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Symposium 2012

Proposal - Mental training as an opportunity to optimize mental health necessary in a caring society

The Challenge

Complex problems, such as climate change or irresponsible deployment of resources, are difficult to resolve without global participation of cooperating partners. To date, these problems have been main ...

Complex problems, such as climate change or irresponsible deployment of resources, are difficult to resolve without global participation of cooperating partners. To date, these problems have been mainly tackled through top-down approaches where governments and international institutions take the role of decision-makers.

Introduce mental training facilities and courses into schools and businesses to optimize not only physical but also mental health necessary for a more caring society.

Since centuries, Western Society recognizes the benefit of maintaining physical health necessary for a productive society and thus big firms, hotels, and schools have introduced sport and fitness facilities within their own buildings around the globe. What has been forgotten is that we have the capacity to also train our mental faculties such as attention, meta-cognition, emotion-regulation faculties, and even prosocial motivation and compassion. Training these mental faculties does not only make us more efficient, as we can better concentrate on tasks, cope better with everyday stress and challenges in a balanced and protective way, but also help gaining a less self-centered and broader view on ourselves and our interdependence with others in society. It can improve compassion and caring motivation necessary to face problems of our global society.

In recent years, the emergence of new fields such as the field of neuro-economics, social neurosciences, and contemplative sciences has helped to create new models informed by biology and psychology suggesting that indeed fairness and other prosocial motivation can be integrated into economic models. Recent plasticity research focusing on short-term and long-term mental training studies accumulated first evidence for the trainability of cognitive as well as socio-affective faculties such as attention, empathy, and compassion in children and adults. More specifically, neuroscience has shown that compassion training not only increased activity in brain networks related to positive affect and affiliation when exposed to distress of others but also reduced stress-relevant hormonal responses, increased immune-markers, and prosocial behavior towards others. Given these promising findings, it is time to translate these into policy suggestions. As plasticity is largest in childhood, it would be recommended to start mental training already early on in schools to assure forming an early and solid basis for secular ethics necessary to work towards a more caring society. As this mental training has also been shown to be efficient later in life, such mental gymnasiums should also be introduced in firms and business as well as in political and research institutions. To conclude with Mahatma Gandhi's words: Be the change you want to see in the world.

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    Mental Training Towards A Thoughtful Economy?

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