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Measuring Well-Being

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The rising popularity of online programs like Lumosity and in-person programs like Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) signal a growing interest in meditation and other forms of mental training. Mirroring this groundswell of popular interest, a growing body of scientific evidence suggests that meditation may impact both psychological and physical health, including our capacity to cope with stress and to regulate attention and emotional reactivity. This cultural paradigm shift calls for impactful well-being training programs that are accessible and based in rigorous science.

Center researchers are developing Healthy Minds to teach scientifically-informed practices and principles that facilitate well-being. In the same way that exercise and diet contribute to physical health, meditation and other forms of mental training can also be beneficial in contributing to mental health and well-being. We know that lasting well-being cannot be achieved by short-term interventions, but rather that enduring changes in the mind must be systematically cultivated and sustained. This can be accomplished by incorporating simple contemplative exercises into one’s daily routine and supporting these practices at home and in the workplace.

The project has brought together experts in the fields of science and contemplative practice to create a comprehensive program that will support individuals in the cultivation of well-being over the course of their lifespan. The training is pragmatic and experiential, integrating scientific insights with secular meditation practices that are easy to learn. These practices teach important skills that underlie the cultivation of well-being, including mindfulness, kindness, compassion and self-inquiry. This core training is supported by online and mobile apps, in-person programs led by senior scientists and meditation experts, and a variety of resources to reinforce the benefits of the training.

Our program is the first of its kind to incorporate rigorous scientific assessments into the very fabric of the training in order to further our understanding of the nature of well-being, how it can be cultivated, and the relationship between well-being and a variety of real-world outcomes.

People Working on This Study

Cortland Dahl
Contemplative Scientist, Center for Healthy Minds & Chief Contemplative Officer, Healthy Minds Innovations
Richard J. Davidson
Founder, Center for Healthy Minds & Healthy Minds Innovations, William James & Vilas Professor of Psychology & Psychiatry
Christy Wilson Mendenhall Bw
Christy Wilson-Mendenhall
Research Assistant Professor, Center for Healthy Minds

Media Related to this Project

Can Mindfulness Really Change Your Brain?
May 24, 2022
Meditation and other mindfulness practices may improve your attention, but they won't lead to structural changes in your brain in the short-term, according to a new study.
Mindfulness Doesn’t Change Our Brains in Ways Once Thought
May 20, 2022
New research suggests that eight weeks of MBSR does not change brain structure, as some previous studies have.
Eight Weeks of Meditation Doesn’t Change the Brain, Study Finds
May 20, 2022
Study finds that, contrary to what other research has found, a popular meditation course does not appear to alter brain structure.
In pursuit of mindfulness
Apr 28, 2021
Center Founder and Director Richard Davidson identifies four societal threats to that “flourishing” that can negatively impact our lives and thinking and four skills that can be developed to promote well-being and resilience.
Can Happiness Be Taught?
Jan 21, 2021
Center Founder and Director Richard Davidson talks about neuroplasticity and the four skills that can be learned to improve well-being
The 4 Steps That Will Increase Happiness, According To A New Study
Dec 30, 2020
The four pillars of well-being based on the Center's research: awareness, connection, insight and purpose, are shared along with practical tips for cultivating mental wellness on a daily basis
Former Badger Football Star Chris Borland Returns to Campus to Talk Meditation
Feb 21, 2019
Former Badger football star Chris Borland joined Chad McGehee at University of Wisconsin-Madison to talk football and meditation

Related Publications

Dahl, C. J., Wilson-Mendenhall, C. D., & Davidson, R. J. (2020). The plasticity of well-being: A training-based framework for the cultivation of human flourishing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(51), 32197-32206. doi:10.1073/pnas.2014859117 PMCID: PMC7768706
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