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TED Talk Tuesday: Mindfulness and Neural Integration with Dan Seigel

Relationships and Reflection in the Cultivation of Well-being

Dan Siegel is a prolific and highly respected author, speaker, researcher and clinician. In this Ted Talk, “Mindfulness and Neural Integration”, Dr. Siegel explores how schools can combine with technology in promoting self-regulation in children. And, as well, how positive relationships and reflection help to cultivate resilience and well being in our youth.

In an engaging and understandable presentation, Dr. Siegel shares with us what he refers to as “the three R’s” necessary in education:  Reflection, Relationships and Resilience. According to Dr. Siegel, these three R’s are the basis, of social and emotional intelligence: the ability to understand oneself and others and live life with rich engagement and meaning.

Briefly: “Reflection” refers to the ability to name feelings and manage them. He mentions Mr. Rogers as being a proponent of the expression of feelings, especially in children: feelings being mentionable and manageable, contributing to emotional and social well being.

“Relationships” refer to positive and nurturing associations with others that allow the brain to “work well” and that enhance the ability to be kind and compassionate to oneself and to others. Dr. Siegel notes the studies that have been published showing happiness of people rising significantly the more they give to others. He goes on to say that the number one predictor of happiness and wisdom is positive relationships.

A simple “hand model” of the brain demonstrates how “Resilience” is achieved. Dr. Siegel chooses the “head brain” for a simple understanding (as our brain is truly an entire neurological system in all parts of the body). He reviews, in an easy to follow way, the parts of the brain and how they function to create “Resilience”, the third “R”. This is important to teach in schools: how self-regulation depends on the healthy functioning of the brain and how it is different from the mind.

During the talk, a cell phone goes off and Dr. Siegel uses this example to point out how important it is to limit the input of tech devices in our children’s lives. As he states: “It is relationships that stimulate growth and learning.” While technology can assist learning, the strongest contributor is one on one relationships that are nourishing and nurturing.

The “take home” message of this talk is: to reach a high level of neural integration, children (and adults) must be able to reflect on things (mention and manage feelings) and have caring and close relationships with others. When these two criteria are functioning, growth of the integrative fibers of the brain are stimulated and resilience is achieved.

In closing, I will list the 9 functions of a healthy prefrontal cortex as mentioned during the talk by Dr. Siegel. For more examples and information, I urge you to listen to this TED Talk. Our children are our future and our educational system must be up to speed on the current research and knowledge published. As Dr. Siegel says: “There should be no pre-frontal cortex left behind”, referring to the need for schools to educate children on how the brain, particularly the prefrontal cortex, operates and how to contribute to the growth of the brain.

For further information: The nine functions of the prefrontal cortex:

Bodily regulation
Attuned communication
Emotional balance
Response flexibility
Fear modulation
Moral awareness

For even more information, take a look at Dr. Dan Siegel’s book called: Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation

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