Mindful Focus is a Key to Happiness

Mindful Focus is a Key to Happiness

In our study of the nutritional aspects to mental concentration, we discovered some pretty interesting research on how your focus governs your experience of the world. I figured it would be invaluable to share the key insights. Here's something you may not know:

Losing your focus causes unhappiness!

Stop for a minute and consider how many times a day your mind wanders. Things to do, bills to pay, even just absent minded daydreaming. Research suggests that on average, people's minds wander almost 50% of their entire day! It turns out though, according to a study published in Science Magazine, that not being focused on the moment and mindful of what you are doing directly leads to unhappiness. Whatever you are thinking about, if it's not what you are currently engaged in doing, your brain is experiencing dissatisfaction, whether you realize or not.

Another fascinating study at UCSF which measured moment to moment satisfaction levels using a smart phone app, found that when people were thinking about something other than what they were doing at the time, they were substantially less happy. Most interestingly, according to the data, no matter what they were doing, even something unpleasant, if their mind wandered from the activity to anything else, their sense of satisfaction and enjoyment dropped. He uses the example that even though people do not enjoy commuting to work, if they are paying attention to driving the car, they are considerably happier. Part of the reason may be that most mind wandering is about worrisome things, so usually not a source of pleasure, but no matter the cause, the effect is always ultimately depressing. While there is a biological reason for the brain's ability to wander, like for making plans ahead of time, knowing dangerous terrain before you cross it, and such, we have lost control of it in our modern lives to the detriment of our joy.

We spend almost half our conscious waking time doing something that detracts from and depletes our happiness!

This is pretty radical for most of us if you think about it. Imagine a way to make yourself twice as happy. Focus is the key. Concentration in the moment. Mindfulness, as the Buddhists say. In fact one well known Buddhist monk, Matthieu Ricard, sometimes called "the happiest man in the world," says his own ground is definitely mind training. He states that two things empower his joy. First, that two emotions cannot occur simultaneously -- you cannot be angry and happy at the same time, or shake someone's hand and strike them. Second, by training the mind through discipline and meditation, one can focus on pleasurable thoughts every time an unpleasant thought begins to manifest. Pretty simple really, but clearly successful.

The challenge is to practice until you are fully disciplined, and this can take work. Matthieu calls his fellow monks, "champions of mind training." The monks had their happiness levels empirically evaluated using EEG tests to measure brain activity (the left pre-frontal cortex is associated with happiness, and the right with depression.) They were found to be four standard deviations above the norm in happiness! By pushing out every wandering thought to focus on loving and centered compassion in the moment, these people attained something we all spend our days daydreaming about.

The answer to your happiness than comes down to practice, repetition and discipline.

There are countless treatises on mindfulness. It is an idea that has been with us forever. ( Even Yoda has weighed in :)  But now we have the research to show that living a focused and mindful life will bring you to true happiness and satisfaction. I personally find meditation an excellent technique for promoting daily mindfulness, but there are many ways to approach it. So the next time you find your mind wandering, reel it back, and remember that being in the moment is the one sure way to bring you joy. Oh and if you need nutritional help with the challenges of being attentive (i.e. physiological and not psychological), don't forget to check out our excellent natural focus supplement, ELEVERA. We'd also love to hear about your own experiences, so please share in the comments below.

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The opinions expressed in this article are of the author. Content and other information presented on the site are not meant to be medical advice or any substitute for professional advice, counseling, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard professional medical or mental health advice from your physician or other qualified health provider.


1 Comments

    • Avatar
      Peter T.
      May 3, 2015

      I enjoyed this very much. I am truly convinced that most of the problems in our society start with a lack of discipline. People remind me too often of someone sailing a boat on rough waters, holding the rudder but not bothering to look where they are going or even have a direction. There's little chance of avoiding storms, rocks, or arriving at a desired destination. Living a life that is not one of quiet desperation is rooted in your attentiveness to living in the moment and being fully engaged. That's my 10c worth. Thanks.

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