TED Talk: A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit


When I was first learning to meditate, the instruction was to simply pay attention to my breath, and when my mind wandered, to bring it back.

Why is it so hard to pay attention? Well, studies show that even when we’re really trying to pay attention to something — like maybe this talk — at some point, about half of us will drift off into a daydream, or have this urge to check our Twitter feed.

Instead of this hunger signal coming from our stomach, this emotional signal — feeling sad — triggers that urge to eat.

What if instead of fighting our brains, or trying to force ourselves to pay attention, we instead tapped into this natural, reward-based learning process?

And this is what mindfulness is all about: Seeing really clearly what we get when we get caught up in our behaviours.

We start to notice that cravings are simply made up of body sensations — oh, there’s tightness, there’s tension, there’s restlessness.

Word Meanings

  • Mind-wandering – to think about past memories or future worries
  • Drift off – To float away gently (a boat, your mind…)
  • Urge – The strong feeling of desire to do something without thought
  • Trigger – Something that causes something else to happen
  • To tap into – To find the hidden ability inside yourself or something else
  • To get caught up in – To get distracting by doing something
  • To crave – When your body wants something
  • Restlessness – The feeling of being impatient and unable to stay still

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