That’s right, a very interesting study by Judson Brewer and Colleagues out of Yale published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science in 2011 evaluated whole brain activity and showed that the way people think in about 50% of our waking life is different than the way people that meditate think.
This habitual “mode” of thinking is called the Default Mode Network. You could also equate this to “mind-wandering” or the habitual thinking patterns that many of us have. This is basically the way you think when you are on “auto-pilot” and not completely involved in the activity at hand. Incidentally, these thinking patterns are also associated with unhappiness. They tend to be negative thoughts with you existing as the sun at the center of the universe. This type of thinking is often focused on anxieties and ruminations about the past, or the future. Habitual thinking…just thinking about it makes me want to scarf down some chocolate to make myself feel better!
On the other hand, people who meditate have a different Default Mode Network. Their brains fire differently even in every day life. They tend to be more focused on the present moment and are less self-referential, instead understanding that they are a part of a greater whole. And yes, less of the “mind-wandering” is actually associated with happiness and less negative thinking. In addition to personal motivation positive thinking is one of the most predictive factors predicting success related to changing behaviors.
So happiness is the silver lining related to changing this habitual thinking. If you want to change what tends to be an impulsive, or compulsive, out of control behavior, like emotional eating, loafing, shopping too much, or even if you just want to stop that anxiety provoking negative thinking, you might want to try meditating first. Even 5-10 minutes a day is a great start o break the patterns of habitual thinking. The benefits continue beyond the time you meditate.
Want to break that habitual thinking?
Here are some websites that can guide you through meditation:
UCLA Semel Institute in Mindfulness Research: Guided meditations: http://marc.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=22
Insight Meditation of Massachusetts guided meditation: http://www.dharma.org/resources/audio#guided
Interested in positive thinking? Check out your positivity ratio on this website