Mind wandering, compassion and happiness

Compassionate meditation appears to be linked to increased happy thoughts through mind wandering.

Mind wandering and happiness
Meditation, mind wandering and unhappiness?

Mind wandering compassion and happiness

The Science of meditation and mindfulness recently featured a study that investigated the relationship between mind wandering and how we feel. In particular can mind wandering and spontaneous thought be correlated with happiness and can meditation mediate the effects? So put simply the premise behind this study is that the more mind wandering and day dreaming you do the less happy you are likely to be. A second question asked by the study was do specific forms of meditation and mindfulness decrease mind wandering and therefore contribute to increased happiness.

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On face value this seems like an intuitive experiment, we know that abnormally high levels of mind wandering can reduce our ability to perform tasks. Further that frequent mind wandering to negative or harmful subject matter can lead to mental health issues. But this is a very complex area and one not yet fully understood. The brain nodes associated with mind wandering, the Default Mode Network (DMN) have a range of diverse functions including maintaining our autobiographical memory and making sense of ourselves in relation to the wider world. Reduced activity in the DMN is correlated to increased activity in the task focussed networks (more mind wandering means less task focus and vice versa).

“In conclusion the evidence supports the view that compassionate meditation is able to increase  a tendency to happy thoughts and positive behaviours towards self and others. “

Stephen Gene Morris

Another consideration is that mind wandering can be either a positive or negative experience. The object of mind wandering can be almost anything, a cherished memory from the past, a plan for great success in the future or worries able to generate fear and anxiety. The findings of the featured study indicated that compassion based meditation was able to reduce the negative and increase positive mind wandering in participants. The research also found that the meditators generally experienced an augmentation in  their caring behaviours.

In conclusion the evidence supports the view that compassionate meditation is able to increase  a tendency to happy thoughts and positive behaviours towards self and others.

 

Notes

Review of the study can be found here.

Header photo by Dana Tentis on Pexels.com, smiling photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

Author: Stephen Gene Morris

Formally trained neuroscientist and cognitive psychologist, post graduate researcher of how compassion and nondual meditation methods influence our physical and mental health. Stephen has decades of personal practice in spiritual and secular forms of meditation. Alongside teaching and research of compassionate and nondual practices, Stephen trains his own brain every day with traditional Dzogchen methods.

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