Bad Mind

Neil Garrett and Tali Sharot at University College London and their colleagues asked volunteers to consider 40 adverse events, such as a car accident, and to estimate their personal probability of experiencing each one. Then, for each event, the researchers delivered the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ news that the true risk was lower or higher than participants’ estimates. When asked to evaluate the adverse events again, volunteers tended to reduce their estimates of their own risk in response to good news, but often discounted bad news.

It’s weird that the mind even exists. How does “something as sublime and insubstantial as thought or consciousness…emerge from three pounds of gelatinous pudding inside the skull?” No one knows. Moreover, even though the mind is created by the brain, the mind can operate with some independence from the brain. In fact, the mind can actually change the brain.

Without tampering with your skull in any way, you can become skilled at mind-watching. Using mindful awareness, “you can stand outside your own mind as if you are watching what is happening to another rather than experiencing it yourself.” The “watching part,” sometimes called “the Observing Self” (or “Observing Ego”), is somewhat detached from emotions and can view your thoughts and actions with some impartial objectivity. By contrast, the “experiencing” part of your mind notices sense impressions and has emotional reactions to them.

Meditation has been used for thousands of years to clear and free the mind. Doing so doesn’t have to involve burning candles and sitting in the lotus position; it can simply be sitting comfortably, allowing thoughts to enter your mind and pass through without engaging in them. Doing this for as little as ten minutes can be enough to free your mind from persistent or annoying thoughts.

Many people are people-pleasers or approval junkies, but engaging in these behaviours ultimately leaves you feeling trapped, as though you are living your life for others. Notice when you are engaging in these behaviors and start practicing living life for you.