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What Our Wandering Thoughts Can Teach Us About Mental Health

Woman thinking and looking out a window

Some people find idle time with their thoughts productive and creative, while others have a tendency to ruminate.

Where does your mind wander when you have idle time? A University of Arizona-led study published in Scientific Reports may offer some clues, and the findings reveal a surprising amount about our mental health.

The study's 78 participants were trained to voice their thoughts aloud for 10 minutes while sitting alone in a room without access to electronic devices. Researchers used audio equipment to record those thoughts, then transcribed the recordings and analyzed them for content. In total, more than 2,000 thoughts were analyzed.

"We wanted to mimic the small breaks we have throughout the day, such as when waiting in line at a café, taking a shower, lying in bed at night and so on. These are all times during which external demands are minimal and internal thoughts tend to creep in," said first author Quentin Raffaelli , a graduate student in the UArizona Department of Psychology .      

Most psychology research addressing human thought either tells people what to think about, asks participants to remember what they were thinking about minutes before, or uses self-report questionnaires to capture freeze-frame snapshots of thoughts at different moments in time, according to the authors.

Jessica Andrews-Hanna

Jessica Andrews-Hanna

"While insightful in its own right, this snapshot approach doesn't tell us much about how thoughts unfold and transition over time – features of thinking that we think are important for our mental health. To capture these dynamic properties of thinking, we need a method that records thoughts in real time and for extended periods," said co-author Jessica Andrews-Hanna , an assistant professor of psychology who oversaw the research in her lab.

Other co-authors include Caitlin Mills, an assistant professor at the University of New Hampshire, as well as UArizona associate professors of psychology  Mary-Frances O'Connor,   Matthias Mehl  and  Matthew Grilli , graduate student  Eric Andrews , undergraduates  Kate Chambers ,  Nadia-Anais de Stefano  and  Surya Fitzgerald , lab coordinator Ramsey Wilcox , as well as Kalina Christoff, a professor at the University of British Columbia.

A Window to the Mind

The researchers sought to measure patterns of thinking. They were especially interested in capturing ruminative thinking, continuously thinking about the same negative thoughts, which is a common symptom of depression.

"Whereas most participants spent the 10 minutes thinking about the present or the future in an emotionally neutral way, participants who scored high on a rumination questionnaire experienced thoughts that were more past-focused and negative," Raffaelli said. "Ruminative individuals were also more likely to think about themselves."

The authors followed certain thoughts over time, measuring how long they lasted and how narrow or broad in focus they were. Ruminative individuals had negative thoughts that lasted longer than positive thoughts, and those negative thoughts became progressively narrower in topic over time.

"We were able to witness how some people became trapped in perseverative cycles of thinking," Andrews-Hanna said. "We recruited a random group of people without knowing if they were diagnosed with any clinical condition for this study, yet it's striking that in just 10 minutes of down time, we can capture thought processes that speak to many different mental health conditions." 

Some people, on the other hand, found the 10 minutes to be productive and inspirational.

"Some participants thought about positive topics or goals they wanted to reach," Andrews-Hanna said. "Other people's thoughts were quite creative. Many participants found that the exercise offered a refreshing break from the busy world around them."

The exercise wasn't designed for any therapeutic potential, yet many people viewed it as a therapy session with themselves.

"There is research on the power of externalizing our inner thoughts via journaling or sharing thoughts with others that I think this study taps into indirectly," Andrews-Hanna said.

Idle Thinking as a Skill

The study ended before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the results seem more relevant than ever as many people have experienced more solitary idle time over the last year and half than at any other point in their lives.

The authors also conducted a version of this study during the grips of the pandemic and are now in the process of analyzing the results.  

"Having to sit at home for such a long time affected people's mental well-being dramatically," Raffaelli said. "We saw this with the increase in anxiety and depression during the pandemic and the surge in substance abuse."

When not in lockdown, idle time can be rare.

"Taking mental breaks seems to be increasingly undervalued in today's busy and distracted society," Andrews-Hanna said. "Western societies seem to reinforce a lifestyle where we're always on the go, bringing our work home with us or distracting ourselves with email or social media."

Although the study didn't measure it, the authors speculate that training people as early as childhood to be comfortable during idle time may help maintain mental well-being.

"By taming our go-to reflex of taking out our phone whenever there's a moment of silence, we can more fully realize the benefits of breaks on our mental health and creativity," Raffaelli said.

The Next Step

Andrews-Hanna and her lab team are interested in the default mode network, a brain network that plays an important role in internal thoughts. They have been studying its functions and chipping away at how it might go awry in people with dysfunctional thinking styles, such as rumination or intrusive thoughts.

Their work has potential ties to functional magnetic resonance imaging, or resting-state fMRI, a popular method of brain imaging used by neuroscientists for brain imaging. The technique involves placing a person in a brain scanner for about 10 minutes and recording the patterns of brain activity and connectivity as spontaneous thoughts emerge.

"Eventually, we hope to connect the psychological characteristics of idle thought to the biological patterns of activity and connectivity changing across time to provide a fuller picture of consciousness and mental health," Andrews-Hanna said. "We hope that one day, our inner mental lives won't be as much of a mystery."

Resources for the Media

Mikayla Mace Kelley Science Writer, University Communications [email protected] 520-621-1878

Jessica Andrews-Hanna Department of Psychology [email protected]

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  • Dwelling In The Past? Mind Wandering May Be The Cause Of Your Depression

Wandering Thoughts Can Reveal Your Mental Health

  • Research reveals that wandering thoughts can reveal your mental health conditions.
  • Depression and mind-wandering often go hand in hand, with repetitive negative thoughts fueling unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

Wandering Thoughts Can Reveal Your Mental Health

In the realm of mental health, the intricate workings of the human mind have been a subject of great interest. Wandering thoughts, often characterized by a lack of focus and a tendency to drift aimlessly, have garnered attention for their potential insights into our mental well-being.

