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Regular meditation may be more beneficial than vacation (health.harvard.edu)
419 points by prostoalex on Nov 4, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 206 comments

Mindfulness meditation is one of the pillars on which my life rests. If you have never done it before, realize that it's hard, especially if you fall anywhere on the ADHD spectrum, and it's just brutal for the first few weeks for anyone. As your brain becomes more still and your focus improves you'll notice your productivity improve. As the mental chatter drops you'll also notice the problems in your life, that you've ignored or been too distracted to see, impeding your ability to meditate. Only working to fix them will allow you to continue, but you'll be better off for it.

I rarely talk about meditation in professional circles because, for one, people think it's weird or have a preconceived notion of what it is, but more so it's so damn effective that it's seriously my secret weapon in life and part of my competitive edge. (As an aside, it has nothing at all to do with "strange religions", vegans, or yoga pants.)

Start slow, 10 minutes a day for a week, then add 5 for the next week, and so on, and don't rush. Take it seriously and don't disrespect it. I simply cannot recommend it enough.

> I rarely talk about meditation in professional circles because, for one, people think it's weird

No, it totally makes sense. Long walks in the woods or long runs are almost like meditation for me, and it is definitely like vacation for the mind.

I just wonder where to get started with actual meditation - I have to admit I find the predominant literature about that topic extremely esoteric, and that's something that easily puts me off.

Any tips what a good starting point would be?

For anyone put off by the more esoteric stuff written on the topic, I'd recommend Sam Harris (as mentioned here already), Shinzen Young, but above all, Culadasa. He's a professor of Neuroscience and _very_ accomplished meditator. He's written THE definite book on meditation that uses models of the mind originating from both neuroscience and most noble meditation traditions.


It's suitable both for beginners and advanced practitioners as it describes the progress of the practice in 10 very clearly described stages.

For those that don't yet have enough motivation, I'd second the Headspace app created by a former Thibetan Buddhist monk. It's really well made and contains a number of different meditation techniques provided in a guided meditation format.

Still, I'd switch to the Culadasa book and unassisted practice as soon as you start grasping the benefits you're getting from meditation and your motivation increases.

I was hoping someone would mention Culadasa's book. I've been practicing for years and recently read this book. There were so many instances where I stopped and thought "I so wish I had read this ages ago." He covers so many nuances of practice, it's quite remarkable.

I recommend HeadSpace https://www.headspace.com/. I think it's great that you start slowly and guided which is perfect for a beginner.

Thirded. I've bought a few books and tried audio, youtube videos... Headspace is the only thing that's helped me keep a meditation schedule for more than a few months.

I know some people don't like how much Andy speaks during the sessions, but I liked it a lot. It also helps with that "am I doing this right? Should I scratch that itch? What should I think about? Or not think about?" feeling that comes up, because he addresses those feelings a lot.

Andy's the best thing about Headspace. His voice is encouraging without being judgmental. Definitely one of the main reasons I decided to purchase a subscription.

Can I just say how nice it is to watch an elevator pitch video without obnoxiously upbeat background music with ukuleles and what not. It makes the video more genuine and trustworthy.

Seconded, HeadSpace is amazing. Surprised to see it only mentioned here once.

Ok, I've heard from that before, but it looked too much like a game to me, I'll try it out then :)

Quite frankly, from their marketing(their home page doesn't even seem to mention meditation!) it looks kind of dumb and seems expensive after the 10 day trial.

However, with all the good ratings here and elsewhere and wanting to start meditating I think i'll give it a try

Go to a regular class, try different classes. If you have the luck to live near a place where there are experienced meditators (personally, I find that monastics are waaay more skilled than "normal" people) that is the very very best. For me, meditation can be hard work but it totally pays off. It's a skill you develop just like any other skill, and proper guidance makes a world of difference.

As for the esoteric literature, there is a wide spectrum of quality, and some things are better understood after you practice for a while - then it all makes sense. It's like trying to read code when you don't know nothing about programming yet. It's esoteric. Hell even today some code is esoteric :)

> Hell even today some code is esoteric

Especially if you work in a monadstery ;)

Thanks for the suggestions!

If you are a technical/rational type, a lot of the information on meditation can seem ...well, wacky. That's why I would suggest listening to a few episodes of Sam Harris' podcast. Specifically those about the mind and consciousness in general. He's got a background in neuroscience and approaches this subject from a viewpoint that you might feel more comfortable with.

He's also written a whole book about this topic, called "Waking Up: a Guide to Spirituality Without Religion", which I think might be of interest to you.


> Any tips what a good starting point would be?

You might be interested in the book '10% Happier' by Dan Harris (https://www.amazon.com/10-Happier-Self-Help-Actually-Works/d...)

The Appendix lists the basic instructions for learning to meditate. The book is a fun read, the journey of a skeptic into the world of meditation.

Currently the 'Look Inside' link on Amazon lets you read most of the Appendix.

I have been attending online meditations through Meditation Online [1]. The approach is very secular and there's space for discussion, which also usually helps to get started and motivated.

[1] http://meditationonline.org/

I've heard good things about MBSR (http://palousemindfulness.com/) - on my todo list after more pressing things are dealt with (yes, I see the irony...)

Find your nearest meditation center and attend a beginner drop-in when you're able! Starting out in a group has enormous benefits.

raptitude.com has lots of resources about the benefits of meditation as well as various ways to get started. Completely un-esoteric. I recommend the blog in general!

Just as a question, what makes long walks in the woods or long runs not "actual meditation"? I guess my question can also be phrased as, what do you think meditation is?

I'd argue that meditation is more about approach and frame of mind than activity -- and there certainly are moving forms of meditation. There's also just a lot of kinds of meditation, from a lot of widely different traditions, so you're not going to find unified literature. (There's also a few major world religions that feature meditation as a component, so you'll find a lot of the literature tied up with that worldview, as well.)

That's what prompts my question above: if you don't have some goal or idea in mind, it's sort of hard to direct you to particular resources.

The place I suggest starting for everyone is find somewhere in your life that you're meditating without knowing it, and try to do that somewhere else. Sports, crafts, etc. Can you intentionally make an activity feel like a long walk in the woods or a good run? like losing yourself in being focused on a hobby?

...can you feel that when just sitting there?

At some level, that's all meditation really is.

When you are taking a walk in the woods, or running or doing anything of that sort, you are doing something. Not doing anything is meditation. And when I say not doing anything, I don't mean it nonchalantly, I mean it literally - not doing anything, including not thinking. Just being. It's very simple but not very easy. Meditation is the opposite of any action whatsoever.

That's a form of meditation, not the only form of meditation. Which was my point -- it's hard to say what meditation is, given the breadth of different traditions, and different styles within some traditions.

Of course, I think you should consider the concept that insisting meditation is sitting there doing nothing is making meditation about a specific action you undertake, rather than nothing, thus defeating the purpose of meditation in your own framework. And if you're okay with meditation being about one form of action -- sitting there -- why is it not okay for it to be about other forms of action?

I feel that your view is not internally consistent.

> I rarely talk about meditation in professional circles because, for one, people think it's weird or have a preconceived notion of what it is, but more so it's so damn effective that it's seriously my secret weapon in life and part of my competitive edge.

Well, that's mighty compassionate of you.

> (As an aside, it has nothing at all to do with "strange religions", vegans, or yoga pants.)

What? While the strange religions are your loss (boring religions are for boring people, why settle for less?)

.. honestly there's no way you can justify dumping on vegans, or I'd like to see you try.

I'm not a vegan but damn if I don't respect the hell out of them for doing the right thing despite the deliciousness of cheese.

That said, yoga pants are a indeed blight on humanity. But then, about 23% of all strange religions consider them sinful.

__Meditation: the summary for technical people__

Yea I'm making this up. I'm enthusiastic about it, my username even reflects that I meditate ;)


Introductory Level

Witty, scientific book: Search Inside Yourself - Chade-meng Tan (he used to be a software engineer, now he's trying to set up the conditions for world peace)

Take any MBCT, MBSR or 5-week or 8-week mindfulness course


Beginner Level

Retreat practice: dhamma.org (10 days, 10 hours per day, 9 days total silence, donation based)

Sciencedaily.com: type in meditation

Also check out: Harvard Positive Psychology from Tal-Ben Shahar his lectures on meditation


Intermediate Level

Take a course on Buddhism from a theologician with a background in science or philosophy. In The Netherlands this is at the VU University Amsterdam.

