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Mental Training for Gratitude and Altruism

Bran­don Keim writes a nice post on The Future Sci­ence of Altru­ism at Wired Sci­ence Blog, based on an inter­view with Jor­dan Graf­man, chief of cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science at the National Insti­tute of Neu­ro­log­i­cal Dis­or­ders and Stroke.

Bran­don pro­vides good con­text say­ing that “Sci­en­tists, said Graf­man, are under­stand­ing how our brains are shaped by cul­ture and envi­ron­ment, and a mech­a­nism of these changes may involve fluc­tu­a­tion in our genes them­selves, which we’re only begin­ning to under­stand”. (more on this in our post Richard Dawkins and Alfred Nobel: beyond nature and nur­ture).

And gives us some very nice quotes from Dr. Graf­man, including

  • One of the ways we dif­fer­en­ti­ate our­selves from other species is that we have a sense of future. We don’t have to have imme­di­ate grat­i­fi­ca­tion.… But how far can we go into the future? How much of our brain is aimed at doing that? […]”
  • Other great apes have a frontal lobe, fairly well devel­oped, but not nearly as well devel­oped as our own. If you believe in Dar­win and evo­lu­tion, you argue that the area grew, and the neural archi­tec­ture had to change in some way to accom­mo­date the abil­i­ties asso­ci­ated with that behav­ior. There’s no doubt that didn’t occur overnight; prob­a­bly a slow change, and it was one of the last areas of the brain to develop as well. It’s very recent evo­lu­tion­ary devel­op­ment that humans took full advan­tage of. What in the future? What in the brains can change?”
  • The issue becomes — do we teach this? Train peo­ple to do this? Chil­dren tend to be self­ish, and have to be taught to share.”

The UC Berke­ley mag­a­zine Greater Good tries to answer that ques­tion with a series of arti­cles on Grat­i­tude. I espe­cially enjoyed A Les­son in Thanks, described as Psy­chol­o­gist Jef­frey Froh infused middle-school classes with a small dose of grat­i­tude and found that it made stu­dents feel more con­nected to their friends, fam­ily, and their school.”. Quotes:

  • “In our study, we fol­lowed 221 mid­dle school stu­dents for five weeks. We ran­domly assigned 11 class­rooms to one of three con­di­tions: grat­i­tude, has­sles, and a con­trol group. Stu­dents in the grat­i­tude con­di­tion were asked to record up to five things they were grate­ful for since the pre­vi­ous day.”
  • Express­ing grat­i­tude was not only asso­ci­ated with appre­ci­at­ing close rela­tion­ships; it was also related to feel­ing bet­ter about life and school. Indeed, com­pared with stu­dents in the has­sles and con­trol groups, stu­dents who counted bless­ings reported greater sat­is­fac­tion with school both imme­di­ately after the two-week exer­cise and at the three-week follow-up. They made state­ments such as: “I go to a great school,” “I am grate­ful for my edu­ca­tion, and “I am thank­ful for my aca­d­e­mics and for mak­ing the National Junior Honor Society.

Another impor­tant actor is this field of, let’s call it, “moral fit­ness”, is the Mind & Life Insti­tute: you can read some quotes from Adam Engle, one of its founders, fol­low­ing the link, such as

  • From early on it became clear that they needed to engage West­ern neu­ro­sci­en­tists in order to be cred­i­ble and become a real East-West bridge with poten­tial to reach main­stream soci­ety. You can see below a par­tial list of par­tic­i­pants in their most recent meet­ing, 2 weeks ago”
  • They are very happy that Sharon Begley’s book Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain has become a non-fiction Best­seller, since it is based on one of the Mind & Life Dia­logues (more on Books on neu­ro­plas­tic­ity)”

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11 Responses

  1. […] Alvaro Fer­nan­dez presents Men­tal Train­ing for Grat­i­tude and Altru­ism posted at Brain Health Blog. […]

  2. […] Alvaro Fer­nan­dez presents Men­tal Train­ing for Grat­i­tude and Altru­ism posted at Sharp­Brains: Your Win­dow into the Brain Fit­ness Rev­o­lu­tion, say­ing, “on why, and how, we can become more altru­is­tic and more thank­ful for the gifts we receive.” […]

  3. […] Alvaro Fer­nan­dez presents Men­tal Train­ing for Grat­i­tude and Altru­ism posted at Brain Health Blog. […]

  4. […] Alvaro Fer­nan­dez presents Men­tal Train­ing for Grat­i­tude and Altru­ism posted at Sharp­Brains: Your Win­dow into the Brain Fit­ness Rev­o­lu­tion, say­ing, “on why, and how, we can become more altru­is­tic and more thank­ful for the gifts we receive.” […]

  5. […] My entry, found here at Wis­dom of Heal­ing, is a recipe for daily detox­i­fi­ca­tion and yummy, eas­ily uti­lized nutri­tional foods blended into a smoothie. Energy Drinks, Deli­cious and Green! gives you dozens of healthy options to com­bine to your taste or needs. I hope you enjoy these as much as many of my stu­dents have. Alvaro Fer­nan­dez brings to our atten­tion how sci­ence is ‘prov­ing’ what we know in our hearts to be so; grat­i­tude is good for us. Please check out Men­tal Train­ing for Grat­i­tude and Altru­ism, found at Brain Health Blog. […]

  6. […] Alvaro Fer­nan­dez presents Men­tal Train­ing for Grat­i­tude and Altru­ism posted at Brain Health Blog. […]

  7. Mak­ing a prac­tice of express­ing grat­i­tude can be a won­der­ful way to change your life.

  8. Hi Sharp­brains folks!

    I think you’ll really enjoy this book that I’ve started read­ing, Why Good Things Hap­pen to Good Peo­ple.…

    It’s on why grat­i­tude, altru­ism, etc. are actu­ally good for a person.

    Best,
    S.

  9. […] For more infor­ma­tion, you can read this related post, Men­tal Train­ing for Grat­i­tude and Altru­ism, and check many high-quality related arti­cles on Pos­i­tive Psy­chol­ogy News Daily addthis_url = ‘http%3A%2F%2Fwww.sharpbrains.com%2Fblog%2F2007%2F09%2F29%2Fhappiness-and-brain-wellness%2F’; addthis_title = ‘Brain+Wellness%3A+Train+Your+Brain+to+Be+Happier’; addthis_pub = ‘sharp­brains’; Learn More about Brain Fit­ness About Our Sem­i­nars Find the Right Pro­gram Tags: atten­tion, Ben Sha­har, biofeed­back, brain, Brain Fit­ness, emwave, frontal lobes, hap­pier, hap­pi­ness, med­i­ta­tion, Midlife, mind, mind­ful­ness, Neu­ropsy­chol­ogy, neu­ro­science, Pos­i­tive Psy­chol­ogy, Ramon y Cajal, wellness […]

  10. […] Alvaro Fer­nan­dez presents Men­tal Train­ing for Grat­i­tude and Altru­ism posted at Sharp­Brains: Your Win­dow into the Brain Fit­ness Rev­o­lu­tion, say­ing, “on why, and how, we can become more altru­is­tic and thank­ful for the gifts we receive.” […]

  11. […] — Blog post on Men­tal Train­ing for Grat­i­tude and Altruism  […]

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