Mind wandering or free thinking is largely associated with sound mental health. People can reap its benefits related to problem-solving , enhanced creativity, mindfulness, and meaningful life.

This can enable people to enjoy better cognitive abilities and mental health in the modern era of information overload and constant distractions. However, recent research contrarily claims that negative mind-wandering is a key symptom in people with mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, etc.

Depression, Mind Wandering, And Rumination

Research has shown a strong link between depression and mind-wandering, particularly in the form of repetitive and negative thoughts.

People with depression frequently experience a higher frequency of intrusive, self-focused thoughts that center around themes of worry, rumination, and self-criticism. In fact, experts claim that as little as 10 minutes of idle time can spur rumination and amplify negative emotions in people with poor mental health.

These thought patterns often perpetuate a cycle of negative emotions and contribute to the persistence of depressive symptoms. Additionally, individuals with depression tend to exhibit impaired cognitive control, making it more challenging to redirect their attention away from these negative thought patterns.

How Mind-Wandering Causes Our Unhappiness

While the mind’s ability to wander can be a natural and adaptive function, excessive and uncontrolled mind-wandering can have detrimental effects on our well-being. Studies have found that individuals who frequently engage in mind-wandering are generally less happy and more prone to experiencing negative emotions.

This unhappiness stems from several factors associated with mind-wandering, including increased self-referential processing, repetitive negative thoughts, and reduced engagement with the present moment.

When our thoughts wander, we often ruminate on past events or worry about future outcomes, neglecting the present moment. This preoccupation with the past or future can lead to increased anxiety, stress, and a sense of discontentment.

Moreover, repetitive negative thoughts during mind-wandering can reinforce negative self-perceptions and amplify feelings of sadness and hopelessness.

Ways To Control Unwanted Thoughts With Mindfulness

Mindfulness, the practice of purposefully directing attention to the present moment without judgment, has emerged as a powerful tool for managing wandering thoughts and promoting mental well-being. By cultivating mindfulness, individuals can gain greater control over their thoughts and reduce the impact of unwanted rumination and mind-wandering.

One of the fundamental principles of mindfulness is developing awareness of one’s thoughts and emotions . By observing thoughts without judgment, individuals can detach from the content of their wandering thoughts and prevent them from dictating their emotional state.

Through regular mindfulness practice, individuals can become more attuned to their thought patterns, identifying negative or unhelpful thoughts that contribute to mental distress.

In addition to formal mindfulness practices (like focused breathing exercises or body scans), integrating mindfulness into daily activities can also be beneficial. Engaging in tasks mindfully (such as savoring the taste of food or fully immersing oneself in the present moment during a walk) can help individuals stay present in the moment and break free from the cycle of rumination and negative thinking.

This approach will not only reduce mind-wandering tendencies, but also lessen the risk of mental health disorders like depression or chronic anxiety.

Melissa Shepard, a psychiatrist based in Charlotte, North Carolina, told Psych Central : “ The more we can stay in the present moment, the more we can avoid rumination. When we focus on the past, we often focus on negative things that occurred or what we wish had been different. Feelings of regret and helplessness can make us feel like we have less control over what happens in the present, which can contribute to depression. ”

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December 15, 2021

Mindfulness can get wandering thoughts back on track, according to new study

by Angela Koenig, University of Cincinnati


Everyone has times where their mind won't stay on task. For example, you might be listening to someone talk in a meeting or class and your mind wanders to your dinner plans. Notably, research suggests that 30% to 50% of our daily thoughts are spent on this kind of mind wandering, and that excessive mind wandering can lead to many negative outcomes like poorer performance on standardized tests and poorer recall of information.

"While zoning out for a few minutes during a meeting may not hurt, it can impact you negatively if it goes on for long periods of time," says Lynley Turkelson, a University of Cincinnati doctoral student and lead author of a new study on mindfulness and mind wandering published in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement .

"When distracting thoughts or feelings come up, mindfulness helps us gently set them aside and refocus on what is right in front of us," says Turkelson.

Methods of practicing mindfulness vary but include practices such as breathwork and meditation.

For example, Turkelson says, one can practice mindfulness by paying attention to the experience of eating a favorite food: "You may start by noticing the smell of the food before you eat it, what it feels like as you bite into it, how it feels in your mouth, and the taste. Or perhaps you pay attention to the flow of breath in and out of your lungs or on the sensations you experience in various parts of the body."

For the study, Turkelson, a doctoral student and fellow in UC's Department of Psychology, and co-author Quintino Mano, Ph.D., a UC associate professor of psychology, conducted a systematic review of research that looks at the relationship between mindfulness and mind wandering.

What they found is that while mindfulness—the ability to intentionally focus attention on the present moment —can be effective for reducing mind wandering, results do differ depending on the research methodology . For instance, people are sometimes unaware when they are distracted, so asking them to report their own mind wandering is not reliable. The study results show it's better to measure mind wandering in other ways, such as using computer-based testing.

"During COVID, people are facing even more distractions than normal, so it is important to find research-based ways to decrease mind wandering and improve attention," says Turkelson.

Turkelson says that their systematic review looks at the research on this topic and synthesizes the results so that researchers know how consistent these findings are, as well as what still needs to be studied to improve our understanding of how mindfulness helps with mind wandering.

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ak wandering thoughts

Northwest Nazarene University

Wesley center online, the sermons of john wesley - sermon 41, wandering thoughts.

"Bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." 2 Cor. 10:5.

1. But will God so "bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ," that no wandering thought will find a place in the mind, even while we remain in the body So some have vehemently maintained; yea, have affirmed that none are perfected in love unless they are so far perfected in understanding, that all wandering thoughts are done away; unless not only every affection and temper be holy and just and good, but every individual thought which arises in the mind be wise and regular.

