A recent review suggests that scientists are still only beginning to probe the brain states associated with kindness and well-being.
Nearly 20 years ago, the Dalai Lama asked a biologist why the tools of neuroscience couldn't be used to investigate kindness, compassion and well being.
The answer is that neurobiologists rarely choose to investigate these areas. Even though, then as now, they had tools capable of probing the connections.
Most everyday experiences change the brain, often for the better. And it's impossible to learn any new information without changes occurring in the brain.
The Dalai Lama's question made a deep impression on neuroscientist Richard Davidson, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, who went on to found the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds in 2008. He's also co-author of a recently published review article detailing the progress investigators worldwide have made in understanding the factors that help and harm the mind's development.
As Davidson points out, health research has undergone a major shift in the last few decades, focusing less on illness and more on wellness--staying healthy. We now know that people who sit less live longer. And four simple healthy behaviors - staying trim, exercising, eating a balanced diet and not smoking - can cut the risk of major disease by nearly 80 percent. These are some very practical benefits that have come from shifting the focus from sickness to wellness.