Working with needs and values is a central part of cultivating compassion for ourselves and others. Although everyone has needs and values, and they have such a strong influence on our lives, many people are unaware of what their needs and values are. Once we are more in touch with our needs and values, we can start to use them to guide our behaviour so that we are able to live more fulfilling and meaningful lives.
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Can training our brains help make the world a better place? Tania Singer from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences thinks it can. She’s a social neuroscientist and psychologist who says the brain’s plasticity means it can be trained to make us less selfish and more compassionate.
In this video for the World Economic Forum, Professor Singer explains the ReSource project and the exciting results her 1-year longitudinal study on the impact of mental training involving a combination of mindfulness, perspective-taking, and compassion.
The take home messages? First, we can change our brains, our reactions to stress and relationships with others in very specific ways using mental training techniques. Second, the amount of time we spend training does seem to matter. Third, not all mental trainings are created equal - mindfulness meditation alone has a very different impact on the brain than compassion training or training in perspective taking.
NB - it's interesting to note that the mindfulness training involve two core exercises: breathing and a body scan. It's unclear from this presentation how the instruction for these exercises differs from the exercises used in standard Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy or Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction programs.
Dr James Doty, founder of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University's School of Medicine discusses the origins of the Center and their mission to enhance our scientific understanding of what compassion is and how to cultivate it.
What is compassion and why is it good for you? Emma Seppala discusses what science tells us about where compassion comes from and why it benefits us.