Do 2 hours of meditation per day, including mini retreats in the weekend


Advanced Level

Choose your own adventure:

A. Travel to monestaries and learn whatever you can.

B. Become a monk at one monestary.


The levels are arbitraty by the way, felt more fun writing that way ;) I'm a Beginner/intermediate.

To all meditators: Let's have a chat :)

Be quite careful giving advice about meditation. Under your "beginner" heading you suggest Dhamma - the 10 day 9 day silent course (I'm assuming vipassana is an example of this).

I did a vipassana course after a similar suggestion. In me it triggered a full blown manic-psychotic (bipolar) episode. There had been no history of this in my family (or myself) before that point.

If you're interested, I made a bunch of podcasts detailing what it was like to be manic -> depressed -> better here: [0]

While I'm not saying it's necessarily bad advice, I suggest that anyone contemplating a 10 day silent retreat has prepared by doing a _lot_ of meditation before hand and to be aware that there can be consequences.

[0] http://livingvipassana.blogspot.com

Thanks for the nuance.

Meditation is like exercise, actually it is mental exercise. (Mental) injuries can happen, just like any other form of (mental) exercise. It is indeed an issue that there's less awareness about it compared to physical injuries with physical exercise.

Also, when you do the beginner level, you do need to have done the introductory level. This means that you at least have meditated for half an hour per day, for 5 weeks at a minimum. That's what those derivatives of MBCT and MBSR tell you to do.

Yip, I totally agree that it's like exercise, and I totally totally agree that you should start slowly.

However! where I did it (in New Zealand) vipassana specifically started you at the 10 day course (or did 8 years ago), there was no option to do a shorter one. Or if there was, they certainly didn't stop you jumping straight into a 10 day.

Good point. If I have to make an analogy it seems like putting a person not physically suited for the military into a strict military 10-day brutal survival bootcamp. They need to be more careful with this indeed.

Agreed. Traditions have, over thousands of years, established the dangers and pitfalls of meditation. Best to start slowly - a short amount of time daily - and find a good teacher backed by some of that tradition.

For me, Shambhala Buddhism really resonated. Skepticism is encouraged, and the brilliance of those thousands of years of wisdom is a great support along the path.

I had similar experience myself. I wouldn't attribute the risk to the retreat itself, however, but to the vipassana method, which tends to evoke insight experiences as quickly as possible, without first calming the mind using single object samatha practice. If someone were to just use classic anapanasati even for 10 days, I think the results would be somewhat different, as when properly praciced anapanasati calms the body and essentially turns of thinking first, which leads to much calmer and more pleasurable transformation of the mind. Insight experiences with active mind during vipassana practice always feel to me like open brain surgery. With some increasing understanding of not-self, however, it gets less and less scary with time.

Actually in another Burmese method (not Vipassana as taught by Goenka but the other 'big Burmese line', see Mahasi Sayadaw), going 'crazy' is actually part of the path.

I had a similar experience within the past few years stemming from hypnosis and meditation in college, and listening to your podcasts have been eerily similar to my experience with mania in particular.

Have you found many other people who experienced similar symptoms stemming from self-reflection triggers?

Yip, I get on average 1 - 2 mails a year from that site from people who have gone through a similar thing after a vipassana course...

And that blog is buried on Google, so I'm sure there are more people who are having issues.

That's more of a guide for converting to Buddhism... in a word, proselytizing.

Ehm, I'm not a Buddhist. So I'm not converting people to my 'faith'. Also, it's a bit tongue in cheek.

Source: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/proselytize

The very restricted diet followed for the 10days of the Vipassana retreat might have something to do with these side-effects. Drastically lowering your calorie intake can trigger depression.

FYI: your summary is more likely to discourage people from meditating than encourage them if:

1) They are not enthusiastic about religion. 2) They are already members of another religion and do not wish to convert, particularly if said religion is not very positive about Buddhism.

For any readers in those two camps: meditation and religion are often linked, but do not need to be. There are plenty of secular guides and practices too, and if you are religiously inclined, there are also likely to be guides on combining your religious beliefs with best-practice meditation.

Hmm... people seem to take whatever I wrote a bit too harsh on the religion thing. I take religion as inspiration on how to live my life. I'm not religious myself though, never will be. Perhaps I needed a proofreader first before publishing whatever I wrote.

My apologies for scaring people with the overtones being interpreted as religious. It wasn't my intention.

For any readers in those two camps... I really recommend Zen. It in known for its rejections of beliefs.

Second this.

But I have to admit, Zazen (the Zen form of meditation) is challenging. It's different from what one usually thinks about meditating.

Could you please share more details. Whenever I start things like that my own after reading few how-to-do, I am always questioning myself if I am doing them correctly.

How exactly do you think it has helped you? What tangible benefits have you noticed?

Practicing since a couple of months and I agree with GP 100%.

In broad terms, the mind slowly gets remold in a very beneficial way. It's a bit like standing in a huge, noisy crowd where you couldn't make sense of much things because everything's moving, but with such training you slowly gain some distance, like you step back and you see the crowd from slightly above/afar (while still being present) and can notice the general movement as well as (increasingly with time) details, which somehow builds a feedback loop that makes you grow calmer. Everything then trickles down from that.

Can you advise an app or site? There are so many resources on the Net, from the crazy to the more esoteric, and it's hard to know which one makes sense.

Just wanted to confirm this. I did it daily for two years, almost 8 years ago, and I'm pretty sure some of the effects stuck.

Second this. Don't do it as regular as I usd to because I don't feel like the effect is as profound anymore.

That is not to say that I don't feel like meditation works, but more to say that there seems to be a big change after a longer regular period of meditation, but then further improvements seems to slow down. But I can way more easily get into a relaxed state and calm my mind than I could before doing any meditation. I just don't do it as regularly anymore as I find the further incremental improvements to my everyday life to be smaller.

You need to find the proper guidance/tools/technique to continue to make progress. That's why is best to find a competent teacher, otherwise you will hit a plateau and will think that's all there is to it.

Now I can show this to my employees when they ask for vacation days. I won't allow anything but the best for them and meditation can be efficiently packed into the lunch break time frame.

This is what bothers me about meditation. Sometimes meditation looks like a panacea. Your life scks, your boss is an ssh*le, your personal relationships a mess, but if you meditate everything will be all right. Better to put some prozac in the water system.

Life doesn't relent. Even young, rich, beautiful people are susceptible to feelings of unsatisfactory-ness that leave them reaching for the booze and hard drugs or just feeling all around unfulfilled and miserable. Humans are built to run on a hedonic treadmill, not to be content in the moment.

Meditation is a tool so that when your life scks, your boss is an ssh*le, and your personal relationships are a mess, THEN someone cuts you off in traffic you take a minute or two of breath awareness and open monitoring instead of running them off the road and karate kicking them in the head.

It helps you relax into feelings of anger, pain, or depression instead of running from them and chasing your addictive behavior of choice to escape. Also like every other tool out there it isn't 100% effective.

Great reply. I really know that the world wouldn't become a better place, but I'm sure that some karate lessons would make feel better than meditation :-)

Your example was extreme with the 'running them off the road' bit, but actually meditation isn't helpful unless it pushes you to that breaking point.

You need to get worked up, speak your mind, start the argument, quit your job when things get too bad. Life isn't a float on the lazy river. Feelings of anger and pain exist for a reason.

Thats why meditation, as it's sold, is bullsh*t. You're describing an alternative to xanax.

I've noticed a lot of people that meditate struggle with aversion of thoughts and feelings vs "letting go" of thoughts and feelings. You certainly feel every bit of pain, anger, and sadness as a non meditator would.

