Healthy Peace: Mindfulness, attention, goodness—all lead to better learning and longevity of life

Training of mind for well-being is quite possible. Neuro-scientists are now sure that there is a bidirectional communication between mind and body. In other terms, it means healthy mind has a direct bearing on a healthy body. While Indian meditation and yogic sciences may have long advocated this, a confirmation from modern scientific studies paves the way for more understanding and adaptation of training of mind.

Dr Richard Davidson, William James and Vilas Research Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison as well as founder and director of the Center for Healthy Minds who was in India  delivered the Distinguished Lecture on “Well-being is a skill” hosted by UNESCO MGIEP in New Delhi on December 7, where he talked about his own conclusions from experiments on this theory.

Referring to his own journey and research, he said, it was his meeting HH Dalai Lama in 1992 that set him on exploration of a different kind. “He told me that if we attribute negative emotions and behavior to mind, the same must be true for kindness, compassion and goodness. Dalai Lama insisted that I should take Buddhist/Hindu thoughts, practices and tradition, secularize them and give it to the world,” he said. Ever since, Davidson has done a lot of work on it which includes setting up of Centre for Healthy Minds.

During his presentation he discussed neuroplasticity, epigenetics, bidirectional communication between mind and body and innate goodness and showed with some form of evidence how mental practices show affects on brain chemistry and function regulation. He said that some changes like mindfulness have powerful and significant impact on brain and promote physical wellbeing.

Making a significant statement on innate goodness, Prof Davidson said that basically a human brain is biologically made for goodness. If it is nurtured, it is like doing a service to your brain. It will grow and the individual shows more compassion and kindness.

Detailing the attributes further, he said that Awareness, Connection, Insight and Purpose about own self are important to mental wellbeing. Awareness produces attention. Attention is the building block of learning and most people’s mind is wandering for lack of this attention. “Wandering mind is an unhealthy mind.”  Connection of empathy, kindness, healthy sense of self (insight) and purpose together are part of mind training. One needs to believe in oneself and know his sef-worth. Similarly having a strong sense of purpose helps in longevity of life.

He also said that the problem of video gaming and violence makes changes in brain and can be reversed through putting compassion and kindness elements in them. It will also improve prosocial behavior. He also emphasized on increasing human interactions on basis of kindness and empathy will make world more peaceful and happy.