2. This is a question of no small importance. For how many of those who fear God, yea, and love him, perhaps with all their heart, have been greatly distressed on this account! How many, by not understanding it right, have not only been distressed, but greatly hurt in their souls; -- cast into unprofitable, yea, mischievous reasonings, such as slackened their motion towards God, and weakened them in running the race set before them! Nay, many, through misapprehensions of this very thing, have cast away the precious gift of God. They have been induced, first, to doubt of, and then to deny, the work God had wrought in their souls; and hereby have grieved the Spirit of God, till he withdrew and left them in utter darkness!

3. How is it then, that amidst the abundance of books which have been lately published almost on all subjects, we should have none upon wandering thoughts at least none that will at all satisfy a calm and serious mind In order to do this in some degree, I purpose to inquire,

I. What are the several sorts of wandering thoughts

II. What are the general occasions of them

III. Which of them are sinful, and which not

IV. Which of them we may expect and pray to be delivered from

I. 1. I purpose to inquire, First, What are the several sorts of wandering thoughts The particular sorts are innumerable; but, in general, they are of two sorts: Thoughts that wander from God; and thoughts that wander from the particular point we have in hand.

2. With regard to the former, all our thoughts are naturally of this kind: For they are continually wandering from God: We think nothing about him: God is not in all our thoughts: We are, one and all, as the Apostle observes, "without God in the world." We think of what we love; but we do not love God; therefore, we think not of him. Or, if we are now and then constrained to think of him for a time, yet as we have not pleasure therein, nay, rather, as these thoughts are not only insipid, but distasteful and irksome to us, we drive them out as soon as we can, and return to what we love to think of. So that the world, and the things of the world, -- what we shall eat, what we shall drink, what we shall put on, -- what we shall see, what we shall hear, what we shall gain, -- how we shall please our senses or our imagination, -- takes up all our time, and engrosses all our thought. So long, therefore, as we love the world; that is, so long as we are in our natural state; all our thoughts, from morning to evening, and from evening to morning, are no other than wandering thoughts.

3. But many times we are not only "without God in the world," but also fighting against him; as there is in every man by nature a "carnal mind which is enmity against God:" No wonder, therefore, that men abound with unbelieving thoughts; either saying in their hearts, "There is no God," or questioning, if not denying, his power or wisdom, his mercy, or justice, or holiness. No wonder that they so often doubt of his providence, at least, of its extending to all events; or that, even though they allow it, they still entertain murmuring or repining thoughts. Nearly related to these, and frequently connected with them, are proud and vain imaginations. Again: Sometimes they are taken up with angry, malicious, or revengeful thoughts; at other times, with airy scenes of pleasure, whether of sense or imagination; whereby the earthly, sensual mind becomes more earthy and sensual still. Now by all these they make flat war with God: These are wandering thoughts of the highest kind.

4. Widely different from these are the other sort of wandering thoughts; in which the heart does not wander from God, but the understanding wanders from the particular point it had then in view. For instance: I sit down to consider those words in the verse preceding the text: "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God." I think, "This ought to be the case with all that are called Christians. But how far is it otherwise! Look round into almost every part of what is termed the Christian world. What manner of weapons are these using In what kind of warfare are they engaged;

While men, like fiends, each other tear; In all the hellish rage of war

See how these Christians love one another! Wherein are they preferable to Turks and Pagans What abomination can be found among Mahometans or Heathens which is not found among Christians also" And thus my mind runs off, before I am aware, from one circumstance to another. Now, all these are, in some sense, wandering thoughts: For although they do not wander from God, much less fight against him, yet they do wander from the particular point I had in view.

II. Such is the nature, such are the sorts (to speak rather usefully than philosophically) of wandering thoughts. But what are the general occasions of them This we are, in the Second place, to consider.

1. And it is easy to observe, that the occasion of the former sort of thoughts, which oppose or wander from God, are, in general, sinful tempers. For instance: Why is not God in all the thoughts, in any of the thoughts of a natural man For a plain reason: Be he rich or poor, learned or unlearned, he is an Atheist; (though not vulgarly so called;) he neither knows nor loves God. Why are his thoughts continually wandering after the world Because he is an idolater. He does not indeed worship an image, or bow down to the stock of a tree; yet is he sunk into equally damnable idolatry: He loves, that is worships, the world. He seeks happiness in the things that are seen, in the pleasures that perish in the using. Why is it that his thoughts are perpetually wandering from the very end of his being, the knowledge of God in Christ Because he is an unbeliever; because he has no faith; or at least, no more than a devil. So all these wandering thoughts easily and naturally spring from that evil root of unbelief.

2. The case is the same in other instances: Pride, anger, revenge, vanity, lust, covetousness, every one of them occasions thoughts suitable to its own nature. And so does every sinful temper of which the human mind is capable. The particulars it is hardly possible, nor is it needful, to enumerate: It suffices to observe, that as many evil tempers as find a place in any soul, so many ways that soul will depart from God, by the worst kind of wandering thoughts.

3. The occasions of the latter kind of wandering thoughts are exceeding various. Multitudes of them are occasioned by the natural union between the soul and body. How immediately and how deeply is the understanding affected by a diseased body! Let but the blood move irregularly in the brain, and all regular thinking is at an end. Raging madness ensues; and then farewell to all evenness of thought. Yea, let only the spirits be hurried or agitated to a certain degree, and a temporary madness, a delirium, prevents all settled thought. And is not the same irregularity of thought, in a measure, occasioned by every nervous disorder So does the "corruptible body press down the soul, and cause it to muse about many things."

4. But does it only cause this in the time of sickness or preternatural disorder Nay, but more or less, at all times, even in a state of perfect health. Let a man be ever so healthy, he will be more or less delirious every four-and-twenty hours. For does he not sleep And while he sleeps, is he not liable to dream And who then is master of his own thoughts, or able to preserve the order and consistency of them Who can then keep them fixed to any one point, or prevent their wandering from pole to pole

5. But suppose we are awake, are we always so awake that we can steadily govern our thoughts Are we not unavoidably exposed to contrary extremes, by the very nature of this machine, the body Sometimes we are too heavy, too dull and languid, to pursue any chain of thought. Sometimes, on the other hand, we are too lively. The imagination, without leave, starts to and fro, and carries us away hither and thither, whether we will or no; and all this from the merely natural motion of the spirits, or vibration of the nerves.