The distinction is that you work on "meta-cognitive awareness". You try to avoid getting swept up in the narrative thought stream if possible. So here goes from my own experience (doesn't work 100% of the time).

without mindful awareness Guy cuts me off -> "WTF is that guy doing? What a moron! Someone always has to mess with me! Look at how smug he is. I want to jam his nose into the back of his head"

with Guy cuts me off -> "WTF is that guy doing? Woah feeling that anger. I can feel it right in my chest and kind of a warm feeling in my face and arms. Hmm interesting. I wonder if he is rushing to the hospital or to some emergency. Just like me, I've accidentally cut someone off before. Oh well what's on the radio"

It helps you build more mature mental models. Mental models are useful but often wrong. Mindfulness can help you question your own mental models and take things less personally. Tons of reputable studies will back up mindfulness and meditation as a standalone or complementary tool for stress, anxiety, depression, and pain. Medication still plays a very important role.

Edit: Upvote to you for bringing up a good point. It is very hard to sort out the bull*hit in the meditation community. There is an awful lot of tradition, psudo-science, and plain old snobbery in this community. Anyone that gets involved should start with the basics and avoid as much of the spiritual hype as possible.

You don't always have the power to change things. Change the things when you can, yeah, but if you are stuck in traffic, in a boring meeting, in a job you can't quit now, then maybe meditation is a good idea. You can at least not hate your life while you find alternatives.

I mean, I find specially hard to improve myself at my job if I hate it, and so it will be harder for me to find somewhere else better. If I'm mindful, I will actually keep working hard, learning, and I will separate myself from the bad feelings. That doesn't mean I will stop searching for alternatives.

You become more aware of the unpleasantness of bad situations through meditation not less. You are just less reactive. In fact, you might take action much earlier on because things wouldn't have to reach a boiling point to make you really take note.

So, here's the thing. You need to make an important sale. Is the best way to prepare for it to get more angry? Is quitting your job without having another lined up what you'd consider a winning move?

There are times where being angry actually helps, but they're a lot less common in the modern world. Usually, it will screw you over. (For example, getting angry in traffic is utterly useless.) Starting that argument because you're angry makes it unlikely that you'll actually persuade anyone.

You'll make a better case if you're calm about it and can think clearly. How do you do that? Meditation is one way.

meditation helps you realize when you need to take your life into your own hands and make a change for yourself.

That falsely assumes that meditation's only effect is to make you emotionally more durable. One of the interesting effects is that when you become more durable, and able to endure, you're also able to make better decisions. You can "zoom out" and perceive options that were invisible before. Sometimes this means the often painful realization that you are the asshole, and need to change. But other times this means seeing that your situation could be a whole lot better, with a new partner, or a new job. The key thing is that you get some space between you and your situation, and this gives you a lot of freedom.

I'm fond of meditation. I just dispute the idea that in a world full of injustices, that meditation is the path to happiness. We need a bunch of extreme anger and indignation to change the world.

Ideally, meditation would spur you on to action; that's the direct aim of engaged Buddhism [1]. But more broadly, many Buddhist schools aim to encourage a direct feeling of love for all sentient beings, which if combined with the philosophy of something like effective altruism [2] (instead of Woo), could contribute to effecting meaningful systemic change.

Also -- I believe Buddhism does not apply negative connotations to 'indignation' as opposed to raw anger, i.e. I don't think it is classified as a negative state of mind to be dissolved.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engaged_Buddhism [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effective_altruism

I don't dispute that "extreme anger and indignation" can change the world, but I'm not convinced that it effects change that is long-term good. Anger and indignation often lead to rash decision making, hostility, vengeance, etc. The world isn't really better when we trade injustice against one group for injustice against another, and extreme anger has an unfortunate tendency to do just that.

Neves, I'm not happy that your comment was down-voted. It's a commonly held view, and one I've held myself. It's a good comment because it's honest.

My personal experience is that anger is accompanied by a level of agitation that makes all action dangerous. If you manage to do the right thing, it is by accident. More often than not, you cause more damage. It's true that anger gives you a lot of energy to accomplish a goal; but it's one of life's sad ironies that it also causes you to fixate on a goal which a) might not be a good one, and b) brings with it a set of (bad) trade-offs.

That said, there may be situations where a jolt of any energy, including that from anger, is ultimately a good thing. E.g. a depressed person unable to do anything, who suddenly feels furious and throws a tantrum and runs away. Gonna be tough in the short-term, but if you're stuck in a rut any change can be a good thing.

Anyway, thanks for the comment and I hope you get more upvotes.

Most of the angry indignant men that I know focused their anger into voting for Trump. If that is your idea of changing the world then I think your on the right track. If it is not then maybe meditation is more helpful than you give it credit.

It's not that everything will be alright. It's a way to focus and take back your life. Your life sucks, your boss is an asshole and if you don't stop, your every move is dictated by the environment and you are just caught in this flow of negative things happening to you.

People tend to be caught up in the past or future. They are either constantly thinking about regrets or hopes and wishes to distracted to see the opportunities in the present.

There's a saying. You should meditate for atleast 30 minutes a day. If you don't think you have time for that, you should meditate for 1 hour a day.x6

Upvoted for humor and the username.

Only if we get VR goggles, to at least have the illusion that we're on a vacation.

hn-logic at its best.

Sarcasm is an excellent genre for short texts.

HR everywhere should provide quiet rooms for meditation. It would cost almost nothing and be a benefit for attracting talent.

The manager can walk around and helpfully hit you with a stick if you let your mind drift.

I've been going through challenging times and have been confronted with somethings I've never had to deal with before. There are a couple of things that trigger anxiety in me on a daily basis now. I wake up in the middle of the night with little anxiety episodes. I'm unfocused at work because of what feels like underlying emotional issues.

The only thing that's helped (I am trying to fix without medication) are the tools from HeartMath. Their "Transforming Stress" book has been a god send. It's not a get well fast type thing, but I've been practicing the sessions daily for a month now and am in much better control of my stress and anxiety.

I have practiced Tai Chi, meditation, and visualization via NLP techniques in the past. I'm not a novice when it comes to the types of techniques that HeartMath teaches. However, the way theirs are structured are the most effective I've found for dealing with these issues.

If you're going through hard times I highly recommend using their tools.

If I go through a tough time where anxiety is already impairing my life, sleep, communication then my first aid method is concious breathing twice a day for five minutes. It works immediately and levels down my stress significantly after about three days.

You breathe slowly in for about 15 seconds, hold breath for about 10 seconds and breathe out for about 35 seconds - mileage may vary. For five minutes.

The impact is not as fundamental and profound as with dedicated daily meditation but it does the trick and actually builds the basis required for actually sitting down and doing more subtle mental work.


I wonder if the Apple Watch app is effective. You can set how many breaths you want per minute, but no option to hold a breath for 10 seconds like you mentioned.

It's a good first step but the app definitively needs improvement!

If you think like me that NLP means NonLinear Programming, in this context it means Neuro-linguistic programming[0]: "Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is an approach to communication, personal development, and psychotherapy created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in California, United States in the 1970s. NLP has since been overwhelmingly discredited scientifically, but continues to be marketed by some hypnotherapists and by some companies that organize seminars and workshops on management training for businesses."

Homoeopathy has also been discredited, the mind is full of corners the science cannot really explain.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuro-linguistic_programming

To be honest, the very first books - The Structure of Magic - are much better than later "practical" and manipulative stuff. The notions of "patching reality" - what we call today the Confirmation and Self-serving biases (deletion, distribution) and "framing effects" are correct in general.

Programming, or what they call "re-framing" works to some extent, by "unlearning" some wrong concepts acquired through social conditioning and biased perceptions, by re-framing (transforming) them into more closely related to actual reality. Anchoring is already crap (but use of amulets and "things of power" is exactly this). So are the supposed correlations between looking patterns and modes of thinking (while naive people (children) some times show such correlations).

The core ideas of early NLP, including re-framing, were nothing new. The prophets of old times seemingly did exactly this - they succeeded in re-framing of traditional views and beliefs.

The later "technique" stuff, is nonsense. It apparently worked because hypocrisy, manipulations, reading and use of so-called body language are as old as humanity. Again, priests of any kind are famous practitioners of such manipulative techniques. Nowadays businessmen and politicians are using similar tricks, as if we are still in ignorant middle ages.)

