Altered Traits Summary By Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson

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Altered Traits takes an in-depth look at meditation, studying the effects of its mental wellbeing benefits.

Written by best-selling author Daniel Goleman and psychologist Richard Davidson, this book is a must-have for anyone looking to discover how to utilize the power of meditation to benefit their mental and physical health.

The authors delve into topics such as different types of meditation – including mindfulness and loving-kindness meditations – and explore how it affects various areas in life, from experienced meditators, students to even a yogi.

Not only does the book describe each practice in detail, but it also provides steps on how and when to practice them.

By utilizing the scientific methods that appear throughout Altered Traits, you can begin to understand the true depth of mediation’s capabilities.

Altered Traits

Book Name: Altered Traits (Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body)

Author(s): Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson

Rating: 4.7/5

Reading Time: 21 Minutes

Categories: Mindfulness & Happiness

Author Bio

Daniel Goleman is an accomplished author and Harvard graduate, acclaimed for his famous book on Emotional Intelligence (1995).

He has devoted much of his life to studying human behavior, with a particular fascination in meditation.

This interest was sparked by a two-year trip to India while he was a student.

By combining his background in psychology and knowledge of meditation, Goleman wrote Altered Traits - delving deep into the potential transformative power of meditation when it comes to developing long lasting changes in anyone's life.

One of his key messages is that it takes consistent discipline to achieve significant transformations and results.

Unlocking the Science Behind Meditation: How It Can Help You Become a Better Version of Yourself


In the book “Altered Traits,” you’ll learn how meditation can help you become a better person.

This isn’t just speculation – it’s backed up by scientific evidence and studies conducted by the authors themselves.

When you understand meditation scientifically, it can be seen as much more than just a passing fad!

Whether you’re new to meditating or have been meditating for years, this book will prove invaluable in helping to develop positive attributes so you can improve yourself.

It will provide an in-depth look at which parts of the brain are affected by meditative practices and how to use that knowledge for your own benefit.

You’ll discover the drawbacks of multitasking, what happens when our minds wander, and how it all relates to emotion processing.

In short, if you want to become a better person through meditation, this is your go-to guide!

Understanding the Benefits of Focusing and Non-Reactivity in Meditation

Goleman and his colleague, Anagarika Munindra, discovered two primary types of meditation in their study of the fifth-century Visuddhimagga text.

The first type is focused on a single thing – such as your breathing – and requires practicing mindfulness to develop your concentration.

You may find that at the start, it’s difficult to concentrate on one thing as your mind wanders between thoughts.

With practice, though, you will find yourself calmer and more present in your breath.

The other type requires you to not react to thoughts that enter your mind.

This comes from Gautama Buddha’s teachings in the sixth century BC whereby you need to let go of each thought without indulging it or becoming consumed by it.

This develops equanimity which means that all kinds of thoughts pass through without having an effect on your innermost self.

Both types of meditation are equally respected so be sure to consider what would benefit you most before trying either one out!

The Benefits of Meditation in Lowering Social Stress and Reactions to Emotional Cues

Social Stress

It is scientifically proven that meditation can reduce reactions to emotional cues and stress triggers.

This has been demonstrated by numerous studies, in particular the 2012 experiment by researchers Paul Ekman and Alan Wallace where it was shown that teachers’ blood pressure returned to normal quicker if they’d practiced meditation – even five months after the meditation training.

Furthermore, a 2017 experiment conducted by Davidson utilizing experienced meditators used a scanner to observe the brain activity of participants as they looked at images of injured and suffering people.

The results showed that meditators had less reactive amygdalas (the part of the brain used in emotional processing) than non-meditators due to their stronger connection between the amygdala and prefrontal cortex (which plays a role in managing emotion).

In conclusion, meditation is an effective tool for reducing reactions to emotionally charged scenarios and stress triggers.

Meditation Can Help Improve Your Concentration and Replace Inefficient Multitasking

Multitasking can be part of everyday life, but it is massively inefficient and mentally draining.

We switch rapidly between tasks, which means that we lose concentration quickly and need more time to regain focus when we go back to our original task.

On top of this, those who repeatedly multitask have difficulty staying focused.

Fortunately there is something we can do to combat multitasking: meditation.

Psychologists Thomas E.

Gorman and C.

Shawn Green conducted a study in 2016 comparing two groups of students – one who browsed the internet for 10 minutes, and one who meditated by counting breaths – to see how their ability to concentrate changed over the test period.

Those who meditated showed significantly improved concentration levels – even among those who habitually multitasked frequently.

This finding was echoed by Michael D.

Mrazek’s 2012 experiment at Santa Barbara University, where he found that if students on pre-graduate school exams meditated for longer, they saw an improvement of up to 30 percent in scores!

It seems clear then that while multitasking exhausts our brains and causes us to become easily distracted, meditation helps us better control our concentration abilities.

How Meditation Can Help Turn Off the Brain’s Default Mode for Increased Happiness


Many of us think that our brains need to fire up when faced with difficult mathematical equations or other arduous tasks, but surprisingly, when we do nothing, certain areas of our brains become activated.