6. Farther: How many wanderings of thought may arise from those various associations of our ideas which are made entirely without our knowledge, and independently on our choice How these connexions are formed, we cannot tell; but they are formed in a thousand different manners. Nor is it in the power of the wisest or holiest of men to break those associations, or prevent what is the necessary consequences of them, and matter of daily observation. Let the fire but touch one end of the train, and it immediately runs on to the other.

7. Once more: Let us fix our attention as studiously as we are able on any subject, yet let either pleasure or pain arise, especially if it be intense, and it will demand our immediate attention, and attach our thought to itself. It will interrupt the steadiest contemplation, and divert the mind from its favourite subject.

8. These occasions of wandering thoughts lie within, are wrought into our very nature. But they will likewise naturally and necessarily arise from the various impulse of outward objects. Whatever strikes upon the organ of sense, the eye or ear, will raise a perception in the mind. And, accordingly, whatever we see or hear will break in upon our former train of thought. Every man, therefore, that does anything in our sight, or speaks anything in our hearing, occasions our mind to wander, more or less, from the point it was thinking of before.

9. And there is no question but those evil spirits who are continually seeking whom they may devour make use of all the foregoing occasions to hurry and distract our minds. Sometimes by one, sometimes by another, of these means, they will harass and perplex us, and, so far as God permits, interrupt our thoughts, particularly when they are engaged on the best subjects. Nor is this at all strange: They will understand the very springs of thought; and know on which of the bodily organs the imagination, the understanding, and every other faculty of the mind more immediately depends. And hereby they know how, by affecting those organs, to affect the operations dependent on them. Add to this, that they can inject a thousand thoughts, without any of the preceding means; it being as natural for spirit to act upon spirit, as for matter to act upon matter. These things being considered, we cannot admire that our thought so often wanders from any point which we have in view.

III. 1. What kind of wandering thoughts are sinful, and what not, is the Third thing to be inquired into. And, First, all those thoughts which wander from God, which leave him no room in our minds, are undoubtedly sinful. For all these imply practical Atheism; and by these we are without God in the world. And so much more are all those which are contrary to God, which imply opposition or enmity to him. Such are all murmuring, discontented thoughts, which say, in effect, "We will not have thee to rule over us;" -- all unbelieving thoughts, whether with regard to his being, his attributes, or his providence. I mean, his particular providence over all things, as well as all persons, in the universe; that without which "not a sparrow falls to the ground," by which "the hairs of our head are all numbered;" for as to a general providence, (vulgarly so called,) contradistinguished from a particular, it is only a decent, well-sounding word, which means just nothing.

2. Again: All thoughts which spring from sinful tempers, are undoubtedly sinful. Such, for instance, are those that spring from a revengeful temper, from pride, or lust, or vanity. "An evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit:" Therefore if the tree be evil, so must the fruit be also.

3. And so must those be which either produce or feed any sinful temper; those which either give rise to pride or vanity, to anger or love of the world, or confirm and increase these or any other unholy temper, passion, or affection. For not only whatever flows from evil is evil; but also whatever leads to it; whatever tends to alienate the soul from God, and to make or keep it earthly, sensual, and devilish.

4. Hence, even those thoughts which are occasioned by weakness or disease, by the natural mechanism of the body, or by the laws of vital union, however innocent they may be in themselves, do nevertheless become sinful, when they either produce or cherish and increase in us any sinful temper; suppose the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, or the pride of life. In like manner, the wandering thoughts which are occasioned by the words or actions of other men, if they cause or feed any wrong disposition, then commence sinful. And the same we may observe of those which are suggested or injected by the devil. When they minister to any earthly or devilish temper, (which they do, whenever we give place to them, and thereby make them our own,) then they are equally sinful with the tempers to which they minister.

5. But, abstracting from these cases, wandering thoughts, in the latter sense of the word, that is, thoughts wherein our understanding wanders from the point it has in view, are no more sinful than the motion of the blood in our veins, or of the spirits in our brain. If they arise from an infirm constitution, or from some accidental weakness or distemper, they are as innocent as it is to have a weak constitution or a distempered body. And surely no one doubts but a bad state of nerves, a fever of any kind, and either a transient or a lasting delirium, may consist with perfect innocence. And if they should arise in a soul which is united to a healthful body, either from the natural union between the body and soul, or from any of ten thousand changes which may occur in those organs of the body that minister to thought; -- in any of these cases they are as perfectly innocent as the causes from which they spring. And so they are when they spring from the casual, involuntary associations of our ideas.

6. If our thoughts wander from the point we had in view, by means of other men variously affecting our senses, they are equally innocent still: For it is no more a sin to understand what I see and hear, and in many cases cannot help seeing, hearing, and understanding, than it is to have eyes and ears. "But if the devil injects wandering thoughts, are not those thoughts evil" They are troublesome, and in that sense evil; but they are not sinful. I do not know that he spoke to our Lord with an audible voice; perhaps he spoke to his heart only when he said, "All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me." But whether he spoke inwardly or outwardly, our Lord doubtless understood what he said. He had therefore a thought correspondent to those words. But was it a sinful thought We know it was not. In him was no sin, either in action, or word, or thought. Nor is there any sin in a thousand thoughts of the same kind, which Satan may inject into any of our Lord's followers.

7. It follows that none of these wandering thoughts (whatever unwary persons have affirmed, thereby grieving whom the Lord had not grieved) are inconsistent with perfect love. Indeed, if they were, then not only sharp pain, but sleep itself, would be inconsistent with it: -- Sharp pain; for whenever this supervenes, whatever we were before thinking of, it will interrupt our thinking, and of course draw our thoughts into another channel: -- Yea, and sleep itself; as it is a state of insensibility and stupidity; and such as is generally mixed with thoughts wandering over the earth, loose, wild, and incoherent. Yet certainly these are consistent with perfect love: So then are all wandering thoughts of this kind.

