Taming Your Wandering Mind | Amishi Jha | TEDxCoconutGrove

Taming Your Wandering Mind | Amishi Jha | TEDxCoconutGrove

Amishi Jha explains the benefits of mindfulness training in her talk “Taming Your Wandering Mind.”

Dr. Amishi Jha has a Ph.D. from the University of California-Davis, post-doctoral training in brain imaging at Duke University, and was a faculty member at the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania prior to her current post at the University of Miami. Her research focuses on the brain bases of attention, working memory, and mindfulness-based training. With grants from the US Department of Defense and several private foundations, her current projects investigate how to best promote resilience in high stress cohorts using contemplative/mind training techniques that strengthen the brain’s attention networks.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx


  1. I was really hoping to learn how to pay attention to our attention. It would be much better if she shared some of the mindfulness techniques to improve our attention and awareness instead of just telling how amazing it is.

  2. I wish she would have mentioned some mindfulness tricks instead of just keep telling how wonderful it is!! Waste of time!! For sure a sales pitch!!

  3. Just me, or does she seem like she is trying really really hard to recite a 20 min speech she memorized word for word?

  4. You are talking about a 100% brain use when brain is conscious and what you see on graphs And sensors.unconsius mind is beyond your Intelligence you are saying here what were you taught and trying to sound intelligent.please go back to your profession where you guys are pushing normal kids to adhd and anti depression drugs.

  5. Ignore this comment as this is a personal msg

    For michael
    I got disconnected from the net
    You know i love you. I believe that our future will be great, just have faith

    Also i hope you’re not picking fights with anyone

    Be confident cuz i love u.
    Honestly i would prefer private msgs or emails, so if you need to ask something, then you can just send an email.

  6. I heard all of the good things about mindfulness training from her, but this talk lacked one very important thing: what these training exercises actually WERE. Unfortunately I feel there’s a lot of empty TED talks like this that tout a particular thing and then don’t deliver anything of substance. Almost like they just enjoy hearing themselves speak.

  7. most so-called experts don’t really know what they’re talking about. they say this and that, then a decade later, are found to be false. humans only uses a fraction of their brains? got to be false. ‘coz man, it takes me minutes to decide what to have for breakfast, and my stomach is even giving suggestions.

  8. I loved the forward and reverse concept. Several concepts were great ways to think about it… but bottom line: this was a 20 minute commercial to attend her training. She didn’t provide tips or tlricks or skills to improve my I attention skills. This is exactly what a Ted talk should NOT be…. a marketing pitch.

  9. Here’s an interview with the speaker, Amishi Jha, that might help:

    So, how do we gain control of those flickering flashlights and achieve focus? “That’s where mindfulness training comes in,” says Jha. She describes this training as a “portable brain fitness routine to keep our attention strong.” She has tested the effects of such training on subjects in high-stress groups, like athletes and military personnel. Her research has found that the attention of someone who hasn’t had mindfulness training declines when they’re under intense stress, but in people who’ve had training, their attention remains stable. What’s more, in people who regularly do mindfulness exercises, their attention actually gets better over time — even when they’re under stress. According to Jha, researchers have started to uncover other benefits associated with mindfulness, including reduced anxiety, protection from depression relapse, and improved working memory.

    What is mindfulness? It’s about paying attention to the present moment with awareness and without emotional reactivity. “It doesn’t require any particular worldview or spiritual or religious belief system,” says Jha. Mindfulness training can be broken down into two major categories: focused attention and open monitoring. They’re very different, yet complementary, practices.

    Focused attention exercises cultivate your brain’s ability to focus on one single object, like one’s breath. To do mindful breathing, sit in a comfortable, upright position and focus all your attention on the sensation of breathing — “for example, the coolness of air moving in and out of your nostrils or your abdomen moving in and out,” says Jha. “Focus on something that is tied to your sensory experience. When your mind wanders away from that sensation to internal mental content or an external distraction, gently return it to the breath-related object.” Don’t be surprised or disappointed if you find yourself retrieving your mind hundreds of times during a 15-minute session. Think of your brain like a puppy you’re training to walk on a leash. Gently redirect it every time it darts away.

    Another focused-attention exercise is mindful walking. Notice the sensations of walking — “your feet on the ground, the wind caressing your skin, sounds in the air,” says Jha. Walking can take place either indoors or outdoors. You might find this activity easier than mindful breathing; go with whatever exercise works best for you.

