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However, true experiments are difficult to perform on this issue because you can't force a random sample of people to smoke or stop smoking. As a consequence, researchers had to analyze the incidence of illness in smokers and nonsmokers. But any observed differences in one study could have been the result of some confounding variable. The smokers examined in one study might have been experiencing more stress, and it actually could have been the stress causing their health issues and not smoking. To eliminate this and other possible explanations, a number of studies needed to be conducted to ensure that other competing explanations, such as stress, diet, exercise, age, and gender, were ruled out. As more studies were conducted, the preponderance of the evidence pointed to smoking causing lung cancer and a host of other serious illnesses, so we can have a good deal of confidence in the belief that smoking causes ill effects. There are many styles of meditation. Every major religious tradition has some sort of procedure that they call meditation, and the word is often very loosely used. Please understand that this volume deals exclusively with the vipassana style of meditation, as taught and practiced in South and Southeast Asian Buddhism. Vipassana is a Pali-language term often translated as "insight" meditation, since the purpose of this system is to give the meditator insight into the nature of reality and accurate understanding of how everything works. Buddhism as a whole is quite different from the theological religions with which Westerners are most familiar. It is a direct entrance to a spiritual or divine realm, without assistance from deities or other "agents." Its flavor is intensely clinical, much more akin to what we might call psychology than to what we would usually call religion. Buddhist practice is an ongoing investigation of reality, a microscopic examination of the very process of perception. Its intention is to pick apart the screen of lies and delusions through which we normally view the world, and thus to reveal the face of ultimate reality. Vipassana meditation is an ancient and elegant technique for doing just that. Theravada (pronounced "terra vada") Buddhism presents us with an effective system for exploring the deeper levels of the mind, down to the very root of consciousness itself. It also offers a considerable system of reverence and rituals, in which those techniques are contained. This beautiful tradition is the natural result of its 2,500-year development within the highly traditional cultures of South and Southeast Asia. A pill might be helpful for a person, but a pill is not enough for either of these precepts to be fully realized. The body requires action, as does the mind, in the same way a pilot is only as good as the airplane he or she is managing.

Depression is a worn-out word these days. Sports fans are "depressed" after their teams lose. Most news reporting is criticized for being "depressing." The blogosphere and social media sites are clogged with every viewpoint under the sun as to the causes and cures of depression. As happens with most overused words, the real meaning of this one is fast becoming vague and abstract to many people. But not to the millions of Americans who suffer from its all-too-real effects every year. I know how it feels to wake up in the morning and wonder where I'll find the energy to take my next breath. I have looked out at the once-vibrant world and seen only shades of gray, dull and flattened. I have felt the desperate and terrifying impulse to run away from my life, as fast and as far as my legs would carry me. If you recognize these feelings in yourself because you've experienced them too, you needn't worry that the book in your hands is just another list of smug or simplistic "solutions" or half-baked theories that don't bear much resemblance to your own experience. If you suffer from depression, you know very well that the answers you seek aren't easy or simple--or you would have found them already. You know better than anyone that you face an entrenched enemy, devious and determined and able to attack from many angles and in many forms. None of us is truly stuck in that dark place with no hope of return. I wrote this book because I'm excited to help you see this for yourself. I want to share with you the single most important thing I've ever learned about depression--priceless knowledge gained in the trenches of personal struggle. It is simply this: Depression does not need to be a life sentence. You can heal. How can I be so sure? Because recent findings in the study of depression have yielded new and effective treatments. Because I've witnessed healing happen in case after case of treatment-resistant depression at my clinic. And because I've experienced healing in my own life too.