IV. 1. From what has been observed, it is easy to give a clear answer to the last question, -- What kind of wandering thoughts we may expect and pray to be delivered from.

From the former sort of wandering thoughts, -- those wherein the heart wanders from God; from all that are contrary to his will, or that leave us without God in the world; every one that is perfected in love is unquestionably delivered. This deliverance, therefore, we may expect; this we may, we ought to pray for. Wandering thoughts of this kind imply unbelief, if not enmity against God; but both of these he will destroy, will bring utterly to an end. And indeed, from all sinful wandering thoughts we shall be absolutely delivered. All that are perfected in love are delivered from these; else they were not saved from sin. Men and devils will tempt them all manner of ways; but they cannot prevail over them.

2. With regard to the latter sort of wandering thoughts, the case is widely different. Till the cause is removed, we cannot in reason expect the effect should cease. But the causes or occasions of these will remain as long as we remain in the body. So long, therefore, we have all reason to believe the effects will remain also.

3. To be more particular: Suppose a soul, however holy, to dwell in a distempered body; suppose the brain be so thoroughly disordered, as that raging madness follows; will not all the thoughts be wild and unconnected as long as that disorder continues Suppose a fever occasions that temporary madness which we term a delirium; can there be any just connexion of thought till that delirium is removed Yea, suppose what is called a nervous disorder to rise to so high a degree as to occasion at least a partial madness; will there not be a thousand wandering thoughts And must not these irregular thoughts continue as long as the disorder which occasions them

4. Will not the case be the same with regard to those thoughts that necessarily arise from violent pain They will more or less continue, while that pain continues, by the inviolable order of nature. This order, likewise, will obtain, where the thoughts are disturbed, broken, or interrupted, by any defect of the apprehension, judgement, or imagination, flowing from the natural constitution of the body. And how many interruptions may spring from the unaccountable and involuntary association of our ideas! Now, all these are directly or indirectly caused by the corruptible body pressing down the mind. Nor, therefore, can we expect them to be removed till "this corruptible shall put on incorruption."

5. And then only, when we lie down in the dust, shall we be delivered from those wandering thoughts which are occasioned by what we see and hear, among those by whom we are now surrounded. To avoid these, we must go out of the world: For as long as we remain therein, as long as there are men and women round about us, and we have eyes to see and ears to hear, the things which we daily see and hear will certainly affect our mind, and will more or less break in upon and interrupt our preceding thoughts.

6. And as long as evil spirits roam to and fro in a miserable, disordered world, so long they will assault (whether they can prevail or no) every inhabitant of flesh and blood. They will trouble even those whom they cannot destroy: They will attack, if they cannot conquer. And from these attacks of our restless, unwearied enemies, we must not look for an entire deliverance, till we are lodged "where the wicked cease from troubling, and where the weary are at rest."

7. To sum up the whole: To expect deliverance from those wandering thoughts which are occasioned by evil spirits is to expect that the devil should die or fall asleep, or, at least, should no more go about as a roaring lion. To expect deliverance from those which are occasioned by other men is to expect either that men should cease from the earth, or that we should be absolutely secluded from them, and have no intercourse with them; or that having eyes we should see, neither hear with our ears, but be as senseless as stocks or stones. And to pray for deliverance from those which are occasioned by the body is, in effect, to pray that we may leave the body: Otherwise it is praying for impossibilities and absurdities; praying that God would reconcile contradictions, by continuing our union with a corruptible body without the natural, necessary consequences of that union. It is as if we should pray to be angels and men, mortal and immortal, at the same time. Nay! -- but when that which is immortal is come, mortality is done away.

8. Rather let us pray, both with the spirit and with the understanding, that all these things may work together for our good; that we may suffer all the infirmities of our nature, all the interruptions of men, all the assaults and suggestions of evil spirits, and in all be "more than conquerors." Let us pray, that we may be delivered from all sin; that both the root and branch may be destroyed; that we may be "cleansed from all pollution of flesh and spirit," from every evil temper, and word, and work; that we may "love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul, and with all our strength;" that all the fruit of the Spirit may be found in us, -- not only love, joy, peace, but also "long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, fidelity, meekness, temperance." Pray that all these things may flourish and abound, may increase in you more and more, till an abundant entrance be ministered unto you, into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Edited By Suzanne Mondell with corrections by Ryan Danker and George Lyons for the Wesley Center for Applied Theology.

Copyright 1999 by the Wesley Center for Applied Theology. Text may be freely used for personal or scholarly purposes or mirrored on other web sites, provided this notice is left intact. Any use of this material for commercial purposes of any kind is strictly forbidden without the express permission of the Wesley Center at Northwest Nazarene University, Nampa, ID 83686. Contact the webmaster for permission.

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What’s on your mind? A sneak-peek of your wandering thoughts

Have you ever noticed that your thoughts are sometimes focused on the task-at-hand, while other times, your mind wanders from topic to topic? Our new study found that individuals’ brain activity can provide a glimpse into how their train of thought unfolds over time. Specifically, it reveals whether their minds are focused on a task, wandering from topic to topic, or constrained to a topic.

ak wandering thoughts

Julia W. Y. Kam is Assistant Professor at Department of Psychology, Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada.

Julia W. Y. Kam is also an author of the original article

Caitlin Mills is Assistant Professor at Department of Psychology, University of New Hampshire, Durham, United States.

Caitlin Mills is also an author of the original article

Dr. Ilaria Di Meglio

Senior Scientific Editor

If you get a glimpse into all the thoughts you’ve had today, it will likely reveal pockets of time when they were focused on your ongoing task (for example when you rush through an assignment to meet a deadline); when they aimlessly wandered from one topic to another (such as when your thoughts jump from weekend plans to your last vacation in Greece to preparing meals for the week); and when they were stuck on a topic (as exemplified by when you constantly worry about a medical test result). These different patterns of thought are prevalent throughout our day. Traditionally, scientists have studied whether our thoughts were focused on the current task or not; however, this line of work does not tell us the types of thoughts going on in our minds.

