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Mindful : April 2018
PHOTOGRAPHBYNEGATIVESPACE.CO Research gathered from Greater Good Science Ctr. at UC Berkeley, Ctr. for Healthy Minds at U of Wisconsin–Madison, Ctr. for Mindfulness at UMass Medical School, and American Mindfulness Research Association. Train your mind, grow your brain A nine-month study reveals new details of how daily mental exer- cises can alter your brain. 160 adults each completed three 90-day programs with weekly instruction and daily exercises (including medita- tive practices). One program concentrated on honing mindful awareness; two others emphasized social skills (either compassion and handling difficult emotions, or imagin- ing others’ perspectives). Testing showed participants improved in the targeted skills, and MRI scans revealed cor- responding growth in specific brain areas. Greater mindful awareness enlarged brain regions that underlie attention, while heightened empathy and perspective-taking fostered growth in areas involved in social interactions. The findings are among the first evidence that neural regions supporting social intelligence can be specifically nur tured. A better way to right a wrong? In an Australian study, 192 students who’d recently offended or hurt someone were asked to write about their transgressions, either taking a self-compas- sionate view or describing values that they violated and why those were important. Engaging in compassion brought less self-blame and more self-forgiveness—yet didn’t reduce feelings of defensiveness or encourage attempts at reconciliation. But the more painful work of examining and reaffirming values fostered even greater self-forgiveness, along with decreased defensiveness and more making of amends. Helping teens find purpose A sense of purpose is tied to our sense of identity, which develops in youth. Yet only 1 in 5 high schoolers, and 1 in 3 college students, report feeling they live purposeful lives. The Purpose Challenge, launched this past winter by the Greater Good Science Center, aims to change that. The online toolkit helps high- school seniors explore what a meaningful life can look like. 16 mindful April 2018 what’s new