Study shows we are on autopilot most of the time

I came across this study,  carried out by Dan Gilbert and Matthew Killingsworth,  just yesterday, even though it was published last November.  It confirms that most of us are ‘mentally checked out’ for a good portion of the day, operating on a type of autopilot which does not lead us to feeling very content.  For 46.9% of the time during their waking hours people are engaged in ‘mind wandering’,  not really focusing on the outside world or the task at hand, but rather looking into their own thoughts. And what this study of 2,250 people shows is that this activity  – despite its obvious attraction – doesn’t make us feel happy.

The study was designed to find out what kind of activities people did throughout a day, and which made them happiest.  So people were asked to indicated what they were engaged in at different random moments chosen during the day.   Mind wandering was just one of 22 possible activities people could list, but turned out one of the most common. And here is the interesting part – the participants reported being unhappy during the periods of mind wandering. Thus how people deal with mind wandering is a better predictor of happiness than many other indicators which we normally use, such as relationships, careers or the  actual activities people are engaged in. The study is another support for the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation, with its emphasis on just staying in the present moment and recognizing our stories as stories, as an aid toward greater happiness.

Supporting your practice: Events coming up in May

Just some information about some events coming up in May which you may be interested in and which may support your practice.

The last MBSR group I led will have its All Day Session on May 21st. All are welcome to join with them. It will be, as always, in silence, and will include two longer sessions of yoga in the Kripalu tradition.

Patrick, whom many of you know from the Tai Chi Sessions he has done with us, is running a 4 week introduction to Tai Chi starting Thursday May 12 which will build in skills and practice from week to week.  He would run it in his Centre on rue Montbrilliant behind Cornavin each Thursday from 12.15 to 1.30. If any of you are interested please contact Patrick directly at

Finally, there is a weekend in French led by the Monks of Plum Village (in the lineage of Thich Nhat Hahn) on Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th of May at the Maison de Vessy. You can look at the details here: Week-end PC 28-29 mai 2011

Studying meditation and its effect on aging

A link to a report in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper about the effect meditation may have on genes and aging. It describes one of the largest pieces of research currently undergoing on the benefits of meditation.