A recent theoretical framework proposed that our thoughts can unfold over time in different ways: thoughts can freely move from one topic to another; thoughts can be constrained to a topic no matter how hard we try to steer our mind away from it; thoughts can also be constrained to a topic in a goal directed way. Importantly, this theory predicts that these three types of thoughts can occur independently of task-unrelated thoughts.

As a team of philosophers, psychologists and neuroscientists, we recently evaluated this theoretical framework by addressing the question: can brain activity differentiate these distinct thought patterns? In other words, are there different electrophysiological activity in the brain (referred to as brain markers hereafter) that are uniquely associated with the four types of thoughts? To that end, our study not only aimed to identify the brain markers of freely moving and two types of constrained thoughts, but it also sought to replicate past findings of well-established brain markers of task-unrelated thoughts.

To answer this question, we used electroencephalogram to measure the electrical activity in individuals’ brain as they performed a boring task in the lab. To assess thought patterns, individuals were occasionally asked to report whether their thoughts were focused on the task or not, and whether their thoughts were freely moving or constrained. We then compared the brain activity associated with freely moving and constrained thoughts as well as task-unrelated thoughts.

Our study found unique brain signals associated with freely moving thoughts and task-unrelated thoughts. Specifically, we first measured alpha activity over the frontal cortex, which is a type of electrical activity in the brain linked to creative processes, and found that it increased during freely moving thoughts. This suggests that alpha activity over this frontal part of the brain may serve as an indicator of unconstrained thoughts that wander from one topic to another. In contrast, we found that P300 activity, another type of brain activity, was reduced during task-unrelated thoughts compared to on-task thoughts in the parietal cortex (i.e. upper back part of the brain). In line with our findings, parietal P300 activity has been previously found to be an indicator of task-unrelated thoughts, suggesting that we successfully replicated past findings.

In conclusion, we identified brain markers that distinguish different thought patterns, indicating that your brain activity can reveal the dynamics of your thoughts. We found while that freely moving thoughts are linked to increased activity in the frontal cortex, task-unrelated thoughts are linked to decreased activity in the parietal cortex. These findings have theoretical importance as it is the first study to indicate that freely moving thoughts and task-unrelated thoughts have distinct brain markers, providing evidence they are distinct concepts that can occur independently of each other. For instance, individuals in the creative fields can attest to experiences in which they are concentrated on their task-at-hand such as composing music or painting on a canvas, and yet their minds are jumping all over the place as they brainstorm ideas for which musical note or paint stroke should come next. In contrast, we can all relate to the experience in which we stop paying attention to the ongoing task to focus on our future plans.

These findings also have practical value, such that these brain markers can potentially be used to predict individuals’ different thought patterns. One plausible clinical application lies in the real-time prediction of thought patterns in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Thoughts that freely move from topic to topic characterizes the types of thoughts that individuals with ADHD report. Therefore, these brain markers may eventually help detect when individuals are having these thoughts in real time. Bringing their awareness to this type of thought may be the first step in helping individuals with ADHD disengage from this pattern of thought to return to their ongoing activity should they wish to do so.

Original Article:

Next read: The Lego bricks of the brain by Toshihiko Hosoya

Dr. Ilaria Di Meglio , Senior Scientific Editor

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Jewel Will Still Save Your Soul

Artifice is out, mental health is in, and Jewel’s been ready for this moment her entire life.


At age 15, Jewel moved out of her turbulent home in rural Alaska and hitchhiked several hundred miles to attend a powwow. Sitting in a large circle, she froze when a talking stick was passed to her. Later, she was taken aside by two “uncles,” who told her the future of her life would depend upon learning to speak from her heart. It was there that she also heard the story of the raven, which she recites to me from memory.

“There was a gathering every full moon of all the creatures of every kind,” she says. “One day, the two-leggeds [humans] didn’t show up, so Great Spirit sent out the raven, which was then a beautiful white bird, to look for them. The raven flew for days and found the two-leggeds wandering lost on the edges of the wilderness. The raven called to them, but they could no longer understand the language, and the raven turned black with grief. The raven flew back to the fire and said, ‘The two-leggeds have lost the language of knowing how to speak to all of us, to nature.’ ”

Today, in a nondescript cinder block building behind a Food 4 Less shopping center in the Van Nuys section of Los Angeles, a raven named Shadow is biting Jewel’s index finger. She gracefully extends her hand so as not to drip blood onto the ivory folds of a borrowed gown, grimacing ever so slightly as a turntable spins her like a life-size music box dancer.

“Cut!” yells creative director Matthew Rolston, one of the multiplatinum recording artist’s longtime collaborators, whom she’s called upon to help her shoot a hologram of herself for The Portal: An Art Experience by Jewel , opening on May 4 at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas.

If all goes as planned, a hologram of Jewel with Shadow perched on her hand will greet visitors at the start of the 90-minute immersive experience. Its centerpiece is a reflective art walk through the museum’s contemporary wing, narrated by Jewel, featuring 10 pieces she’s selected from the museum’s collection that represent what she calls the “three spheres” of existence (more on that later), as well as two of her own artworks: a stunning portrait of her 12-year-old son, Kase, that she made after taking a two-week oil painting clinic last spring in Rome, and a sculpture. There’s also a nightly outdoor choreographed 200-piece drone light show, during which visitors will be invited to wear headphones to listen to a conceptual song written and recorded by Jewel.

The crew assembled today might be tasked with creating an apparition, but the bird and the blood are very real. Shadow’s handler suggests increasing the speed of the turntable to minimize the length of time between treats. Meanwhile, a hairstylist has procured a leaf blower to provide a gentler wind effect than the industrial fan currently blasting Jewel’s face, making her eyes water and her strawberry blonde bangs stick straight up on either side of her forehead. Rolston shouts, “Action,” and filming resumes.

