Smiles really might warm your heart (or brain)

Part 1 of 2 about the overlap between social and physical perception. Those heartwarming touches can give us a warm feeling inside, and help us warm up to someone we don’t know well. On the other hand, a cold-hearted person will leave us cold, and if you give people the cold shoulder too often your…

Meditate to increase your gray matter

Most of my previous explorations of how meditation changes the brain have been based on what’s called functional MRI, which look at the activity in the brain in a given scenario: how meditators’ brain activity when they’re resting is different from non-meditators, or how deciding to be altruistic is correlated with more activity in regions like…

Meditation alters your brain’s default settings

One of the more recent discoveries of neuroscience is that when you stare into space, gather wool, daydream, or otherwise let your mind wander, the “default-mode network” of your brain starts to rev up into high gear. This network has quite naturally captured the fancy of meditation researchers: meditation is a practice of being mindfully present,…

No honor among the…happy?

Think back to the last time you were tested on the honor code. Perhaps you found a $5 bill on the office floor, and had the choice of just taking it for yourself or asking those nearby if they had dropped it. Perhaps a cashier gave you too much change. Perhaps a friend asked you…

The best years of our lives

Contrary to what many of my students are being told, these are probably not the best years of their lives – or at least, not the happiest. In fact, the people who are telling them this – parents and grandparents, one would suspect – are probably much happier now than they were when they were…

The Mechanics of Mindful Improvements

Every now and then, just when I start to get comfortable thinking I understand how something works, some new evidence or theory is presented that makes me call into question the things that I thought I knew. After years of following the latest developments in contemplative science, I thought I had a handle on how…