There are always things that are getting worse. For example, over the past year, you probably know someone who has become unemployed or ill or both, and there’s more carbon in the atmosphere inexorably heating up the planet.
But if you don’t recognize what’s improving in your own life, then you feel stagnant, or declining. This breeds what researchers call “learned helplessness” – a dangerously slippery slope: in the original experiments on dogs, whose motivational neural systems are like our own in important ways, it was very easy to train them in helplessness but very, very hard to teach them later that they could actually walk a few steps to escape from painful electric shock.… Read more »
I really admire those few people I know who can honestly say they’ve been meditating for 10 or 20 years, and that they’ve never missed a day. I’ve been meditating for 30 years, but I’ve never been able to attain that kind of regularity. Sure, I’ve had periods of months at a time when I’ve never missed a day, but eventually I get tripped up and start missing days here and there. It doesn’t help that I have two young kids and that my sleep is often interrupted.
In some ways this irregularity might not matter. I’ve made progress. I’m kinder than I used to be. I’ve experienced all kinds of meditative states, including the … Read more »
As the nervous system evolved, your brain developed in three stages:
Since the brain is integrated, avoiding, approaching, and attaching are accomplished by its parts working together. Nonetheless, each of these functions is particularly served and shaped by the region of the brain that first evolved to handle it.
Petting your inner lizard was about how to soothe and calm the most ancient structures of the brain, the ones that manage the first emotion of all: fear. This article continues the series by focusing on how to help the early mammalian parts … Read more »
We evolved to be afraid.
The ancient ancestors that were casual and blithely hopeful, underestimating the risks around them – predators, loss of food, aggression from others of their kind – did not pass on their genes. But the ones that were nervous were very successful – and we are their great-grandchildren, sitting atop the food chain.
Consequently, multiple hair-trigger systems in your brain continually scan for threats. At the least whiff of danger – which these days comes mainly in the form of social hazards like indifference, criticism, rejection, or disrespect – alarm bells start ringing. See a frown across a dinner table, hear a cold tone from a supervisor, get interrupted repeatedly, receive … Read more »
To simplify a complex process, your brain evolved in three stages:
This post is about weaving the sense of being included and loved into the primate cerebral cortex.
In ancient times, membership in a band was critical to survival: exile was a death sentence in the Serengeti. Today, feeling understood, valued, and cherished – whether as a child or an adult, and with regard to another person or to a group – may not be a life and death matter (though studies do show that survival rates for cancer and other major … Read more »
Anndee Hochman (The Inquirer): Richard Davidson has seen people change their minds.
Davidson, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin, has used high-tech imaging tools to peer into the brains of Buddhist monks, electrodes trailing like spaghetti from their scalps, as they practice meditation. And he has seen their brains light up in areas related to empathy, attention, and mind-body interaction.
Davidson’s conclusion: We can train our brains – and our selves – to be more attentive, more compassionate, and even happier. “The key point is that happiness and other positive characteristics are best regarded as skills,” he says. “We can . . . engage in intentional efforts to cultivate positive habits of mind.”
Davidson … Read more »