We all spend too much time worrying, so try this calming trick

Human brains evolved to sabotage our happy moments with worry. Here’s a quick way to chill out.

We all spend too much time worrying, so try this calming trick
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2020欧洲杯体育网址, I’ve researched and taught mind-body principles to both physicians and patients. I’ve found that there are many methods of quieting the mind and that most of them draw on just a few straightforward principles. Understanding those can help in creatively practicing the techniques in your everyday life.

Our brains sabotage the happier present moment

2020欧洲杯体育网址We’ve all experienced moments of flow, times when our attention is just effortlessly absorbed in what we are doing. And studies carried out in real-time confirm an  when people can focus attention on what they are doing, rather than when their minds are wandering. It may seem odd then that we leave our minds to wander for something like .

The reason can be found in the activity of linked brain regions, such as the default mode network that . These systems function in the background of consciousness, envisaging futures compatible with our needs and desires and .

2020欧洲杯体育网址Human brains have evolved to do this automatically; planning for scarcity and other threats is important to ensure survival. But there’s a downside: anxiety. Studies have shown that some people to being left alone with their thoughts. Sound familiar?


Our background thinking is essential to operating in the world. It is sometimes the . We suffer from its unease when unnoticed, it takes over the mental store.

Mindfulness, the practice of observing our mind’s activity, affords both real-time insight into this default feature of the mental operating system and a .

2020欧洲杯体育网址That is confirmed by studies showing increased attention regulation, working memory, and awareness of mind wandering that develop after only . Imaging studies, similarly, show that this kind of training reduces default mode activity and enriches neural connections that facilitate .

Evolution prioritizes survival over happiness

This default to planning is . Its value is evident in the effortless persistence and universality with which it occurs. Mind-body programs like yoga and mindfulness are indicative of the yearning many people have to be in the happier present moment.

2020欧洲杯体育网址How we use our attention is , and many mind-body programs are based on training our minds to be more skillful in this way.

Mindfulness training, for example, asks students to direct their attention to the sensations of breathing. And while that may seem easy, the mind resists, tenaciously. So, despite repeated resolve, a person finds that, within seconds, attention has effortlessly defaulted to planning daydreams.


Just .

In those moments when you do manage to notice these thoughts with some detachment, becomes clear. And planning’s semi-vigilant (“What could go wrong here?”) orientation also becomes clear.

2020欧洲杯体育网址We begin to notice that this hoping, comparing, and regretting is often concerned with family and friends, job and money—themes of relationship, status, and power that are central to the survival of tribal primates, all set against the background knowledge of our passing.

Our bodies take notice

Traditional meditation teachings attribute our that naturally accompanies the possibility of . It’s a tension that is often unnoticed in the midst of managing everyday demands, but its background discomfort sends us looking for relief in something more pleasant like a snack, a screen, a drink, or a drug.

2020欧洲杯体育网址Mindfulness makes us more and reorients attention to the senses. These, by their nature, are oriented to the present–hence the almost clichéd “being in the moment” idiom.

2020欧洲杯体育网址So, when you notice yourself tense and preoccupied with anxious thoughts, try shifting your attention to the sensations of your breathing, wherever you notice it in your body. Bodily tension naturally dissipates with the shift in focus, and a feeling of greater calm follows. Don’t expect attention to stay there; it won’t. Just notice that attention goes back to worries, and gently return it to breathing.


Try it for just a couple of minutes.

Other mind-body programs use similar principles

It would be nearly impossible to design studies comparing all the techniques that cultivate mindfulness. But my more than four decades of experience as a practitioner, clinician, and researcher of several popular mind-body programs suggests that most techniques use similar principles to recover the present moment.

Yoga and tai chi, for example, direct attention to the flow of sensations accompanying the sequence of movements. In contrast, systems such as cognitive therapy, , prayer, and visualization counter the ambient narrative’s unsettling tone with more reassuring thoughts and images.

2020欧洲杯体育网址Just a little practice makes this universal mental tendency, and your ability to shift it, more apparent in the midst of activities. The reduced arousal that results means that allowing feel-good ones like serotonin and dopamine to be restored in the brain as the happier here and now becomes woven into the fabric of everyday life.

 is a professor of Medicine and Population Health Sciences at the 


2020欧洲杯体育网址This article is republished from under a Creative Commons license. Read the .