Decoding the Secrets of Well-Being

Well-being can be an elusive thing. It comes naturally to some, and completely evades others. And trying to determine how people build and process well-being on a neurological level can be difficult, but for Dr. Richard Davidson, it’s just another day at the office.

As the first neuroscientist asked to contribute to the World Happiness Report, and a recent speaker at the World Economic Forum, Dr. Davidson studies how emotions, contemplative practices and positive qualities of mind (think kindness, compassion, empathy) influence our psychological well-being. He’s made startling discoveries on the interconnectivity of our brain, and seeks to understand how humans can achieve greater senses of happiness and well-being. One of the most remarkable discoveries to come out of his distinguished career is related to the neural plasticity of the brain.

Put simply, Dr. Davidson is interested in how we can train our brains to increase our well-being. Through daily activities such as meditation and other interventions, Dr. Davidson has shown that we have an incredible power over our own minds and well-being.

This isn’t a radical notion. But it is one that is underrepresented in neurological studies because the variables that make up well-being are difficult to quantify. Thanks to Dr. Davidson’s work, scientists are able to gain deeper understanding of what we can do to remain happy in our lives. According to his research, mindfulness, social relationship cultivation, and recovery from negative events are areas that we should focus on to cultivate well-being.

The human mind is a complex organ, and we can’t easily quantify how well-being impacts our everyday lives. But we do know that happier people are healthier, more productive members of society—and thanks to the work of Dr. Richard Davidson, we have learned that well-being can be an acquired skill, not unlike learning a musical instrument.