Research – Be Present 2017-01-13T13:42:06+00:00

Research – Be Present

Matthew Killingsworth, a PhD psychologist from Harvard University, has been using smartphone technology to monitor people’s thoughts feelings and actions in real time to track the happiness of individuals and factors associated with it. Compiling the data of over 2,000 participants, spanning across countries, careers and social circumstances, Killingsworth, with his then professor of psychology, Daniel Gilbert, found (i) people’s minds wander on average 47% of the time, even when involved in engaging tasks, and (ii) participants are substantially less happy when they are not focussed on what is happening in the present moment.

Watch Matt Killingsworth discuss his research further in this TEDtalk:

Want to be happier? Stay in the moment

You can find the full study here:

A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind

(If you have any problems following links in our research, then please copy and paste the text from our footnote* into your browser top bar)

Dr. Elisha Goldstein, co-founder of The Center for Mindful Living and a leader in mindfulness psychology, offers practical techniques in his book The Now Effect (2014) to help readers connect to the present moment, aiding them to make permanent life changes, such as alleviating stress and supporting effective decision making.

Neuroscientists Sylvain Charron and Etienne Koechlin found that it is impossible for our brains to multitask. When participants in their 2010 study were required to work on two tasks simultaneously their brains split so that the two hemispheres worked individually on each activity. The error rate went up 50% and it took the volunteers twice as long to complete their goals. When a third task was introduced, they made three times as many errors as when dual-tasking and regularly forgot one of their activities.

Find their research here:

Divided Representation of Concurrent Goals in the Human Frontal Lobes

One way to help train ourselves to focus more on the present is through practising mindfulness.

The following study by Britta K. Hozel et al. observed a significant increase in the density of the grey matter within the left hippocampus in participants who followed an eight-week mindfulness program. This suggests regions in the brain involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking can literally be changed from practising mindfulness.

Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density

Other Mindfulness Studies

There are numerous further studies that have examined mindfulness and the positive effect it can have on wellbeing. The following are a few highlighting how practising mindfulness, in particular Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), one of the most widely used mindfulness training programs, can reduce stress and social anxiety, enables more body satisfaction, and helps individuals cope with clinical problems:

Mindfulness-based stress reduction for stress management in healthy people: A review and meta-analysis

Mindfulness skills and interpersonal behaviour

Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits. A meta-analysis

Footnote*

(If you have any problems following links in our research, then please copy and paste the text below relating to the article you wish to see into your browser top bar)

Matthew Killingsworth
TEDtalk:
Want to be happier? Stay in the moment

A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/330/6006/932.abstract

Dr. Elisha Goldstein
Open hearts build lives: Positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources

Sylvain Charron and Etienne Koechlin
Divided Representation of Concurrent Goals in the Human Frontal Lobes
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/328/5976/360.abstract

Britta Hölzel et al.
Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain grey matter density
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004979/

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
Mindfulness-based stress reduction for stress management in healthy people: A review and meta-analysis
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19432513

Mindfulness skills and interpersonal behaviour
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886907004242

Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits. A meta-analysis
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15256293