As someone who has spent decades at the forefront of brain research, Dr. Richard J. Davidson is well acquainted with the organ's amazing power to think and to reason.
But the University of Wisconsin psychologist also knows that this cognitive virtuosity comes with a big downside.
"We are endowed with a massive chunk of real estate in the front of our brain called the prefrontal cortex, which confers enormous power and advantage," Davidson told HuffPost Science in a recent interview, which you can hear in full below. "It allows us to plan for the future and reflect on the past and to regulate our emotions. But it also gets us into trouble."
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What sort of trouble? Davidson was referring, of course, to negative emotional states like depression and anxiety--and to the physical ailments that often accompany these ills.
But Davidson, the author of "The Emotional Life Of Your Brain," is no fatalist--far from it. He's learned from his research--and from decades of personal experience--that meditation can be a powerful tool for curbing our negative emotions and boosting our resilience in the face of life's inevitable setbacks.
Meditation can take several forms. But as Davidson explained, all forms share as a common goal a heightened awareness of our minds and our mental processes.
"We spend very little time interrogating our own minds," he said, adding that meditation gives us the chance to do just that.
According to Davidson, even a couple of weeks of practicing for 30 minutes a day has been shown to bring enhanced mental focus as well as greater empathy and altruism. And evidence supports the notion that practicing altruism is a way of helping ourselves as well as other people.
As Davidson put it, "The evidence is overwhelming that suggests that the most potent ingredient in improving one's own level of happiness and well-being is through generosity to others."
The interview with Davidson was broadcast on Sharon, Connecticut radio station WHDD/Robin Hood Radio.
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