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Home » How Mindfulness Changes the Emotional Life of Our Brains: Richard Davidson (Transcript)

How Mindfulness Changes the Emotional Life of Our Brains: Richard Davidson (Transcript)

Full text of neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson’s talk: How mindfulness changes the emotional life of our brains at TEDxSanFrancisco conference. In this fascinating talk, Richard Davidson discusses how mindfulness can improve well-being and outlines strategies to boost four components of a healthy mind: awareness, connection, insight, and purpose.


Richard J. Davidson – Psychologist & neuroscientist

I’m a psychologist and a neuroscientist by training.

When I first began my career, I began with a question: Why is it that some people are more vulnerable to life’s slings and arrows and others more resilient?

And that question is still central to all the work that we do. And we’re particularly interested in how we can nudge people along this continuum to nourish and nurture the qualities that promote human flourishing.

In the early part of my career, I focused almost exclusively on the negative side of the equation, on adversity, on the brain circuits that were important for understanding why some people are more vulnerable to stress, why others may be more likely to develop a depression or anxiety.

And then something very significant happened in my life.

In 1992, I first met His Holiness the Dalai Lama. And this picture of His Holiness was taken in Madison, Wisconsin, and he’s visited us several times. And he was the chief inspiration in our turning toward the positive.

And in that critical moment, in 1992, he challenged me, and he said, “Why can’t you use the same tools of modern neuroscience to study kindness and to study compassion in addition to studying anxiety and fear and depression and stress?”

And I didn’t have a very good answer for him on that day other than that it’s hard.

But you know, when we first began to study kindness — when we first began to study anxiety and depression, that was hard too, and we’ve made some progress in that area.

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