Born Jewel Kilcher, the nearly 50-year-old singer-songwriter is no stranger to working with animals, having spent much of her childhood on a 600-acre homestead with no running water in Homer, Alaska (population: roughly 6,000). Perhaps you’ve caught one of her cameos on Alaska: The Last Frontier , a reality series following the hardscrabble life of her extended family, which has aired on the Discovery Channel for 11 seasons. For a time, she also lived on a working Texas ranch with her now ex-husband, former rodeo cowboy Ty Murray (Kase’s dad).

Still, working with Shadow was “intimidating,” she admits the following morning over avocado toast and bacon. Apparently, the handler had asked her to feed the bird so it would feel rewarded being around her, “and it just fricking went for me,” she says. “Luckily I didn’t bleed on the dress—that was an archival Valentino piece.”

There is little risk of a bird attack this morning, but she’s still opted for something more casual: a studded leather jacket, jeans, and white tee. “I’ve always been intrigued by ravens,” she explains, recalling the anecdote from the powwow. “I liked the idea of the raven being the animal that brings humans back into harmony with our surroundings.”

jewel at crystal bridges museum of american art in arkansas

.css-1aear8u:before{margin:0 auto 0.9375rem;width:34px;height:25px;content:'';display:block;background-repeat:no-repeat;}.loaded .css-1aear8u:before{background-image:url(/_assets/design-tokens/elle/static/images/quote.fddce92.svg);} .css-1bvxk2j{font-family:SaolDisplay,SaolDisplay-fallback,SaolDisplay-roboto,SaolDisplay-local,Georgia,Times,serif;font-size:1.625rem;font-weight:normal;line-height:1.2;margin:0rem;margin-bottom:0.3125rem;}@media(max-width: 48rem){.css-1bvxk2j{font-size:2.125rem;line-height:1.1;}}@media(min-width: 40.625rem){.css-1bvxk2j{font-size:2.125rem;line-height:1.2;}}@media(min-width: 64rem){.css-1bvxk2j{font-size:2.25rem;line-height:1.1;}}@media(min-width: 73.75rem){.css-1bvxk2j{font-size:2.375rem;line-height:1.2;}}.css-1bvxk2j b,.css-1bvxk2j strong{font-family:inherit;font-weight:bold;}.css-1bvxk2j em,.css-1bvxk2j i{font-style:italic;font-family:inherit;}.css-1bvxk2j i,.css-1bvxk2j em{font-style:italic;} Fame is like engaging with a very dangerous substance. If you don’t have a plan, it’s very toxic, like handling uranium.

Striving for harmony has been a recurring theme in Jewel’s life, as has a near-constant oscillation between adversity and almost uncanny good fortune. When she was eight, her mother left the family, and her dad moved Jewel and her two brothers to the homestead in Homer. The stress of single parenthood and his own abusive childhood led her father to self-medicate with alcohol and repeat the cycle of abuse, she says—hence her decision to move out at 15. Around this time, she received a partial scholarship to attend the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan. She raised half of the remaining tuition at a benefit concert, using the skills she’d learned yodeling and performing in hotels and bars with her father as a child. A generous donation from Homer celebrity Tom Bodett (of Motel 6’s “We’ll leave the light on for you” fame) made up the difference.

After graduation, she wandered a bit, eventually landing in San Diego to live with her mom, who was having health issues and could no longer work. They both wound up homeless when a boss refused to pay Jewel after she refused his sexual proposition. Jewel was living in her car and playing coffeehouses when she was discovered at age 19, eventually going on to sell over 30 million albums, with her mom serving as her manager. By 29, as she writes in her 2015 memoir Never Broken , she came to the realization that her wealth had been mismanaged to a degree that she was left millions of dollars in debt.

Jewel says she has since made critical changes to her business operations and is in a much better place. She’s even begun the difficult work of repairing her relationship with her father, who made the decision to get sober in his sixties. “Learning about my dad’s childhood, I could not believe how well he raised us,” she says. Things were so bad for him, she adds, that arriving for his tour of duty in Vietnam “was the first time he felt safe.”

She also has compassion for her mother, but they are, for now, estranged. “I don’t have a relationship with her. I don’t think I ever will. But I know I can heal anyway,” she says. “I don’t need the movie moment where she comes back and apologizes. I still get to live the life that I want to live. My happiness is mine. I think the real abuse is what we do to ourselves when the decisions we make are based on our trauma. The real freedom we give ourselves is being able to make decisions not based on that trauma.”

Which brings us back to The Portal’ s “three spheres,” a philosophy Jewel has developed over the past 20 years working in mental health with two groups she cofounded: the Inspiring Children Foundation, which helps underprivileged youth and families through leadership development and mentorship programs, and Innerworld, a virtual community where members can address mental health challenges anonymously with the help of tools and guides trained in cognitive behavioral immersion.

“Each of us navigate these three spheres every day, often without knowing it,” she explains. “There’s your inner world, the seen sphere—the outer world—and then there’s the unseen world, which is just anything that gives you a sense of awe or wonder. I think mental health is a result of our three spheres being in alignment. So if my job is also my passion, or if I think my partner knows my secret self, or if I find a way to act on my spiritual practice in the real world, I’m much happier.”

Coming from anyone else, this all might sound a little woo-woo, but with Jewel, you can tell she is following the Native elders’ advice and speaking from her heart, as well as from a place of self-sufficiency and resourcefulness honed out of necessity in the wilds of Alaska and on the streets of San Diego. This life directive is on literal display in everything she does, from her triumphant run as the Queen of Hearts on the sixth season of The Masked Singer to her semi-frequent TikToks, in which she shares snippets of life from her rustic home in the Colorado Rockies.


Her generosity feels bottomless. By the end of our two-hour-plus brunch, I have concrete action plans in place for reimagining my writing career and strengthening my seven-year-old’s sense of self-esteem. And at no point does it feel as though she’s feigning an interest in my personal life to deflect questions about her own. She’s an open book, even divulging her thoughts on rumored beau and Yellowstone star Kevin Costner: “He’s a great person,” she says, blushing, adding that “the public fascination is intense for sure.”

