely move while I’m at work and my eyes are always focused about two feet in front of me, definitely a sub-optimal situation, but I think cycling is the perfect antidote to it.”