From the referenced WP page:

By the end of 1980, the collaboration between Bandler and Grinder ended. [...] In July 1996 and January 1997, Bandler instituted a further two civil actions against Grinder and his company, numerous other prominent figures in NLP and 200 further initially unnamed persons. [...] On this matter Stollznow (2010) comments, "[i]ronically, Bandler and Grinder feuded in the 1980s over trademark and theory disputes. Tellingly, none of their myriad of NLP models, pillars, and principles helped these founders to resolve their personal and professional conflicts."

It may not be a very scientific rebuttal, but I always find that interesting. (Kinda similar to how psychics never win the lottery.)

Don't listen to what people say, watch what they do.

At its core NLP is basically little more than a notational system for mental processes which is a pretty hard thing to discredit scientifically.

It's true that that most of the NLP community revolves around cargo culting a few of these processes though (which most likely indeed aren't scientifically valid.)

Saying that that discredits NLP as a whole is roughly equivalent to saying a programming language is inherently bad because a lot of shitty software has been written in it though.

Combine this with any form of endurance exercise to build red muscle for maximum benefits.

It's been shown¹ that red muscle takes away kynurene, which is produced by stress, can enter the brain, and appears to be able to trigger depression and other mental health issues if it is at elevated levels for longer periods:

> “Our initial research hypothesis was that trained muscle would produce a substance with beneficial effects on the brain. We actually found the opposite: well-trained muscle produces an enzyme that purges the body of harmful substances. So in this context the muscle’s function is reminiscent of that of the kidney or the liver,” says Jorge Ruas, principal investigator at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Karolinska Institutet.

> The researchers discovered that mice with higher levels of PGC-1a1 in muscle also had higher levels of enzymes called KAT. KATs convert a substance formed during stress (kynurenine) into kynurenic acid, a substance that is not able to pass from the blood to the brain. The exact function of kynurenine is not known, but high levels of kynurenine can be measured in patients with mental illness.

Recently the same research group also discovered that kynurenic acid turns white fat (the unhealthy type) into beige fat (more similar to brown fat, which is healthier).

¹ http://ki.se/en/news/how-physical-exercise-protects-the-brai...

Thanks for the post and pointer, had not come across any stuff on red muscle etc before!

I came across this article a few minutes before reading this http://www.inc.com/melanie-curtin/neuroscience-says-listenin...

'listening to that one song -- "Weightless" -- resulted in a striking 65 percent reduction in participants' overall anxiety, and a 35 percent reduction in _their usual physiological resting rates'

This song brings more calm to me than Weightless did: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pX_jySkFIK4

Alternative viewpoint: http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/17/heartmath-considered-in..., "HeartMath Considered Incoherent"

Normally I wouldn't attack something that someone else feels is helping (even placebos can be helpful for some people), but this is the top comment.

HeartMath sounds like a good base with a lot of esoteric bullshit thrown on top.

Maybe breathing in a consistent rhythm to get a coherent heart rate variability (HRV) is the sole magic behind meditation, HeartMath, etc?

Here is a good TEDx talk by Alan Watkins on HRV: https://youtu.be/Q_fFattg8N0 (there is also a part 1, but part 2 has the good demo)

The whole Heartmath thing seems to me like an exotic way to teach and practice consistent slow, regular, deep breathing (which is definitely worthwhile thing to learn!).

I believe the "coherent" HRV curve they claim brings all these benefits is simply the effect of respiratory sinus arrythmia (why your heartrate decreases when you breathe in) while breathing at a very regular interval—the HRV curve just happens to be a good indicator of how regularly you're breathing.

Do you drink coffee? Try 100% cutting out caffeine!

I strongly second this. I got into the habit of consuming lots of caffeine and assuming my anxious state was baseline. Aggressively cutting out coffee was a really interesting and useful experience.

If you love coffee and don't want to remove it from your life, try taking some L-Theanine with your morning cup of coffee. For me, it eliminates anxiety and jitters without tempering the cognitive benefits of coffee.

Worth noting that Coffiest (Soylent's latest drink product) contains both caffeine and L-theanine. Their ratio is questionable (150mg caffeine, 75mg L-theanine), but subjectively I have found it to be a great way to boost my productivity in the morning, and I've never noticed jitters or anxiety despite the (relatively) high dose of caffeine. I also prefer the taste to regular Soylent -- no "wet cereal" aftertaste, and you can add a bit of sugar or chocolate syrup if it's too bitter for you.

Or enjoy a cup of sencha or gyokuro which comes with caffeine and L-Theanine. It is a lovely combination indeed. :)

Cannot recommend this enough! Upton tea carries really a really good sencha called 'Japanese Super Sencha Kamakura' and their Gyokuro is brilliant too.

Never hurts to carry around a few 200mg L-Theanine capsules though.

I got some theanine from a a bulk sit because it was cheap, but probably has a low portion of L-theanine vs D-theanine... may need to look into fixing that since the effects don't seem to be as good as when I tried Suntheanine...

One thing I like to do is with anything addicting/I deem as necessary, every now and then I cut it out of my life for a duration. It helps increase my independence by avoiding decisions based on what I misbelieve are necessary.

I'm not sure if it's applicable to all, just something that I feel helps me a lot.

I did this for a while but got sick of withdrawal symptoms (my body seems to be hypersensitive in this regard), so I just stopped all together. Most recently cut out sugar. I feel so good now. I can't believe how many foods I was eating that had direct negative effects on my body.

You say "foods" - plural. Did you cut other things out besides sugar?

Yea, a ton. Turns out I'm celiac, so gluten was the first thing I cut (to solve digestion issues and sinus headaches). My nose cleared up significantly, but not totally. Years of eating gluten messed up my small intestine so I have digestive issues with high fructose food (HFCS and some fruit), so I cut out HFCS soda, that helped a lot. Next was caffeine to try to correct my sleep schedule, it helped and it also helped clear up my nose. I was still getting sinus headaches with all that and tracked it down to pepperonis in a gluten free pizza I was eating (from a dedicated restaurant), turns out it was sodium nitrite which is found in many deli meats and smoked foods. Most recently was sugar once I noticed withdrawal symptoms, sinus headache, vomiting, etc. when cutting it out. I was on and off it a few times, but the last time was a really brutal headache, so I just said no more.

I've given up and started again on all of these multiple times to confirm each one. My body seems to have a sensitive withdrawal reaction. I notice symptoms if I eat most of those foods too regularly and then mess up the schedule, and a bad reaction if I stop all together within a day or so. I'm super curious about it medically but don't really have time to work with a doctor and learn why all these foods cause similar reactions. I'll just chalk it up to celiac.

Given other people's stuffy noses and bad digestion, I believe a lot of people have foods that are no good for them. I highly recommend elimination diets. The less I eat, the better I feel. I discovered decongestants a year or two ago, which makes life a lot more bearable when I mess up and eat the wrong thing, but I don't want to rely on that stuff to feel normal when I could just not eat the garbage I was eating.

Any strategies to cut? If I don't drink my morning cup, I get bad headaches around the evening and basically stop functioning.

The painful way is pretty simple! Wait until you have a few days you can be "down" and just go cold turkey. I find I do OK the first couple of days, then get a pretty bad headache. When that's gone I'm back to normal.

This. The withdrawal symptoms of coffee usually last for about a week. The thing that is perhaps most surprising is that after that week you'll also feel less tired. Turns out that while most people consider coffee as a remedy to tiredness, it's the coffee itself that actually makes you more tired, so you need more and more of it, just like any other addictive drug.

I'd like to point out that gradually decreasing the amount of caffeine intake works very well and is a lot less painful.

Caffeine is a mild stimulant, but in the evening the main effect is probably blocking your adenosine reuptake sites. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caffeine#Pharmacology You can probably get a similar effect by drinking a small amount of caffeine in the early afternoon instead of a large amount in the morning. I mentioned this in another comment, but slowly decreasing your caffeine intake over time lets your body adjust with pretty minimal symptoms.

green tea matcha is a good alternative. 1 cup of green tea matcha has 1/3 of caffeine as a coffee cup. Since it is packed with L-theanine, it will also delay ingestion of caffeine, and you will feel less the typical crash

Wrote a quick post about coffee alternatives https://dailyhealthpoints.wordpress.com/2016/10/24/healthy-a...

