How To Remember Things, Redux

Photo: quapan

I once came up with a metaphor I thought perfectly captured the sheer mass of material my classmates and I were expected to memorize in our first two years of medical school: it was like being asked to enter a grocery store and memorize the names of every product in the store, […]

An Alternative to Willpower for Losing Weight

Photo: flossyflotsam

A common belief, even among doctors, is that almost no one succeeds in losing weight in the long term. And for almost two decades, I’ve counted myself among the skeptics, being able to tally on the fingers of one hand the number of my patients who’ve managed to do it—literally less than […]

Magical Thinking, Redux

Photo: Bohman

One of my patients suffers from chronic constipation due to irritable bowel syndrome. During the twenty years since she was first diagnosed, her symptom pattern has remained remarkably consistent: she has perhaps 1-2 bowel movements per week, occasionally accompanied by some mild cramping. Even she admits the symptoms are more a bother […]

How To Become Mindful

Photo: Tim Sheerman-Chase

Research shows numerous benefits to meditation: it reduces stress, increases positive emotion, and even treats acute pain. Commonly, meditation involves focusing on one’s breathing as a way to anchor one’s attention in the present moment. Practitioners are also frequently taught to separate their experiences (breathing, pain, thoughts) from their judgments about […]

What Compassion Is, Redux

Photo: pedrosimoes7

Several years ago, I was out walking my son in his stroller (he was somewhere around six months old) when a homeless woman approached me asking for money. I’d seen her before in the neighborhood many times, including behind our condominium using drugs. So I turned down her request and continued walking […]