Why do scientists tend to focus on the negative, studying depression, anxiety and fear? What would happen if they spent more time looking at the positive, trying to understand what makes someone happy, or kind, or content? What makes a healthy mind?
That is what the Dalai Lama wants to know, and why he summoned researcher Richard Davidson to India eight years ago to ask him those very questions. Davidson, a leading neuroscientist studying the brain and emotions, didn't have an answer.
Davidson and the Dalai Lama have since joined together to enhance the study of happiness, compassion and other positive traits in the opening of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds. The center will be the only one in the world to study meditation right next to brain imaging, determined to investigate their "Change your mind. Change the world" philosophy.
The research team, so far, has studied brain function on Buddhist monks and other meditation masters. They were looking to see why meditation led to happiness, kindness and compassion. The goal is to determine what happens in the brain to make this occur and how to instill the positive effects in the general population, especially schools, prisons and medical centers.
"A healthy mind isn't simply the absence of illness — we can do better than that," Davidson said in the Wisconsin State Journal. "We can promote resilience and happiness and other positive qualities of the mind through enhanced training and mental exercises."
Next fall, they will teach fifth-grade teachers how to develop cognitive relaxation and patience skills in their students, hopefully resulting in better learning and less impulsive behavior. The students will then be followed throughout their middle school years to see if there is a lower incidence of bullying and lashing out in anger.
"This center combines the basic behavioral and neuroscientific research that is necessary to move our field forward with the translational component, which is critical to extend our work beyond the walls of our laboratory," Davidson said in a press release. "By developing and offering interventions for schools, hospitals, prisons and communities, we hope to create real change for society."
Photo by R_x via Flickr.
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