Drink a lot more water, consistently throughout the day just before cutting and after. It won't stop the headaches completely but it will help.

It will suck a lot for a few days, bad headaches, might even throw up. For me, I was in slowmo for about a month. I normally work on stuff when I get home and for about a month I would go home and just sit around. After that I was over it and feel much better because of it. This was going from drinking 4+ of the Mexican Coca Cola bottles each day. That stuff is just a trap.

I gently titrated down by replacing coffee with a pre-workout drink (powder mixed in water). This allowed me to tightly control my caffeine intake and reduce it gently every few days until it was almost zero. I have been off of caffeine entirely for almost 15 months now. It has really improved my sleep.

Try cutting down gradually, eventually getting to a single cup in the morning. Supplement with decaf. Then just decaf. I've found I miss coffee more than cafeene now so I still drink decaf. Difference is I can sleep and don't feel the awful stress anymore.

I cut down my caffeine intake to one shot of espresso per day. (A single cup of coffee has quite a bit more caffeine than a shot.) Also, decaf helps!

As with any drug lower your dosage over time then quit.

Also, your morning fog may simply be early withdrawal symptoms.

When I was doing more physical jobs than now (also very stressfull), my collegues were amazaed at how I could handle the fatigue and anxiety that well without taking coffee. I still believe that actual abstinence from caffeine is the answer to many like issues

I second this. When I am under stress, the caffeine heightens the feeling of anxiety and on really stressful days, I can feel my heart pounding...

Can you try kickboxing/muaythai/mma/boxing ? It requires physical & mental coordination, and is very taxing on your muscles and will leave you exhausted and in a state of ~high after training. Though don't do sparring if you're not completely ok.

You can also get hurt though..

Don't spar then.

Many places wouldn't accept that. Do you just sit out that section?

They may say "come on, we'll go easy, it's not a big deal" but they won't force you or something.

But if they do, or if they give an ultimatum,then those places/trainers suck. If you have valid reason to not spar and they still say "come on" leave the gym because it's not healthy.

My place did suck then. And I did get hurt..

Usually the gyms I've been to, they spar only a full day/week so I just don't show up that day. Other times I just sit out and watch. Though that only happens when I don't want to, I've sparred many times.

Wow thank you so much.

I began reading Transforming Stress and in two days it has already changed everything my life. I have been going through post-traumatic stress and my abilities to concentrate and function have been crippled. Horrible panic attacks, painful migraines, irrational fear and despair are beginning to wane.

I received the emWave2 today, best $250 I have ever spent. I am bringing up my coherence and the horrible chest pains have been going down in just 3 20min sessions of using the device. I might finally be able to program after all.

I'm curious why you felt the need to deal with the stress through a new set of tools? You clearly already have a lot of skills for dealing with this kind of situations, namely meditation and Thai Chi. Why didn't you fall back to those?

One of the pages [1] on The HeartMath site references Dr Bruce Lipton.

If you're interested in understanding more about the interplay between experiences, emotions, physiology and genetics, I can strongly recommend his book, The Biology of Belief [2], and his many interviews and presentations that can be found on YouTube.

His research and writing focuses on the notion that subconscious beliefs are the major influence on our perceptions, which is why for some of us, experiences can trigger pathological health conditions like anxiety and depression, along with auto-immune illnesses and other chronic illnesses that result from chronic stress (which can include cardiovascular disease and other serious conditions).

Inspired by this book, I've had great success improving my emotional and physiological health by undertaking practices that focus on subconscious beliefs. They all seek to achieve similar results to NLP (congruence, non-reactivity, etc), but I've found these ones to be more effective:

- Self Clearing [3]

- Holotropic Breathwork [4]

- Dolores Cannon Hypnosis [5]

All this stuff draws contempt from curmudgeonly skeptics (of which I used to be the worst kind), but from painful experience I've found these techniques to be far more effective than any of the more conventional approaches I'd tried previously.

I can also recommend Stoic Philosophy [6], but for me these practices are tools and systems that enable concepts from stoicism to be implemented most effectively.

[1] https://www.heartmath.org/articles-of-the-heart/personal-dev...

[2] https://www.amazon.com/Biology-Belief-Unleashing-Consciousne...

[3] http://clearyourshit.com/self-clearing-foundations-1/

[4] http://www.holotropic.com/about.shtml

[5] http://www.dolorescannon.com/about-qhht

[6] http://fourhourworkweek.com/2009/04/13/stoicism-101-a-practi...

Thanks for the recommendations! I will investigate further. I'm amazed at how powerful these activities can be. And I'm glad that I gave them a chance. It is really easy to be dismissive of stuff like this. Having an open mind, giving them a chance, has made a world of difference for me.

Going through hard times, and seeing how fragile mental wellbeing can be, has given me a great appreciation for the work that these doctors are doing. I'm grateful you took the time to share.

> His research and writing focuses on the notion that subconscious beliefs are the major influence on our perceptions,

I think there's definitely some truth to this. Here's a concrete example from my life: I have anxiety in crowded grocery stores, which hampers my ability to shop for food and eat healthy. On the surface, thats "social anxiety", but digging deeper, for me it's about some deeper baggage I have about being ignored. The people intruding my space at the supermarket are activating this subconscious fear/pain because they seem to "ignore" my physical presence.

Very fascinating how the layers of psychology/physiology meet. I will look into Liptons work some more.

Thank you very much for this.

I have some very deep-seated subconscious beliefs that have really affected my life for the worse.

Meditation has helped me be aware of them and their nature, but I still need to figure out how to fight back.

>All this stuff draws contempt from curmudgeonly skeptics (of which I used to be the worst kind), but from painful experience I've found these techniques to be far more effective than any of the more conventional approaches I'd tried previously.

Yes, throwing away your critical eye towards the world in favor of starry-eyed credulity can certainly kick the placebo effect into overdrive. If you're constantly questioning whether something is working, it will probably not feel like it's working, whereas if you wholeheartedly believe, you will likely carry that through into your perceptions. This of course has nothing to do with the actual efficacy, it's just that you're selectively perceiving so as to confirm your pre-existing notions; when the object of all of this effort is your own mental state this can be confused with the technique itself being effective. In reality, people like being successful, and feeling like you are winning at one thing makes you more likely to think you can win at other things. Rinse repeat. Confirmation bias is lovely when you can weaponize it like this. The sad thing is you have to kill the most valuable part of your human self in the process. RIP.

"Curmudgeonly skeptics" love to think about themselves as realists. Skeptic is not a realist, however - when you think about yourself as a skeptic, you already set the limit to what you can experience and how your mind and skills can change and evolve. "Mindset" by Carol Dweck comes to mind.

Most of what I would need to say in response to the allegation of "throwing away your critical eye towards the world in favor of starry-eyed credulity" can be read in this comment below: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12873531.

The placebo effect is certainly relevant in this discussion, and unfortunately it partly comes down to definition. Some try to claim the placebo means there is no tangible improvement in physiology, just an imaginary feeling of wellbeing. If that's your definition, then I'm guarding against that with thorough lab testing of all accessible physiological indicators, as described below. If your definition of the placebo effect is that there is a real physiological improvement brought about by emotional processes, then I agree with you, and the techniques I've used are just tools for bringing about a more profound placebo effect, which is fine, as long as it leads to a physiological improvement, which seems to be happening for me.

> If you're constantly questioning whether something is working, it will probably not feel like it's working, whereas if you wholeheartedly believe, you will likely carry that through into your perceptions.

For me it's sometimes been the opposite; techniques that I hoped and deeply believed would be effective turned out to do little, and techniques that I had little expectation of effectiveness turned out to make a big difference. Not always though. There's not really much of a pattern. And there's no pattern to this that aligns with practices being "mainstream" or "alternative". I've had positive and negative experiences with treatments/practices from both sides.