“Jewel has a magnetic personality,” says Crystal Bridges executive director and chief diversity and inclusion officer Rod Bigelow. “She just invites you in. She is very cognizant that she has been a high-profile individual for a long time, but she’s a person who just has this overwhelmingly welcoming spirit, and the museum is founded with the idea of welcoming all, so it was a match right away.”

Following her art museum debut, Jewel will co-headline two legs of a tour with Melissa Etheridge (another leg features the Indigo Girls, who’ve been enjoying their own renaissance thanks to a memorable moment on the Barbie soundtrack). The entire shebang should scratch the itch for unadulterated singer-songwriter sublimity sparked by Tracy Chapman’s duet with Luke Combs at the Grammys this past February. “That was a healing moment for the world,” Jewel says of the performance. “People don’t give sincerity enough credit for how powerful it can be.”

She should know, having endured more than her fair share of criticism, whether for earnest lyrics like “In the end, only kindness matters” or her 1998 poetry book, A Night Without Armor . Take, for instance, the book’s featured review on, which includes backhanded compliments like, “Solid by celeb-poet standards, and a fair bit of it is actually sort of readable.” But the thing a lot of people are coming around to realize, it seems, is that Jewel’s not wrong. In the end, many of society’s current ills stem from a lack of kindness.

When I bring up her upcoming tour, Jewel points out that Etheridge was one of the first musicians to give her a break, having invited her to perform in 1995 on her VH1 series Duets . “She was a brand-new, sweet thing,” Etheridge says, pointing out that the appearance aired before Pieces of You , Jewel’s debut album, had taken off. “John Sykes, who was running VH1 at the time, played me some of her music, and I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ It was a great time for women in music.” Despite the undeniable success of Lilith Fair, which pulled in $60 million in ticket sales during its three-year run in the late ’90s, promoters have been reluctant to try something similar in the decades since, Etheridge says. “I’ve been telling people for years it’s okay to put two women on a bill.”

Since having Kase—and especially since her 2014 divorce—Jewel has taken a more strategic approach to her music career. “Realizing I was going to be a single mom at 40, and that the music job is just moving 24/7, I knew I had a big decision to make,” she says. “It reminded me of being 18 and homeless; my whole life got disrupted. Divorce is obviously super painful, and you have to redefine everything. I wanted to make a living, but I wanted to do it authentically. Given my upbringing, I shouldn’t mother well or be a natural parent. So that meant I had to take it very, very seriously. For me, motherhood inspired a whole new level of healing, a new set of behavioral tools, and required creating a different life that had more stability because the music industry is just incredibly unstable. Creating a different income source and building a wellness company was really interesting to me, and creatively and intellectually stimulating.”

Taking a break from touring made perfect sense, but since the beginning of her career, she has prioritized her own happiness and mental health. “I remember the moment [I was discovered],” she says. “All my hair stood up. It felt that scary. Fame is like engaging with a very dangerous substance. If you don’t have a plan, it’s very toxic, like handling uranium. I knew that with my background and my trauma, it would be bad. I’ve seen enough biopics of musicians to know my movie doesn’t end well. So I made a promise to myself that my number one job was to learn to be happy. I never had a need to be known or applauded. I really had a need to express myself and to connect. That’s just how I’m wired. Knowing that really helped me navigate and make what I hope are really good choices.”

She recalls being offered a spot on MTV’s The Real World shortly after getting signed. “My label was like, ‘There’s this new thing called reality TV. You’ll live in a house’—and at this point I’m still in my car—‘and you’ll have roommates and be filmed 24 hours a day.’ They were like, ‘The whole world is going to watch you go from being homeless to making an album.’ I would’ve been famous by the time it was launched, but I just knew it would be bad for me, so I said no.”

She’s less distrustful of social media, drones, even AI. “It’s trained on preexisting things, so it’s always going to be somewhat derivative,” she says, pouring more tea into her cup. “I think what’s interesting is that we didn’t figure out how to program the heart. We’ve figured out how to program the mind. And that’s what my art is about: How do you get into the heart? To me, whether it’s with drones or holograms, technology just helps you find different ways of telling a story.”

To her point, a couple of days after we meet, Jewel posts a TikTok offering $100 to whoever can guess what caused the cut on her index finger. The guesses range from “freak flossing accident” to “Kevin Costner wrangled ya!” but no one offers up “raven bite.” Nearly three decades in, Jewel is still keeping us guessing.

This article appears in the May 2024 issue of ELLE.

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10-year-old shot by crossfire in drive-by: ‘I thought I was dead’

POMPANO BEACH, Fla. (WPLG) - A brave 10-year-old boy from Florida is speaking out after he was shot in the crossfire of a drive-by shooting.

Noah West, 10, was in the wrong place at the wrong time around 6:35 p.m. March 21 when he was shot in a drive-by shooting near Hunters Manor Park in Pompano Beach. He says he was on his way home from a friend’s house at the time.

Initially, the 10-year-old thought he was going to die.

“I thought I was dead, but I looked down at myself and said, ‘I’m still alive,’” he said.

Noah spent two weeks in the hospital recovering from his wounds. He says he no longer feels safe being in the area where he was shot.

“If I never got shot, I’d probably be at this park right now, but I don’t want to be over here because there’s too much stuff going on,” he said.

Noah believes the shooter was acquainted with his brother, but investigators have not made an arrest in the case.

Detectives with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office released surveillance video of the shooting Monday. They are asking for the public’s help to identify and find the shooter and car involved. The car is described as a gray sedan.

Anyone with information can contact BSO Violent Crimes Detective Brittany Armstrong at 954-321-4888 or submit a tip through the SaferWatch app. Those who wish to remain anonymous can contact Broward Crime Stoppers.

Copyright 2024 WPLG via CNN Newsource. All rights reserved.

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