Given the enormous influence others have on our actions, how can we manage distraction around those with whom we want to spend uninterrupted quality time? How do we change our tendencies toward distraction when those around us haven't changed theirs? Essayist and investor Paul Graham writes that societies tend to develop "social antibodies"--defenses against new harmful behaviors. Consider that in 1965, according to the Centers for Disease Control, 42.4 percent of adult Americans smoked, a number that is expected to fall to just 12 percent by 2020. Of course, legal restrictions played an important role in the precipitous decline in smoking rates. However, laws do not prevent people from smoking in their own homes, and yet that custom changed even in the absence of regulation. I remember my parents keeping ashtrays around the house in my childhood, despite being nonsmokers. At the time, people smoked indoors, around children, at the office--wherever they pleased. My mother did her best to discourage the smoking habit by providing an ashtray shaped like a bony skeleton hand, but that not-so-subtle reminder of the consequences of smoking was all she felt comfortable doing. In those days, it was considered strange, if not rude, to ask someone to smoke outside your home. Today, however, things are very different. I've never owned an ashtray. No one has ever asked to smoke in my home; they already know the answer. It scares me to imagine the look on my wife's face if someone were to light up on our living room couch--that person wouldn't be in our house or our circle of friends for long. We make erroneous associations all the time, and those associations can be quite costly, both financially and in terms of our health. Sometimes we see nonexistent associations because we want or expect to see the association. As we saw earlier, our desires and expectations are extremely powerful forces in our perception and evaluation of the world. It turns out, however, that we don't even need a desire or expectation--we can erroneously conclude that two things are related because we just don't analyze the information we see as rigorously as we should. That is, we usually just look for instances when two things happen, and if we find a number of these cases, we quickly conclude they are related. As we saw in table 4, however, we also need to consider the negatives--pay attention to those times when a thing didn't happen.

If we don't, we'll forever see associations that don't exist. Even if we find that two things are empirically associated with one another, we still have to critically evaluate how the statistics demonstrating their association are calculated. Politicians and special interest groups are constantly attempting to convince us that their position on an issue is right, and they often use statistics, like correlations, to support their point of view. We can easily be fooled into believing something that's not true if we don't understand how those statistics are calculated. As Mark Twain said, "There are three kinds of lies--lies, damn lies and statistics." Statistics typically provide us with the best information we can get to make informed decisions, but we have to know how the statistics were calculated and what they really mean. The moral of the story--look closely at the data before you choose to believe. We humans have a great desire to predict things. We want to know if we'll marry the person we just met, if we'll get that new job, if it's going to rain this weekend, or if the stock we just bought will skyrocket. Our desire to know the future permeates many aspects of our personal and professional lives. As we've seen, however, wanting something often biases our beliefs and decisions. It turns out that our strong desire to predict future events has led us to believe that we can predict things that are essentially unpredictable. And we spend considerable time and money trying to predict them. The World Trade Center tragedy on September 11, 2001, was a defining moment in our history. We were shocked, emotionally drained, and outraged. In our search for information about the disaster, many people turned to the Internet. CNN reported that the top three Web topics on September 20 were, in order, Osama bin Laden, Nostradamus, and Afghanistan. Nostradamus was number two! Our history shows that we have always had a desire to predict future events. Written records from five thousand years ago indicate that the ancient world was attempting to foretell the future by using everything from animal entrails to celestial patterns.1 Alexander the Great had his psychics read the insides of slaughtered animals to ascertain future events. This desire still finances a number of activities, from reading tarot cards, palms, tea leaves, and crystal balls, to listening to mediums who supposedly receive messages from the dead or some unseen power.

Many people believe that psychics and astrologers who've been dead for centuries, like the sixteenth-century French astrologer Nostradamus, can predict today's and future events, while others listen to a host of more current foretellers. Major companies have even employed psychics in their personnel hiring decisions, and some police departments have used them in attempting to solve crimes. Also, we feel the expansion and contraction of our lungs, abdomen, and lower abdomen, as the fresh air is pumped in and out of the lungs. The expansion and contraction of the abdomen, lower abdomen, and chest are parts of the universal rhythm. Everything in the universe has the same rhythm of expansion and contraction just like our breath and body. All of them are rising and falling. However, our primary concern is the rising and falling phenomena of the breath and minute parts of our minds and bodies. Along with the inhaling breath, we experience a small degree of calmness. This little degree of calmness turns into tension if we don't breathe out in a few moments. As we breathe out this tension is released. After breathing out, we experience discomfort if we wait too long before having fresh air brought in again. This means that every time our lungs are full we must breathe out and every time our lungs are empty we must breathe in. As we breathe in, we experience a small degree of calmness, and as we breathe out, we experience a small degree of calmness. We desire calmness and relief of tension and do not like the tension and feeling resulting from the lack of breath. We wish that the calmness would stay longer and the tension disappear more quickly than it normally does. But the tension will not go away as fast as we wish nor will the calmness stay as long as we wish. And again we get agitated or irritated, for we desire the calmness to return and stay longer and the tension to go away quickly and not to return again. Here we see how even a small degree of desire for permanence in an impermanent situation causes pain or unhappiness. Since there is no self-entity to control this situation, we will become more disappointed. However, if we watch our breathing without desiring calmness and without resenting the tension arising from breathing in and out, and experience only the impermanence, the unsatisfactoriness, and selflessness of our breath, our mind becomes peaceful and calm.

