Dr. Richard Davidson:
The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live--and How You Can Change Them
On December 2, 2014, Dr. Richard Davidson spoke in Milwaukee at the Congregation Sinai to explain the work he does at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds located at the University of Wisconsin Madison. Dr. Davidson is a world-renowned neuroscientist who wrote the book, "The Emotional Life of Your Brain" and has famously been challenged by the Dalai Lama to scientifically study meditation. He has since been named one of Time magazine's most influential people in the world! Mke MindBody Wellness attended and have this important message to share:
"Why is it that people respond so differently to adversity?"
In 1992, Dr. Davidson was requested by the Dalai Llama to meet. At this meeting, the Dalai Llama asked why if we can study anxiety, depression, and fear can we not study happiness, kindness, and compassion? At this meeting, Dr. Davidson was asked to do serious neurological research of meditation. The study of kindness and compassion could then be able to show the world the science of wellbeing.
The four themes that relate to this research include:
Neuroplasticity: How the brain changes in response to experiences. It has been shown with research that we can intentionally shape the mind. It used to be believed that the brain stops growing- but this is FALSE! Our brains are continuously developing with new cells and it has been shown that stress will impair this brain cell growth!
Epigenetics: The science of how genes are regulated by external exposure (emotions, environment, etc.). The effect of these external factors influences the extent at which genes present. Having genes is not a guarantee that they will express and lifestyle and external exposures are a heavy influence on which genes will present or remain dormant.
Massive bi-directional pathways in the brain: A brain is a fully integrated system and these pathways show how the brain mind and body influence one another. Example: Dr. Davidson took part in a study that tested the efficacy of the flu shot for immunity compared to meditation. After several weeks of meditation, half of the group was given a flu shot and the other was not. At the end of the trial, the group who did not receive the flu shot had higher rates of immunity with continued meditation.
Innate basic goodness: Admittedly not an easy trait to study, but none-the-less an important feature in our human brains. With studies showing infants preferring generous and compassionate behavior to selfishness, our basic emotion from the start is altruism.
The goal of all of this research is to show that it is possible to become more familiar with the fundamental nature of our mind. Wellbeing is a skill that can be improved with practice. The most important thing to remember from all of this is that recognizing awareness takes practice and it is possible to pay better attention to your sense of wellbeing and improve it with meditation and mindfulness practices.
We are grateful to Dr. Davidson for his visit and his dedication to making our world a better place!