emotions

Buddhists really are happier, study shows

Scientists say they have evidence to show that Buddhists really are happier and calmer than other people.

Tests carried out in the United States reveal that areas of their brain associated with good mood and positive feelings are more active.

The findings come as another study suggests that Buddhist meditation can help to calm people.

Researchers at University of California San Francisco Medical Centre have found the practise can tame the amygdala, an area of the brain which is the hub of fear memory.

There is something about conscientious Buddhist practice that results in the kind of happiness we all seek

They found that experienced Buddhists, who meditate regularly, were less likely to be shocked, flustered, surprised or as angry compared to other people.

Paul Ekman, who carried out the study, said: “The most reasonable hypothesis is that there is something about conscientious Buddhist practice that results in the kind of happiness we all seek.”

BBC: Read more

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Finding happiness: cajole your brain to lean to the left

NY Times article by Daniel Goleman (author of Emotional Intelligence) on scientific explanations of how meditation acts as an antidote to stress:

All too many years ago, while I was still a psychology graduate student, I ran an experiment to assess how well meditation might work as an antidote to stress. My professors were skeptical, my measures were weak, and my subjects were mainly college sophomores. Not surprisingly, my results were inconclusive.

But today I feel vindicated.

To be sure, over the years there have been scores of studies that have looked at meditation, some suggesting its powers to alleviate the adverse effects of stress. But only last month did what I see as a definitive study confirm my once-shaky hypothesis, by revealing the brain mechanism that may account for meditation’s singular ability to soothe.

The data has emerged as one of many experimental fruits of an unlikely research collaboration: the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan religious and political leader in exile, and some of top psychologists and neuroscientists from the United States. The scientists met with the Dalai Lama for five days in Dharamsala, India, in March 2000, to discuss how people might better control their destructive emotions.

One of my personal heroes in this rapprochement between modern science and ancient wisdom is Dr. Richard Davidson, director of the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Davidson, in recent research using functional M.R.I. and advanced EEG analysis, has identified an index for the brain’s set point for moods.

The functional M.R.I. images reveal that when people are emotionally distressed — anxious, angry, depressed — the most active sites in the brain are circuitry converging on the amygdala, part of the brain’s emotional centers, and the right prefrontal cortex, a brain region important for the hypervigilance typical of people under stress.

By contrast, when people are in positive moods — upbeat, enthusiastic and energized — those sites are quiet, with the heightened activity in the left prefrontal cortex.

NY Times: Read the rest of this article…

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