For Richard J. Davidson, the keys to well-being largely coincide with the goals of meditation. This neuroscientist, who greatly influences Zen Buddhism in his research, ensures that learning happiness is possible.
Before we talk about the keys to wellness, let’s remember who Richard J. Davidson is. He holds a doctorate in personality, psychophysiology, and psychopathology from Harvard University. He has studied emotions for many years, primarily from a neural perspective. What characterises him is that he studies the cases of a lifetime and not of a few interviews or experience.
Based on his research and studies, Richard J. Davidson came up with the idea that, through brain neuroplasticity, it is possible to learn happiness and compassion, the same way you learn a language or other knowledge. It, therefore, offers the 4 keys to well-being.
Richard J. Davidson is also a great friend of the Dalai Lama as well as an excellent student of meditation. He invites us to practise meditation daily and to approach it as a discipline that precisely promotes neuroplasticity. The following is a summary of what Davidson understands to be the keys to human well-being.
1. Resilience, One of the Keys to Well-being According to Davidson
Generally speaking, resilience is the ability to recover from adversity and to be strengthened by that experience. For Davidson, such a capability is closely linked to the Buddhist concept of “non-attachment.” This, on many occasions, would assume that the real difficulty lies in resistance to change.
Resilience is one of the keys to well-being. Everyone is exposed to adversity. Therefore, if a person can accept these bad times and follow them, interpreting them as a space for growth, he will be able to come out of the discomfort more quickly.
2. The Positive Outlook
The positive outlook has nothing to do with self-deception. In this case, it is not a question of wishful thinking, which implies denying the existence of the negative, but a conscious choice to place greater importance on the positive in each situation, no matter how unfavourable it is.
According to Richard J. Davidson, people who practice meditation experience a change in their brain circuits that transform the way they see reality. Davidson conducted a study in which he identified differences between the brains of those who meditated and those who did not. After studying the results, he concluded that his hypothesis was correct.
Indeed, he claims that half an hour a day, for two weeks, is enough to reap the benefits of a change in perspective.
In general, an abstract effort to develop a positive outlook usually has concise effects over time and therefore would not have much of an influence on our mood. However, in those who meditate, the results are more lasting, having a permanent weight on our emotional state.
Another study by Richard J. Davidson found that the average person ignores 47% of the things they do every day.
One of the triggers for this disorientation is multitasking or shared attention work. It’s about multitasking without dedicating yourself to any of them. In these cases, the mind becomes wandering, as if it were going from one idea to another without a defined pattern.
Davidson has found that those who work their minds in this way are more likely to feel dissatisfied and unhappy. This is why he emphasises that one of the keys to well-being is mindfulness. It could be defined as the mental and physical location exclusively in the present.
The ability to lead the mind into the present is a skill that is also learned through meditation. In general, thinking with a focus on the future quickly leads to anxiety, while thinking about the past leads to depression. Living in the present is thus less painful emotionally.
4. According to Davidson, Generosity is One of the Keys to Well-being
According to Richard J. Davidson, the last of the four keys to well-being is compassion or generosity. According to this researcher, donation activates many areas of the brain related to happiness and joy. Think about it; generous people are almost always more at peace with themselves and tend to be calmer and more carefree.
For Davidson, generosity, as well as selfishness, has a boomerang effect. This does not necessarily mean that the one who gives something receives equivalent compensation, but that the simple act of providing amounts to physical and mental well-being. In other words, the one who benefits the most from the gift is precisely the one who gives.
These keys to well-being unearthed by Richard J. Davidson coincide with many theories of psychology and also with Buddhism. If similar conclusions have been drawn in so many ways, surely it is because it is not just an opinion. In reality, these are the axes for building what is called happiness.