Neuroscientist Marcus Raichle discovered this in 2001, and called this phenomenon the “default mode.”

This default mode network consists of two components – the posterior cingulate cortex and midline of the prefrontal cortex – which prove energy demanding as it uses 20 percent of our body’s metabolic energy even if we sunbathe or read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.

However, this default mode is not very healthy for wellbeing.

It encourages immense distraction in our minds and leads to feelings of unhappiness.

But fortunately, meditation can help turn off this default mode; a study conducted by psychiatrist Judson Brewer displayed that people who meditate regularly have a stronger link between their dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and this inactive state of mind.

With time, meditating can help us to soothe any anxiousness or dissatisfaction built up during default mode – proving why it is incredibly beneficial for mental health!

Meditation Might Give Your Brain a Boost: Evidence Shows It Strengthens Three Brain Areas and Helps Fight Cell Death, But Further Study Is Needed

The effects of meditation on the brain have been explored by studies for years now, and the evidence suggests that it does, in fact, strengthen certain areas.

A 2005 study conducted by Sara Lazar at Harvard Medical School found that parts of the brain grew thicker when practicing meditation.

Since her initial study, many more studies have been done, culminating in a 2014 meta-analysis which suggested that those who meditate showed increased development in their insula, prefrontal cortex and cingulate cortex.

A 2016 study from UCLA even indicated that the brains of those who meditated were younger on average than those of non-meditators!

Ultimately, however, we must take these findings with a grain of salt.

The participants all practiced different types of meditation – some left their minds open to be aware of everything; others taught them to focus on one thing; and still others advised controlling breathing or just letting it come naturally.

It’s hard to determine which elements had an effect on the brain development seen in these studies and much more research is required.

Meditation is an Effective Tool for Treating Depression and Reducing Its Risk


Meditation has been demonstrated to be an effective resource for reducing symptoms and risk of depression.

Studies have found that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is a successful method of alleviating depression, regardless of the cause.

It is able to provide better results than traditional pharmaceutical treatments, reliably helping those who do not respond positively to medication.

In addition, damage caused by early childhood traumas can also be countered with MBCT.

This evidence was pointed out in research done at Oxford University in 2014, showing that MBCT has the same effectiveness as drugs.

Further studies have demonstrated how meditation reinforces the insula in the brain, giving people perspective on life instead of feeling overwhelmed by their emotions or thoughts.

Finally, meditation can be used to reduce the risks associated with pregnancy and postpartum depression – something Sona Dimidjian found out through her 2016 study – and it can also help lower anxiety levels among prison inmates, evident from S.

Nidich’s research carried out in Iowa in 2016.

Through this extensive research evidence combined with other findings, it is clear that meditation plays an important role in helping to soothe and reduce the risk of depression.

The Brain of a Yogi: Studying the Power of Compassion and Empathy Through Neuroscience

When Tibetan monk, Mingyur Rinpoche arrived at Madison Airport in Wisconsin, he was invited to an author’s lab to measure his brain activity while meditating.

What they found was extraordinary: when practicing compassion meditation for just one-minute intervals, Rinpoche’s brainwaves spiked to an unusually high level, not seen since the recording of schizophrenics.

These intense levels of neural activation resulted from Rinpoche’s will and intent alone — remarkable, as this is a power which had never been seen before in such clarity by science.

This study showed that intense meditation can result in astonishingly high levels of compassion — 800 percent higher than when resting!

This showed that compassionate feelings can be achieved through focused concentration, making it possible for us to cultivate and maintain deeper empathy towards others.

The Benefits of Long Term Meditation—More Than Just Stress Reduction

As the famous saying goes, practice makes perfect.

That same principle applies to meditation.

As you meditate, the more beneficial effects you will receive and the more that long-term changes occur in your brain and body.

Research shows that even just a few hours of meditation will bring about positive changes in your body.

For example, 30 hours of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) has been shown to decrease the responsiveness of the amygdala and seven hours of compassion meditation may lead to strengthened areas of the brain related to empathy.

Regularly meditating for an eight-minute period each day can also result in increased concentration levels and improved test scores over time.

But it’s not just beginners who are benefiting from meditation – those who take it seriously, committing themselves to thousands of hours of practice, have significantly improved emotional regulation and decreased levels of stress hormones such as cortisol running through their veins.

Long-term compassion meditation also leads to higher levels of empathy enabling those practitioners to better understand others’ suffering, while their concentration is improving leading them away from self-centeredness.

Wrap Up

The Altered Traits book has an important message – meditation is not just for inner peace, but it does benefit the brain in many ways.

Studies have shown that regular meditation can lead to decreased levels of depression and improved concentration and empathy.

While further research is still needed to back up these claims, there’s no denying that regular practice of mindfulness meditation could bring meaningful changes to your day-to-day life.

If you’re looking to start meditating, you don’t need to set aside large blocks of time each day.

You can dedicate a few minutes each day during your commute, on a snack break or even when doing the groceries – focus on the task at hand and take a few deep breaths in the process.

As long as you make time for it, you’ll be able to develop healthier habits which will ultimately result in greater wellbeing over time.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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