Episode 104 – Dr. Dan Siegel on Stress, Irrational Fears, Mindfulness and more

Daniel Siegel is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, with a strong interest in how social interactions, particularly attachment experiences, can influence the emotions and behavior of developing children. He is a neuropsychiatrist (relating to mental disorders attributable to diseases of the nervous system.) and interpersonal neurobiologist (a field which seeks to understand the mind and mental health, by constructing a “whole picture” view of what is going on).

He has founded and takes part in, a number of bodies that aim to help people learn about, and better cope with, their own minds/brains. He is the founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA. He is also the Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute, an educational body that offers various courses and seminars to teach “mindsight” to individuals, and the benefits this brings. He was also given a wide range of talks and seminars in front of all manner of people, including Pope John Paul II, Google University, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Mindfulness is a popular relaxation technique, used to banish the stresses of our increasingly tiring day to day lives. Practiced globally, it is the art of intentional awareness in the moment; an individual experience practiced in the presence. The importance of mindfulness is illustrated in many intersections of psychology and psychiatry; used as a useful means of establishing a healthy mindset for psychological well-being. In particular, one field where mindfulness is valued and praised as an efficient psychological tool is interpersonal neurobiology; a term coined by Dr. Daniel J. Siegel- a mindfulness expert. Based on many aligning fields of scientific research (yet not constrained by the findings), interpersonal neurobiology is a multidisciplinary subject which aims to critique and understand the mind by piecing together research from various academic disciplines into one perspective. Comparable to a jigsaw puzzle, Siegel’s research draws on many branches of psychology, neurobiology, and psychiatry; creating a rich framework in which to critique and understand the subjective and interpersonal aspects of human reality and experience.

A Harvard medical graduate with a postgraduate degree in medical education at UCLA, Siegel additionally served at the National Institute of Mental Health as a Research Fellow where he studied relationships and family interactions. An expert in how attachment and relationships influence memory, emotions, and behavior, his research integrates psychological theories of interpersonal neurobiology with mindfulness practice. Siegel asserts the importance of mindfulness in the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle; suggesting that if individuals practice it long-term, it induces a unique state of brain activation, benefiting and transforming the mind in the long-run. Specifically, he suggests that the long-term benefits of mindfulness include the reduction of stress, binge-eating and also increased optimism and self-control.

In addition to promoting the importance of mindfulness, Siegel invented the term “mindsight” which describes the human capacity to understand and perceive one’s mind and additionally other individuals’. According to Siegel, the use of mindsight not only enhances our relationships with others, but it also allows us to understand the inner workings of our brains. Specifically, he suggests that practicing mindsight helps us recognize and reflect upon the emotions we are experiencing rather than being overwhelmed by them. For Siegel, mindsight is “larger” than mindfulness, as it not only includes awareness in the moment but also encourages the individual to monitor what is happening, not only to themselves but also to other people around them. According to Siegel, this is beneficial, as there are advantages to not only being mindfully present in the environment but recognizing the importance of relationships has been shown to enhance learning and psychological growth.

Find Dr. Siegel here: www.drdansiegel.com


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