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Positive Psychology aims to explore the positive aspects of being human-- happiness, well-being, compassion, awe, kindness, love, civility-- and it uses some languaging, like savoring, elevation, broaden and build, eudaemonia.
This is exciting work. There have been trillions spent on the negative aspects of being human, hate, war, anger, greed-- so it's good that now there is a rapidly growing field that seeks to understand the psychology, neurobiology and underpinnings of what is good about people.
There are games being created based on the research, theories of what make good movies based on it, school programs built from the ground up with positive psychology principles.
Research shows that when people learn the skills that positive psychology has identified as worth learning, people feel better, are healthier and may even live longer-- and certainly happier lives. They show more compassion, take action and help others. One researcher, Robert Vallerand, explored the idea of passion-- proposing that there are two kinds-- obsessive, which can be unhealthy, and harmonious passion, which can actually enhance well-being and health.
Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at University of Wisconsin, Madison, has been doing and directing research inspired by his relationship with the Dalai Lama.
He's studied Tibetan Buddhist monks who have engaged in at least 10,000 hours, and an average of 34,000 hours of Loving Kindness meditation. He and his team have identified the parts of the brain that light up when the monks achieve higher states of consciousness. The goal of the mediation is to generate a state in which love and compassion permeate the whole mind.
Davidson concludes, "Compassion, kindness, mindfulness, and other related characteristics are best viewed as products of trainable skills. Mental training to enhance these skills changes the brain and body.
After his lecture, I asked Davidson, who I first met in 1979, about an interest of mine, the heartwarming experience-- when you have glow or warm feeling in your heart. That phenomenon was what set off my interest in positive psychology 30 years ago. He speculated that these monks who spend tens of thousands of hours practicing loving kindness meditation may be in an almost permanent state like the heartwarming experience.
The exciting thing is, his lab has shown that it doesn't take 10 or 20 or 30,000 hours to learn enough loving kindness meditation skills to make and feel a difference.
There were hundreds of reports, presentation, papers, posters, panels and workshops at the congress. This article gives a tiny sampling.
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