Having Clear Intentions Can Boost Your Attention

Amit Sood, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic wants to help the general public benefit from recent esoteric advances in neuroscience.

Amit Sood is a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. He is also an advocate of alternative behavioral therapies, like meditation, as a way to help the general public benefit from recent esoteric advances in neuroscience.

The core of Sood's approach has to do with helping patients create "intentionality," a state in which our minds are able to focus clearly on an important task. Much of our cognitive energy is wasted on flittering from thought to thought, says Sood, so focusing the mind can make us more productive, more resilient, less depressed, and physically healthier.

Rather than reduce brain states such as compassion and pain to complex neuro-chemical transactions, Sood recognizes the advances made by neuroscience and attempts to translate them into behavioral exercises he can recommend to his patients.

"For example, he might tell a patient to take on little tasks like, when they wake up in the morning—instead of ruminating on the day ahead or idling on their phone—thinking about five people in their lives for whom they're grateful."

Having grown up in India, Sood witnessed chronic problems caused by undernutrition. But when he came to the United States, he frequently observed suffering caused by abundance: great material wealth that often substituted for emotional wellbeing. 

In his Big Think interview, respected academic Tal Ben Shahar addressed the criticism often leveled against self-help. He defined what true self-help is and recommended some classics of the genre:

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