But the core point – that employing effective techniques to change unhealthy subconscious beliefs can reduce unhealthy emotions (including anxiety/depression) in the short term and reduce stress-related illness in the long term – has rung true for me and many others. And it doesn't take much reading through scientific studies on the topic, or even just thinking about it from an evolutionary point of view, to realise that it's unsurprising and uncontroversial that this could be the case. The only question is, what techniques are effective. I've listed the ones that worked for me. Different ones work better for others.

> The sad thing is you have to kill the most valuable part of your human self in the process. RIP.

It'd be worth your while to contemplate what motivates you to say something so mean-spirited.

Interesting points. Can you expand on your last sentence? What part is being killed?

I would say Temporal is not far off in saying "commitment to the truth," but I would go further and say that the core of humanity, of being human, is striving towards bettering ourselves through the application of intelligence. Intelligence is the human superpower and when harnessed it can create incredible things.

Doing the reverse of empowering your intelligence, and empowering your confirmation bias (as comment parent), tribalism (as Donald Trump/neo-nationalists everywhere), or credulity (as meditationists/"everything is connected maaaaaan" types), is worse than suicide. You're using the power of your brain to enhance its flaws and create a perverted version of a human, progressing, but in the opposite direction; becoming stronger, but in a domain that should be avoided at all costs.

This is somewhat like the process of building a good military sniper by progressively dehumanizing them, stripping them of their empathy and agency in order to use them as an efficient killing machine. But worse, because you can think yourself out of that -- you can't think yourself out of a totally broken mind, and the more intelligent you are, the better you are at keeping yourself broken.

What part is being killed?

Commitment to the truth. You have to successfully lie to yourself to pull off what GP described.

One could also say that many people who suffer with certain issues /only/ do so because they've already successfully lied to themselves, and believed these less healthy lies.

Sometimes there are no exits, the commitment you mention doesn't take you anywhere good, you find yourself at the edge of mental sanity. Out of experience I can say there are periods where commitment to truth is literally life-threateningly dangerous.

You're welcome to suggest measures I should undertake to be more effective at getting to the truth in these matters.

Here's what I'm doing so far:

- Reading a wide variety of scientific sources across the spectrum of thought on these matters: Dr Bruce Lipton - pioneering stem cell biologist, now author and speaker; Rudy Tanzi - Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and researcher behind some of the biggest recent breakthroughs in Alzheimer's research; Lissa Rankin - mainstream physician and author; Bernardo Kastrup - PhD scientist, philosopher, author; Sir Roger Penrose - Physicist, mathematician and philosopher of science; Sam Harris - Neuroscientist/Atheist/Skeptic movement icon; Richard Dawkins - biologist & father of the modern Skeptic movement; Jerry Coyne of https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/; http://www.quackwatch.com/; https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/; Rupert Sheldrake, Ph.D. - Biologist and Author. Karl Popper - philosopher of science and leading contributor to The Scientific Method. Comparing points of view from all these sources with each other and with my own experiences and what I can establish from publicly available studies in science journals and papers published via NCBI.

- Conducting a variety of lab tests of physiological metrics over almost 10 years, including: blood pressure (was consistently high for a few months about 10 years ago, went low for an extended period around 5-6 years ago, and has been consistently optimal for the past 2 years); cholesterol (improving), blood sugar (normalising), iron & zinc (improving), hormones eg adrenaline, cortisol, thyroid (normalising), inflammation (reducing), white blood cell count (improving).

- Collaborating with acquaintances who have been afflicted with similar illnesses (chronic fatigue, auto-immune illness, depression, etc), particularly those who are strongly scientific/rational in their worldviews. Admittedly my own scientific background is merely limited to high-school chemistry/physics/advanced math, a career as a software developer (self-taught), several years working in the fields of agricultural science and secondary science education, and an upbringing by an electronics engineer father and a mainstream medical practitioner mother. But my most trusted fellow travellers in this journey are minimum Master's-degree qualified in science (one in biotech, one computer science), and are widely reputed as being among the best in their field.

But I sincerely want to be as effective as is humanly possible at avoiding delusion and finding truth; my qualify of life depends on it. Please be forthcoming with any suggestions.

By the way, your challenge is to refute anything I've said without succumbing to the "beg the question" fallacy. Ideally you'll avoid all the other fallacies too (particularly Ad Hominem), but "beg the question" is the trickiest and most important to avoid in this debate.

> You're welcome to suggest measures I should undertake to be more effective at getting to the truth in these matters.

I notice you don't mention double blinding any of these interventions. Have you tried that? How would you try that for something crypto-religious like meditation?

Vacations are wide and broad. Normally I try to cram so much traveling, visiting, sight seeing, partying and drinking/eating into my vacation that I'm more burned out when they are over then when I started them. I often joke that I need a vacation from my vacation. I also have this habit to book my flights as close to when my job ends/starts, like take a red-eye right after work and come back the day I start work again, going straight from airport to work.

Given that, I absolutely can believe meditation is better then vacation. But I'd have to wonder, if my vacation consisted of calmly driving to a Cabin in the forest and pleasantly sitting on the side of a lake reading or pondering or looking at the lake by myself for the whole vacation, would that still be worse then meditation? Or is this starting to count as meditating?

Americans just don't get enough vacation time. If you only get two weeks a year, you feel compelled to cram as much in as possible. Four to six weeks is the norm in Europe, so you don't feel guilty about "wasting" a week. With that amount of vacation time, you can take several short breaks and still have time for a big summer trip.

Most professionals get more than two weeks. Two weeks of paid vacation is really minimum entry-level stuff. I walked into 3 weeks and negotiated 4 weeks for next year in my review, and I've known people who (much further in their careers) have 5 or 6.

One of the problems in the tech industry specifically is a lot of the PTO schemes in the US are tied to length of service at that company. If you're jumping around every 2-4 years it's hard to get more than 3 weeks unless you're at a much higher level. At one of my previous very conservative, corporate/public, healthcare industry jobs there was a developer who had been at that company for over 20 years and he got 6 weeks a year. The manager had been there for a year so only got 2 weeks.

Expedia research says on average Americans take 11 of their 15 days available to them. Europeans have 30 days available to them.

In my corner of Canada in the oil industry, vacation days are often based on age and job level. When I turned 30 they automatically gave me additional 1 week. I have 4 weeks plus 2 weeks of "flex days". Flex days are meant for one or two days off at a time, can't use 3 or more flex days back-to-back.

EDIT: Also it is standard for women to get 1 year for maternity leave at a reduced salary.

>Most professionals get more than two weeks. Two weeks of paid vacation is really minimum entry-level stuff. I walked into 3 weeks and negotiated 4 weeks for next year in my review, and I've known people who (much further in their careers) have 5 or 6.

Americans tend not to use all of their vacation time; professionals often end up working remotely while on vacation. There's a fear of losing your job or being overlooked for promotion. This is a largely alien concept in Europe, where job security is much stronger.


"Americans don't use their vacation" is a lot different than "Americans don't have enough vacation." And while I'm sure there are companies and cultures that expect you to work on vacation, I've been working in tech professionally for over a decade at multiple companies and have never felt remotely pressured to do anything on vacation, and doing so is certainly not the norm.

Did that for a trip to Hawaii, and it was amazing. No itinerary, no plan. First couple of days were super chill: wake up, eat breakfast, snorkeling / swimming for an hour or so, then relax and read on beach all day and eat poke. By day 3 or 4 we started getting antsy and would spend time after snorkeling to find other activities.

Highly recommend the "go where things take you" approach to vacations.

I definitely think that the idea that you have to "make the best use of your time off" and the old "work hard/play hard" adage means that people are as stressed/busy when they're vacationing as when they're working. The concept of a staycation or just having weekends of not doing anything is really important.

These days I've found that my entertainment media is less stimulating and more inane precisely because I want to be able to disengage and let things recharge.

> I also have this habit to book my flights as close to when my job ends/starts, like take a red-eye right after work and come back the day I start work again, going straight from airport to work.

I used to do this and it's terrible to the point where it ruins entire vacations for me. My wife and I have a yearly vacation with a group of friends that happens to be Sat-Sat. I'll almost always take another 2-4 days on top of that, on either side, so I end up taking a ~2 week vacation with a week long trip in the middle of it.

