TEDxCambridge: Mind


  • expect cars, houses, money to bring us happiness
  • paradox of happiness: we haven’t gotten happier despite being richer
  • no strong effect of each factor (marriage, income, etc.)
  • moment-to-moment experiences have bigger influence on happiness
  • trackyourhappiness.org mobile app

– mind-wandering studies
1) how do you feel? bad–good
2) what are you doing?
3) are you thinking about something other than what you are doing? no/yes (pleasant–neutral–unpleasant)

– less happy when mind-wandering no matter what they’re doing

  • often think about unpleasant things (worries, anxieties, regrets)
  • even when think about pleasant things, still a little less happy

– strong relationship b/w mindwander now, unhappy later >> unhappy now, mindwander later

  • mindwander causes unhappiness

– nearly 50% of time, mind-wander

The Dark Side of Happiness

– amt

  • too much happiness?
  • when pass critical pt, happiness can be associated with lower health
  • extreme happiness associated w/ less creativity, more risk-taking, alcohol, drug use, MANIA (w/o considering consequences)

– timing

  • in competitive situations, happiness makes you less successful
  • at greater risk for emotional impairment

– way to pursue happiness

  • ppl w/ core value of happiness have high standards –> easily disappointed

hapiness needs to be experienced in the right context, and shouldn’t be so focused on becoming happy (accept current emotional state, let it come)

Neuroscience of Meditation

  • meditators have more grey matter than normal ppl in certain regions
  • can prevent/slow down aging
  • hippocampus larger, temporal parietal junction (perspective-taking), decreasing greymatter in amygdala (decrease stress)
  • change in amygdala = change in ppl’s relationship to environment

awakening is intimacy with all things

sipping tea, I stop the war

Cognitive Neuroscience of Music

– grammar of music

– expected vs. unexpected music chords

  • unexpected: double-take, how to integrate into what I heard before?

– 2:1 frequency ratio = symphony

– mem and preference increase with repetition

– learning occurs w/ variability (more ways of tell something, more learning of underlying principles)

– pathways imp in lang are same for music

  • no one center for music
  • music tickles all neuromechanisms we have

– thrive – seek out new experiences

  • even wthin an hour, we can adaptively make sense of new sounds


– why are we sleeping less?

  • light suppresses melatonin release or can shift its release time

– eye is for seeing and circadian rhythm

  • some blind ppl, despite not seeing, have release of melatonin in response to light

– in villages w/o electricity, don’t wake up during the night
– light is messing up sync of our rhythm
– light exposure in evening resets our rhythm to later hour, and we have an earlier waking time
– w/o enough sleep, gain weight
– should make the bedroom a tech-free zone, and find out how much sleep you need

Abundance of Choice (Priya Parker)

– unique anxieties of our generation
1) untethered; full choice about marriage, career, education –> less certainty

  • we’ve lost our organizing principles; social mirror

2) anxiety of opportunity cost –> anxious about maximizing options, trying to live best of future scenarios

  • phomo – fear of missing out; phobo – fear of better opportunities

– 3 activities to help thrive

  • align with internal value
  • embody –
  • enact – peer networks to help monitor, increases implementation

– 5 activities that obstruct thriving
1) GTD syndrome – getting things done; we forget why we do what we do
2) maintaining optionality – consulting gave pay, prestige and push off decision for several years
3) maintenance – maintaining rather than creating
4) priority success over mastery – networking vs. creating, will choose networking
5) stuck in their heads – doesn’t physically engage in body, doesn’t engage in activities that increase creativity

– 3 activities that promote thriving
1) ask what kind of life I want, cultivate own listening, organize lives around that answer (e.g. ability to control own time)
2) increase ability to accept sub-optimal outcomes –> embrace that sub-optimal outcomes may be result of choice, accept and do it anyway (choose one party, commit to it)
3) good at saying no, willing to burn bridges, say no to those who don’t reflect values

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