The mind does not stay all the time with the feeling of breath. It goes to sounds, memories, emotions, perceptions, consciousness, and mental formations as well. When we experience these states, we should forget about the feeling of breath and immediately focus our attention on these states--one at a time, not all of them at one time. As they fade away, we let our mind return to the breath, which is the home base the mind can return to from quick or long journeys to various states of mind and body. We must remember that all these mental journeys are made within the mind itself. Every time the mind returns to the breath, it comes back with a deeper insight into impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and selflessness. The mind becomes more insightful from the impartial and unbiased watching of these occurrences. The mind gains insight into the fact that this body, these feelings, the various states of consciousness and numerous mental formations are to be used only for the purpose of gaining deeper insight into the reality of this bodymind complex. There are some commonsense reasons why stress contributes to depression. When we are stressed, we may be tempted to abandon healthy habits we typically follow. Financial stress, for example, can lead to working long hours, skipping exercise, losing sleep due to worry, or eating fast food in the car on the way home from a late night at the office. When we forfeit proper exercise, sleep, and nutrition, we abandon three of our most powerful defenses against depression . and we lose three potent coping strategies for managing stress. What's more, stress can also prompt us to seek temporary relief in unhealthy habits that create more stress in the long run. Turning to alcohol, comfort food, or overspending might provide temporary relief and distraction, but these things will complicate our lives and add to our stress over time. But there's much more to this dynamic than the idea that stress tempts us to abandon good habits and pursue bad ones. Science tells us that when we experience stress--particularly ongoing, chronic stress like Kelley endured--it triggers processes within our bodies that are conducive to depression, even years after the stress or trauma occurred. Researchers are beginning to identify what these bodily processes are. What they are discovering is not only fascinating but also holds the possibility of alleviating the suffering of many people struggling with depression. After analyzing more than 450 research papers, reviews, and studies on stress and depression, here's what Drs.

Slavich and Irwin say is happening. The body responds to different threats in different ways. For example, when physical injury or infection has occurred, localized inflammation is the body's signal for help. When skin or tissues are damaged, chemicals are released that increase blood flow to the area and also attract white blood cells to fight pathogens. In other words, inflammation is helping your immune system do its job. But prolonged stress--especially stress related to interpersonal loss or rejection--triggers something called adaptive immunity, which not only increases inflammation at the sites of past trauma but also increases systemic inflammation throughout the entire body. And that's where the real problem lies. Chronic, systemic inflammation has been linked to a variety of serious diseases, including "asthma, arthritis, diabetes, obesity, atherosclerosis, certain cancers, and Alzheimer's disease" . and, of course, depression.[1] Professors at Rice University reviewed two hundred studies on depression and found that depression and inflammation are intertwined, feeding off each other: This bidirectional loop, in which depression facilitates inflammatory responses and inflammation promotes depression, has clear health consequences. Heightened inflammation characterizes a number of disorders and systemic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, and psoriasis; each of these also features an elevated risk for depression.[2] Furthermore, depression caused by chronic inflammation is resistant to traditional interventions (although it does respond to yoga, biofeedback, meditation, and exercise). In any capacity of your life, you can become the person you really want to be. You can be popular. You can be surrounded by people who admire you, want the things that you want, and full of love and joy in their life. What makes you truly likeable is that you know how towork it. There are guys and gals out there who love the same things as the people they meet and simply fail to convey it. It has the same effect as ignoring someone you just met - we're going to fix that, so keep reading. They will be interested in what you have to say and want to hear more. They will be put off by your personality or mannerisms and stop paying attention. They will be too busy or simply unsure of you, so will stick around to see what you're all about. In short, they'll have a strong positive, strong negative, or neutral reaction to you.