>He went on to explain that other factors that often go hand in hand with meditation (for example, exercise, diet, even exposure to incense) could help explain these improvements. “So that as well remains to be more fully resolved in future studies.”

Sounds nice and vague although that is understandable. It reminds me of studies suggesting that taking regular naps give all sorts of health and longevity benefits. Is it the naps themselves or that you have a lifestyle that permits you the opportunity to take naps? If nothing else the ability to decide to nap indicates the individual is in control of their time which would seem to correlate with lower stress levels Vs someone who has their daily schedule dictated to them in such a way as to make laying down for 20 minutes impossible.

There are so many confounding factors the outcomes are always going to be really fuzzy.

How long until the trend in unicorn startup will be to give employees zero vacation days but unlimited meditation?

> You say vacation, I say meditation…

Beneficial to what? The point of a vacation isn't about being more productivity at work. Productivity is not the goal.

I would argue that productivity is probably a good proxy for mental health on a per-employee basis. It's not the goal, but it's an easily measurable correlated value.

One thing that strikes me often with vacations of the average person is how much of a runaway it is.

- Fed up with work, I need holidays.


- Fed up with holidays, can't wait to get back to work.

I've noticed this too, some says it's a bad habit energy we've developed in our modern society, always running to the next thing, always looking to consume. It's as if there is a sense of uneasiness that comes along with stillness.

Maybe we need to relearn the art of doing nothing?

I've been out of full time work for a while (mostly voluntary due to travelling) and I can, after 6 months feel myself beginning to settle somewhat, The first week of lying on a tropical beach did feel a little bit like torture to be honest!

I do meditate, but without being in a meditation community or "sangha", it can be hard to stay at it for extended periods, especially while travelling.

the consumption cycle is sustained because it benefits the powers that be. humans are insatiable, and as long as you are convinced that contentment requires "just one more thing," you will never be happy, you will always be hungry, and you will always want more. happiness isn't pleasure, because of hedonic adaption, pleasure eventually becomes boring and empty. happiness is contentment with what you have. it is escape from the pain-pleasure cycle. when you're content, you even avoid strong pleasure, because it disrupts your tranquility.

it's insane that young people of today believe that a good life requires living a big city, gourmet foods, craft beers, urban scavenger hunts etc. these are forms of leisure that were all but inaccessible to 95% of the world up until 200 years ago. so happiness didn't exist until today? staying in the cycle ensures that you'll be devoured by labor, until you get that "fuck you money." it's as if some guys "crushing it" really do believe that work will set them free, some day. it's just as said in "my dinner with andre":

> I think that New York is the new model for the new concentration camp, where the camp has been built by the inmates themselves, and the inmates are the guards, and they have this pride in this thing that they’ve built—they’ve built their own prison—and so they exist in a state of schizophrenia where they are both guards and prisoners. And as a result they no longer have—having been lobotomized—the capacity to leave the prison they’ve made or even to see it as a prison.

many techies are enormously proud of the addictive, attention-as-a-commodity prison they have built, that's kept people anxious and distracted and most assuredly unhappy. they're convinced that giving more of their labor is the answer; it is not.

Our innate insatiability brought us where we are today with all the subjective good or bad progress we have made as a species.

As far as the young people thinking that the big city is the key to the good life. Couldn't it just be that young people like beeing around young people. Big cities offer a lot of possibilities for socializing that you wouldn't get in a small rural city. Perhaps your drives or wants just change with age as your personal life changes - not because one is more right than the other. It just feels that way as you evolve as a human being.

Thanks for the good response. I've been quite aware of these things for sometime, but how to communicate and build awareness to an already hopelessly anxious and distracted populous?

That seems to be the trouble.

I believe our design processes have to change to ones that are more mindful & we need a system w/mass appeal/access to teach people mindfulness.

It has nothing to do with modern life. The human mind is generally only simulated by change. After a while you realize change beyond a certain frequency change is annoying too (see the koan about Sakyamuni and the "middle path").

I personally find it amusing to see tools which were meant to make people see the underlying meaningless and take up monastic practice, being used as a sort of mollifying tool. Then again, I don't meditate.

"It has nothing to do with modern life. The human mind is generally only simulated by change. After a while you realize change beyond a certain frequency change is annoying too (see the koan about Sakyamuni and the "middle path")."

Of course modern technological life has had an impact on self-reflection, you can be distracted more now than ever, whenever, wherever.

"I personally find it amusing to see tools which were meant to make people see the underlying meaningless and take up monastic practice, being used as a sort of mollifying tool. Then again, I don't meditate."

Can you elaborate on the point you're trying to make here? Curious...

I notice this too. I have to force at least some of my daily routine into my vacation or my stress levels start to climb. I'm a stress eater, so when I notice my calories shooting up to 140% of TDEE and beyond, I know I need to find a quiet room and write about 700-1000 words, my own form of meditation. Just a complete brain dump onto the paper, out of which some conclusions can flow, and then I'm good again.

Maybe this is an American thing. In Australia and Europe I don't think I've ever heard someone say something like this. I've heard people complain about being homesick or tired if it's a particularly long or active holiday but never heard someone wanting to get back to work.

I'm Australian and I am often very keen to get back to my desk to work on ideas towards the end of a holiday. My side projects somewhat interrelated with my work, so maybe that's one reason.

I have never been fed up with holidays. Do you get bored without work?

I'm just reporting what I heard.

I don't know if I did it right or not. But I always end vacation as a "well, back to the grind." It isn't so much ready to be back, as afraid of how screwed up things already are. Why give them more time?

> vacation has beneficial but very temporary effects, and that mindfulness therapies have sustained beneficial effects.

Proving the obvious.

But I would choose vacation over meditation any time. Seeing the world and other cultures does a lot for my mental health too.

Last year I took two months off between contracts. It was more a staycation, but realistically it had been over 10 years since my last vacation, or more than a day off.

That time period did so much to help rejuvinate me and make me better. Working on personal projects, and other items. Towards the tail end I took on part time work and was still happier than I had been in years. The biggest thing was being able to meditate daily. Pick what I want that day, whether it be a novel, research, or software.

I took an actual vacation this year. I was more stressed, and frazzled going into it, and even worse coming out. I had just rented my house, and the vacation was rife with calls from the police about trouble from my tenants, and missed payments. The travel was also frought with layovers and delays.

I also meditate, did tai chi, etc. Gym time and meditation was crucial for my over all well being. But now being one of those mega commuters, which is about to end. I didn't really have the time. Being crunched for time, it was easier to reach for a bottle of whiskey to ease my tension. Which is by no means ideal. I had actually gone dry for three years, and broke that several months prior.

I've also found my meditation is largely based on relieving stress from work. Where I'm not fulfilled in the slightest at work. I then meditate to try and combat that feeling. It's a cyclical cycle.

It is not clear from the article if the meditation group stopped meditating or not.

The headline conclusion only makes sense if nobody in the novice meditation group meditated after that week.

I'm also a big fan of meditation - I believe it changed the way I perceive every day "threats" and allows me to see the roots of any problem I encounter instead of just allowing automatic subconscious defense mechanisms to kick in. That being said, in this study it seems that the experimental group really had a vacation AND meditation, so I'm not surprised they had better results.

Meditation is about clearing your mind of distractions. A vacation is supposed to be a chance to see the world and do things you normally wouldn't.

You should try to be stress free in your daily life. Your vacation should be a little stressful. All my best travel stories feature stress (or some conflict, or challenge, or misadventure, ...)

Sitting on a beach is nice, but it's also safe and boring. Go get lost somewhere.

I would agree for the most part, as meditation (from my experience) can provide a consistent, harmonising and content feeling that would persist for longer than the joy that comes from pure escapism or novelty of experience of a vacation.

I've been doing Transcendental Meditation I learnt through ZivaMIND for over a year now and I couldn't imagine being as on the ball emotionally/with reference to myself without it. I've found it so brilliant.

IMO, Meditation, and more broadly speaking, the uninterrupted time we allow for ourselves, should be taught in schools and by parents ubiquitously, as its an obvious antidote to our constant connectedness eating away at our wellbeing and creativity and compassion/gratitude.

I found these free guided meditations to be extremely helpful: http://marc.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=22

They are from UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center.