    One final focused-attention exercise is the body scan. Remember the idea of your attention being like a flashlight? “A body scan is essentially taking that flashlight and directing it systematically through the entire body,” Jha says. Start by focusing your attention on your toes, taking note of whatever sensations might be there. Tightness? Tingling? Warmth? Cold? Next, you can move on to the soles of the feet and the heels, then the legs, stomach, and so on, slowly moving your flashlight up your body. After you have a good grounding in focused attention practice and can keep your attention on a particular object or set of sensations for a period of time, you can move on to open monitoring.

    Open monitoring helps you learn to pay attention to what’s happening around you without becoming attached to it. This practice is not about paying attention to a particular object or objects. Instead, it’s about remaining open to any experience — internal or external — that arises, and allowing it to wash over you. “You don’t process it, you don’t think about it,” Jha says. “You just notice its occurrence and allow it to dissipate.” To do this, sit in a comfortable, upright position and try to be aware of any sensations, thoughts or emotions that emerge, without holding on to them. It might help you to label what comes up by using words like “planning,” “worrying,” “judging,” “remembering.” You can do this silently or out loud. After you name it, let it go. Think of what you’re doing as like watching clouds move in the sky and observing the different shapes they make — but in this practice, you’re watching your thoughts travel through your mind. And yes, there will be times when you feel like you keep getting hooked on a particular thought or sensation and can’t seem to drop it. Says Jha, “If you find you’re so lost in thought that you can’t do the open monitoring practice, go back to doing a focused attention exercise to steady yourself again.”

    People generally start to see benefits when they practice for about 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for around 4 weeks. “If you do more, you benefit more,” she says, “but if you do less than 12 minutes a day, we don’t really see any benefits.” If you try any of these exercises and have trouble keeping your mind still, know that that’s a common experience. Jha urges people not to feel discouraged — as with any new activity or sport, you need to practice. “The mind will wander, and that’s completely fine. It’s not about not letting the mind wander; it’s when the mind wanders, to gently return your attention,” she says.

    Start small. “Begin with whatever you consider a reasonable goal and cut it in half, and make a commitment for some period of time,” says Jha. Your goal might be as simple as vowing to stop every day and take the posture of one of the practices, says Jha. Chances are, once you sit (or walk), you’ll decide to stay for a while. Whatever your initial goal, commit to that for a month — and congratulate yourself for making it! — and then gradually increase your practice time until you’re doing it for 15 minutes, 5 days a week. Finding a mindfulness community, whether virtual or in person, can help you stick to the activity. What’s most important, says Jha, is to make sure “you really support yourself to create the habit of practicing,” whether that means setting multiple reminders for yourself or finding a quiet spot and time at your home or workplace to sit.

    Jha has seen the positive impact of mindfulness training on the many people she’s worked with over the years. One thing that struck her is how much the military personnel say it has improved not just their ability to work under pressure but also their home lives. Many told her that they’d struggled to be present with their families after returning from deployment. But after mindfulness training, they found they were better able to be present with their loved ones — which is something most of us would like to do, too. “This idea of being present to the people around us when we really want to be present — it often escapes us how to do this,” says Jha. By reclaiming our own attention, we can more fully connect with the people who matter to us.

  10. "Human beings only use 10% of their brain capacity" – this is an utter lie, I am not sure why professionals use this untested fact to explain the brain-function. How to use the brain is a matter that needs attention, that’s for sure! – Anyway, the human mind can go around the universe in seconds, it lives longer than our human body!

  11. How am I supposed to practice mindfulness if you don’t explain any ways to practice it? All this did was explain her mindfulness course and the benefits people received. I’m sure mindfulness works, but it seemed like she was focused on selling her course.

  12. All my life I’ve been a mind wanderer and a d d , I’ve been paying attention to detai more now my life has changed dramatically
    I feel like I’ve pressed the rest button on my life

  13. I think it’s interesting how she describes attention more with a capital "A", giving it an identity and title. If that is the case, how about giving focus, intention, and decision similar identities?

  14. You don’t need to stand their and show off on the public. Who are you to slap me and cursed me for your employment. What did you do for all the test you took me genocides. What did you do all the test in the lab and why you have my samples and put me on risk and used other people and public.

  15. Excellent speech and information, Thanks to Amishi Jha, I hope you save a lot of people to pay attention in their life.

  16. I appreciate the time and effort put in to this talk yet it certainly appears as if the benifits talked about here are not benifits to make you a better human being but benifits to your workplace, your employer and down the line to the individual worker. This seems like mindfulness for the corporate, workplace environment which so many already find so unfulfilling. She seems genuine and has a passion but for whose benifits?

  17. She is excited about positive mindfulness, I think a lot of you going on about sales pitch are the ones who need mindfulness. If your depressed or negative, why not give it a go. There are heaps of mindfulness meditations and video’s on utube

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