A price pact is a type of precommitment that involves putting money on the line to encourage us to do what we say we will. Stick to your intended behavior, and you keep the cash; but get distracted, and you forfeit the funds. It sounds harsh, but the results are stunning. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine illustrated the power of price pacts by examining three groups of smokers who were trying to quit their unhealthy habit. In the study, a control group was offered educational information and traditional methods, such as free nicotine patches, to encourage smoking cessation. After six months, 6 percent of people in the control group had stopped smoking. The next group, called the "reward group," was offered $800 if they had stopped smoking after six months--17 percent of them were successful. However, the third group of participants provided the most interesting results. In this group, called the "deposit group," participants were required to make a precommitment deposit of $150 of their own money with a pledge to be smoke-free after six months. If, and only if, they reached their goal, they would receive the $150 deposit back. In addition to recouping their cash, successful deposit-group participants would also receive a $650 bonus prize (as opposed to the $800 offered to the "reward" participants) from their employer. The results? Of those who accepted the deposit challenge, an astounding 52 percent succeeded in meeting their goal! One would imagine that a greater reward ought to lead to greater motivation to succeed, so why would winning the $800 reward be less effective than winning the $650 reward, plus $150 deposit? Perhaps participants in the deposit group were more motivated to quit smoking in the first place? To combat this potential bias, the study's authors only used data from smokers willing to be in either test group. Explaining the results, one of the study's authors wrote that "people are typically more motivated to avoid losses than to seek gains." Losing hurts more than winning feels good. This irrational tendency, known as "loss aversion," is a cornerstone of behavioral economics. When starting out on a journey of self-improvement, it can be difficult to see what the end result will be. It's easy to become bogged down in the 'what ifs' a situation brings to mind, and this is where visualisation can help.

Sitting in a comfortable chair, in a relaxed position, close your eyes and begin to focus on your breathing. There is no need to breathe more slowly - just pay attention to your natural breathing patterns. Next, start to build a picture in your head of how a more confident 'you' would look and act. Where are you? Who is with you? Notice the details and enjoy the feeling of confidence growing from within. While you are working on building your confidence, take this image with you and use it as motivation to become this new, more confident, version of yourself. An important question to ask yourself is this: where do you feel most and least confident? This is not just a question of location - although for some people, certain places can affect how they feel emotionally. It's more about the areas of your life where you feel most or least at ease when it comes to confidence. Someone may, for instance, feel assured in their professional life, but lack confidence when it comes to personal relationships. Knowing which areas (both physical and emotional) affect your self-belief can help you to build your confidence levels. At first, situations or places that knock your confidence can be avoided if you feel you're already at a low point.We all experience lows and crises in our lives, but how we respond to these situations is up to us. When something 'bad' dents our confidence, we can choose to react negatively, or we can opt to remain calm and look for a solution. Often our first reactions are just habits we've fallen into, so it's important to realise that you always have a choice. When faced with a setback, pause for a moment and consciously decide how you would like to respond. To help you on your journey to greater confidence, write down what you're going through and record when your confidence is at its highest or lowest points. Choose a notebook that reflects your personality; whether it's a simple notepad or an illustrated diary, you are more likely to use something you like the look of. Keep it where you will use it - by the bed, near your favourite spot on the sofa or wherever you will notice it. The act of writing down how you feel, and what your confidence levels are like from day to day, will help you keep track of the events or situations that knock your self-belief.

However, remember to record the high points as well as the lows: the diary will give you something to look back at during darker days to remind you that things will get better. Life can make you feel uncomfortable, but this doesn't have to stop you from achieving your goals. In fact, if you can become comfortable with feeling uncomfortable, you'll have the confidence to handle whatever situation comes your way. Unfortunately, most of us avoid discomfort. We live within small, familiar comfort zones that limit what we do in our lives. When you regularly take risks, however, your comfort zone expands. Even taking small steps towards your goals can expand your horizons and make you feel more positive about life. Remember, feeling uncomfortable can be a good sign - it means that you're moving forwards and exploring unfamiliar territory, and in return you'll be more open to new people, places, experiences and adventures in your life. Goal-setting is the key to success, and therefore to confidence-building. You may want to set small goals at first to help break down bigger tasks into more manageable pieces, or it may be that you have long-term aims that you want to make reality. The most important thing, no matter how big or small the goal, is that it suits your needs, lifestyle and interests. Your goal can be related to any aspect of your life. Do you want to learn to paint? Travel somewhere exotic? Learn a language? Now is the time to start! If you choose to do something because you feel you 'should', or because it is the socially acceptable goal for someone in your current position, the chances are you won't have the motivation to make it all the way. Instead, make sure your aims reflect what you really want; you'll see how much better you work towards them. I've learned how to harness the power of loss aversion in a positive way. A few years ago, I was frustrated at the number of excuses I was making for not exercising regularly.