There are mountains of good and bad info on meditation. Here is a primer on mindfulness as I understand it from Ronald Siegel (Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School, author etc)

The human brain has two default modes of operation and you have very little control over them. They exist because they offered an evolutionary advantage in much more dangerous times, but don't necessarily promote a sense of well being/happiness in a modern relatively safe world. a) Pleasure seeking and pain avoidance b)Self referential thought ("Am I good enough, smart enough and do people like me?")

Mindfulness offers a third option. Relaxed open awareness with general acceptance. It can be done my anchoring awareness on a physical sensation like the breath. You won't be able to hold your concentration there very long before you realize you're thinking of something else. You are mindful when you realize your mind had drifted and you bring it back to your anchor.

It offers tons of well studied and documented benefits like increased activity in the left prefrontal cortex with is good for reasons that google can tell you.

A note from my experience. Expect the timeline of benefits to be similar to starting a cardio or weight training program. Your first few times may seem like a waste of time but the benefits start piling up after a few weeks.

That headline is misleading. It was an experiment with 91 female volunteers and the 'vacation' was not something I would consider a vacation.

There was some useful discussion of meditation on HN a few years ago [1]. Reading it, I was surprised by how many people here use meditation and benefit from it - professionally as well as personally.

This [2] post by twotimesposter is a particularly good answer to the question of "how to meditate to achieve mindfulness?". So much so that I bookmarked it. Really must get around to trying it.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4926642

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4928060

No need to make such a big deal out of doing it or getting around to doing it. As someone else recommended take the free Headspace 10 day course or search Jon Kabat-Zinn, he has some videos where he teaches mindfulness in front of an audience.

If you make it too big a "thing" both "it" and you will fail and not achieve whatever you have set your mind on it achieving.

Kabat-Zinn's book "Wherever you go, there you are" is also recommended.

Meditation does nothing for me. It's ironic that the people I know who are into meditation tend to be completely out of touch with themselves and meditation doesn't seem to actually change anything about them.

I've found two kinds of people who meditate: those who should be on drugs, and those who look like they're on drugs because they are so zen.

One of the benefits of regular meditation is a letting go of things that don't matter and focusing on the things that do.

Give up expectations. You will be free from stress. Thats it.

Simple, but not easy :-)

If anyone gets turned off by spiritual/religious aspects around Meditation, I have found this podcast very helpful in understanding: https://secularbuddhism.com/ It is not mainly about meditation but general Buddhist concepts. I am finding that it is helping me be mindful more often and meditate once in awhile.

If you do start listening to it, start with first 5 episodes.

"a recent study comparing a mindfulness meditation and yoga retreat to regular vacation in terms of mental health as well as physical health outcomes"

The study compared a week of health lectures and "fun outdoor stuff" to a week-long meditation retreat. This isn't meditation vs. vacation, it's meditation+vacation vs. vacation.

"As there is a science and technology to create external wellbeing, there is a whole dimension of science and technology for inner wellbeing.”

Here is a study conducted on 536 Isha practitioners


Here is one interesting App helpful for relaxation but in a different way.

I notice some improvements since one month using it. - better sleeping - more focus - positive thinking

(Unfortunately the app is just for iOS at the moment) https://appsto.re/de/8PGcfb.i

Forgive me for speculating, but given your username (diegoloop) and the name of the developer of that app (Diego Lopez), it kinda feels like you're promoting your own app.

If that's the case, you should definitely disclose that rather than pretending to be just a user of the app.

I know a startupper who struggled for almost 10 years, then started meditation and yoga practises and then in less than 1 year the startup growed significantly and eventually got sold successfully. That was me. Was it a coincidence ?

I've got hundreds of memories that I treasure dearly from traveling the world.

I suppose it depends on if you're vacationing just to get away from work, or if there's something you really want to do/see/experience.

Playing Tennis twice a week made my life much better. I suggest everyone to try it if you suffer from stress, anxiety and lack of mental focus. That's also great to loose some weight and get in a better shape.

Nice try, capitalist hawks!

seems most beneficial then to both vacation and meditate simultaneously.

Anecdotal data here. I'm a regular mediator for the past 10 years. I'm not currently working, but when I was I would one or two 1 week meditation retreats a year instead of a "normal" vacation. My experience was a one week meditation retreat felt like a 3-4 week normal vacation getting a break from my job. Generally by halfway through the first day I more or less was not thinking about work anymore. However I don't necessarily think the experience would be the same if I didn't have a regular practice and doing the retreat with people I normally meditate with.

I'm skeptical in general about health benefit claims for meditation, what I would say is if you think it might help you, try it, but gradually. Like maybe do a 1 day or 3 day meditation retreat and see how it goes.

It seems like most of my vacation time is spent on meditation retreats these days. I'm actually leaving for a nine-day retreat in Hawaii tomorrow morning.

This is classic western scam to get you not to go to vacation :). I wouldn't trust anything.

Meditation is good for you and you will realize that you need to go on vacation during your meditation.

Meh I don't buy it, the method of the study seems not very sound. I myself was on a 10 days meditation retreat http://www.sobhana.dhamma.org/ where we meditated for 16 hours a day or something and sure it helped with the mood, relaxation, etc. but it wore out after a couple of weeks and I never had the nerv to meditate daily because it was not worth it. Btw. my brother and sister attended it too and both say the same about it.

A quick question, because I'm genuinely curious: if you never did it daily, how do you know it wasn't worth it?

I did it "daily" for 10 days very intensive, and the bliss or what you want to call it was there but not worth the hassle. But I also have a suspection that I'm the wrong person for that because my normal level of being is already very calm and relaxed. The only thing which can get to me if I don't sleep enough.

The study was conducted at a resort in Southern California

It's an incredibly deceptively named article. The study showed that meditating whilst on vacation is more beneficial than a vacation without meditation. All participants were on vacation.

Also, the participants who were meditating already knew how to meditate, so at best we have a correlation between the kind of people who learn to meditate and feeling less stressed during/after a vacation.

I accept your point that the results of the study should be taken with caution, but don't these statements at least partially refute your dismissal?

At the end, all three groups (vacation, novice, and regular meditators) showed statistically significant improvements in scores of stress and depression, which were measured using well-established and commonly used questionnaires. If we stop there, it seems that vacation is just as good as mindfulness exercises for stress reduction and mood lifting.

But what’s really striking are the result from 10 months later: the regular meditators still showed significant improvements on these scores, the novice meditators even more so. However, the vacationers were back to baseline.

The headline implies that instead of taking vacations, you should simply meditate. But the article doesn't support that in any way.

Rather, it suggests that you should spend at least 1 week of vacation per year in a secluded environment doing structured mindfulness activities such as yoga and meditation.

I misread this as "medication" and was confused for a while.

Not as bad as me who thought this was "Meditation" vs "Vaccination"

I still prefer holidays though.

And meditation is? Sitting in a public place in yoga pants holding fingers in a mudra? Vacation defined as? Does vacation include visiting Buddhist countries and Indian meditation retreats? How long a vacation should be?

Hint: meditation requires a profound changes in ones assumptions about his own nature and conditioning. That's why the teaching of the Buddha has been a philosophy, not a book of asanas. Meditation is the tool to realize accuracy and correctness of Buddha's insights. To test and validate his hypothesis by yourself.

there is a good place to start: https://www.coursera.org/learn/science-of-meditation

The course mentioned by parent is definitely worth watching for anyone interested. Lot of valuable information both on neuro/psychology of meditation and Buddhism.

I wouldn't agree with the statement that medidtation requires profound changes in ones assumptions. One can start with just a simple instruction, eg. "don't think about the breath, but watch for sensations that constitute the experience of breathing" and, as they develop mindfulness, incporporate more and more conceptual knowledge about what Buddha called Right View while testing it in practice.

I guess you're right, though, that without right information you could possibly sit in your yoga pants and mudra (vide any stock photo with 'meditation' tag) and don't get anywhere for years.

" statistically significant improvements in scores of stress and depression"

It's hard to measure what 'benefit' means.

These things are a matter of choice as much as anything else.

Moreover, it may very well be that some of the answers were 'primed' by the content of the retreat.

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