Jan 18, 2013
As our ancestors evolved over millions of years in small bands, continually interacting and working with each other, it was vitally important to communicate in hundreds of ways each day. They shared information about external “carrots” and “sticks,” and about their internal experience (e.g., intentions, sexual interest, inclination toward aggression) through gestures, vocalizations – and facial expressions. Much as we developed uniquely complex language, we also evolved the most expressive face in the entire animal kingdom.
Our faces are exquisitely capable of a vast range of expressions, such as showing fear to send signals of alarm, interest to draw others toward an opportunity, or fondness and kindness to …
Jan 10, 2013
Meditation is to the mind what aerobic exercise is to the body. Like exercise, there are many good ways to do it and you can find the one that suits you best.
Studies have shown that regular meditation promotes mindfulness (sustained observing awareness), whose benefits include decreased stress-related cortisol, insomnia, symptoms of autoimmune illnesses, PMS, asthma, falling back into depression, general emotional distress, anxiety, and panic, and increased immune system factors, control of blood sugar in type 2 diabetes, detachment from reactions, self-understanding, and general well-being.
In your brain, regular meditation increases gray matter (neuronal cell bodies and synapses) in the:
- Insula – Handles interoception (sense of your own body); self-awareness in general; empathy for
Dec 28, 2012
Friendliness is a down-to-earth approach to others that is welcoming and positive.
Think about a time when someone was friendly to you – maybe drawing you into a gathering, saying hello on the sidewalk, or smiling from across the room. How did that make you feel? Probably more included, comfortable, and at ease; safer; more open and warm-hearted.
When you are friendly to others, you offer them these same benefits. Plus you get rewarded yourself. Being friendly feels confident and happy, with a positive take on other people, moving toward the world instead of backing away from it. And it encourages others to be less guarded or …
Dec 15, 2012
One slice of the pie of life feels relaxed and contented. And then there is that other slice, in which we feel driven and stressed. Trying to get pleasures, avoid pains, pile up accomplishments and recognitions, be loved by more people. Lose more weight, try to fill the hole in the heart. Slake the thirst, satisfy the hunger. Strive, strain, press.
This other slice is the conventional strategy for happiness. We pursue it for four reasons.
- The brain evolved through its reptilian, mammalian, and primate/human stages to meet three needs: avoid harms, approach rewards, and attach to others. In terms of these three needs, animals that were nervous, driven, and
Dec 10, 2012
It’s one thing to stick up for yourself and others. But it’s a different matter to get caught up in wrangles, contentiousness, squabbles — in a word: quarrels.
Similarly, it’s one thing to disagree with someone, even to the point of arguing – but it’s a different matter to get so caught up in your position that you lose sight of the bigger picture, including your relationship with the other person. Then you’re quarreling.
You know you’re quarreling when you find yourself getting irritated, especially with that sticky feeling that you’re just not gonna quit until you’ve won.
Quarrels happen both out in the open, between people, and inside the mind, like when you …
Nov 27, 2012
Take a breath right now, and notice how abundant the air is, full of life-giving oxygen offered freely by trees and other green growing things. You can’t see air, but it’s always available for you.
Love is a lot like the air. It may be hard to see – but it’s in you and all around you.
In the press of life – dealing with hassles in personal relationships and bombarded with news of war and other conflicts – it’s easy to lose sight of love, and feel you can’t place your faith in it. But in fact, to summarize a comment from Ghandi, daily life is saturated with moments of …
Nov 12, 2012
What’s in your own backpack? If you’re like most of us, you’ve got too many items on each day’s To Do list and too much stuff in the closet. Too many entanglements with other people. And too many “shoulds,” worries, guilts, and regrets.
Remember a time when you lightened your load. Maybe a backpacking trip when every needless pound stayed home. Or after you finally left a bad relationship. Or just stopped worrying about something. Or came clean with a friend about something that had been bothering you. How did this feel? Probably pretty …
Nov 05, 2012
Waking up is like the sun rising. At first it’s mostly dark, as glimmers of consciousness begin to light the shadows. Emerging into full wakefulness, the fogs and veils dissolve and the whole plain of your mind comes into view. It’s quiet: a restedness in the body, sleepy still, not yet much internal verbal chatter. There’s an intimacy with yourself, abiding as the core of your be-ing.
During these first few minutes, your mind and brain are very receptive to influence. If, hypothetically, a loud alarm suddenly began clanging, you’d probably feel rattled for hours; on the other hand, if someone you love suddenly began telling you how much he …
Nov 05, 2012
For Sounds True, I’m hosting a free Seven-part video series with extraordinary guests – The Compassionate Brain – that will give you effective ways to change your brain and heart and life. So far over 25,000 people have signed up for this free series, and I hope you will join us – and help spread the word to others.
The series began October 8, 2012, and runs on seven consecutive Monday nights, 8-9 pm Eastern time, through November 19. You can go back and watch the archived videos from previous interviews.
Each week, I’m interviewing a world-class scholar/teacher (in order): Richie Davidson, Dan Siegel, Tara Brach, Dachar …
Oct 31, 2012
I did my Ph.D. dissertation by videotaping 20 mother-toddler pairs and analyzing what happened when the mom offered an alternative to a problematic want (“not the chainsaw, sweetie, how about this red truck”). Hundreds of bleary eyed hours later, I found that offering alternatives reduced child negative emotion and increased cooperation with the parent.
Pretty interesting (at least to me, both as a new parent and as someone desperate to finish grad school). And there’s an even deeper lesson. Kids – and adults, too – obviously want to get what they want from others. But more fundamentally, we want to know that others understand our wants – and even more fundamentally, that …