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Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  3,189 ratings  ·  377 reviews
Two New York Times-bestselling authors unveil new research showing what meditation can really do for the brain.

In the last twenty years, meditation and mindfulness have gone from being kind of cool to becoming an omnipresent Band-Aid for fixing everything from your weight to your relationship to your achievement level. Unveiling here the kind of cutting-edge research that
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published September 5th 2017 by Avery Publishing Group
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Leland Beaumont
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Two giants of science journalism and neuroscience research, Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson, collaborate to separate fact from folklore about the benefits of mediation in this important, factually intensive, and readable book. Their research has been guided by the idea that: “Some of what you know about meditation may be wrong. But what is true about meditation you may not know.”

Fair warning to hippies and new age practitioners; this is a well-researched book about science.

In 1970 Dan trave
Aug 31, 2019 rated it liked it
I have some mixed feelings about this book. I loved Daniel Goleman's book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, so I thought this one would be equally good. This book about meditation is very informative. But it is not as much about meditation as about research on meditation. Let me explain.

Goleman emphasizes that although there has been a ton of research investigations into the benefits (or non-benefits) of meditation, most scientific studies are frighteningly deficient. Resea
Sep 08, 2017 rated it really liked it

Even though we evolved from Homo erectus more than 1.8 million years ago, our radar system for existential threats is still overactive and keeps sounding false alarms for flight and fight - causing distress to self and others. Look at President Trump: all the power, wealth, beautiful women - but the man is always pissed off. Distresses the whole world.

And look at Dalai Lama. Who would you rather be? This book is about how meditation and compassion have made Dalai Lama's brain different from Dona
Abhiram Moturi
Jan 11, 2018 rated it did not like it
meh. The idea to study the effects of meditation is great. But there is no real takeaway from the book. Lots of meditation styles are mentioned and it is not clear what each one is. each chapter touches one aspect that meditation could affect but they mention a bunch of studies and so it loses clarity.
Jan 31, 2018 rated it liked it
There’s some good information here, about the scientific examination of various types of meditation and the results. Some of their personal adventures doing research are entertaining, and they honestly criticize mistakes they made as young researchers. But while many important scientific principles are spelled out, the authors also continually bring up tiny un-replicated studies with a few dozen participants as if the results are meaningful. Kind of inconsistent. The whole thing was also a littl ...more
Vannessa Anderson
Dec 25, 2017 rated it did not like it
It was a challenge to stay focus because I just wanted to read about what the titled promised without all the filler.
This book was really timely for me, as, against my better judgment, I was getting a bit frustrated with my progress. Good to know there's hard scientific evidence that progress in meditation roughly follows a dose-response curve (i.e. the more you do it, the better you get). It was instructive to know that different types of meditation have different benefits (and effects on the brain) and reassuring to learn that altered traits take a long time to set in, but they DO set in—it just takes time. ...more
Oct 17, 2017 rated it liked it
After taking a course about meditation and science I was interested in reading about more scientific evidence on the usefulness of meditation. This book cites many studies and points out studies that were done without rigorous application of the scientific method whose results may be suspect. Balanced and well written.
Kevan Dale
Feb 10, 2018 rated it liked it
While exceedingly well-researched and well-written, I came away somewhat disappointed.

The topic of meditation and what it does in and to the brain is fascinating (being a long-term meditator), but I'm more interested in understanding the results of the latest research than in the processes being used by researchers to get to the results. The authors spend the bulk of the book describing the techniques and evolution of studying meditation (both in their own careers and of others in the field) in
Jan 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: meditation
Interesting subject matter but the writing is a bit bland.
Bernie Gourley
This book has been sold under the title listed above as well as the less prosaic title, “Altered Traits.” The switch may represent a lack of confidence that the coined term “altered traits” would catch on, and / or a desire to market the book as broadly as possible.

“Altered Traits” is a play on the more well-known term “altered states [of consciousness.]” The idea being that meditation (as well as many other activities from consuming psychoactive drugs to having a shamanistic drum rave) create
Divyansh Gupta
Mar 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
TLDR; Great review of meditation research, but don't expect a 'how-to' type self help book

This book fully delivers on the promise that its title claims; an explanation of the current scientific understanding of meditation. The most satisfying part about the book is that it holds meditation research to the same high bar as the rest of medicine/biology and does a great job at piercing through the hype generated by poorly designed studies. This is to be expected given that one of the authors (Richi
Jul 10, 2018 rated it did not like it
As a neuroscientist and meditator, I had a great pleasure reading about personal and scientific journeys of Dan and Richie as well as the development of contemplative neuroscience whose pioneers they were. They present current scientific understanding and evaluate research on the topic of meditation through the rigorous scientific lense.
Very well written, with personal stories and insights, vast scientific knowledge and expertise, the book is immensely inspiring to plunge into meditation.
R Strange
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the book about meditation for those who want the real talk first, and the folklore, philosophy and grand tour later.

Brainwaves were discovered in the 1920s. Up until then, we have relied on descriptions of language to explain changes in state of the mind. Then a little less than a century ago, we began to see the electrical waves of the brain, and it was inevitable that the slow mapping of this miracle of nature would lead us here, to discussing neuroplasticity, or how one might be able
Moh. Nasiri
Nov 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Epirical look on meditation  and its effect on well being
Craig Werner
Feb 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
The core message of Altered Traits is important: meditation (especially the type known as Mindfulness-Based Stressreduction) can help you, but beware of the hype. Richie Davidson runs the gold standard lab for studying the neuroscience of meditation (at my home institution, the University of Wisconsin-Madison) and he's absolutely rigorous in his approach to the claims made for meditation as a cure for more or less everything. One of the valuable things about Altered Traits is its breakdown of wh ...more
Chandana Watagodakumbura
“Altered Traits – Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body” by Daniel Goleman (Author of the Bestselling Books on Emotional Intelligence/Psychologist) & Richard Davidson (Research Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry/Director and Founder of Centre for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison)

“Science operates within a web of culture-bound assumptions that limit our view of what is possible, most powerfully for the behavioural sciences. Modern psychology had
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the book to read if you are wondering what the current science states on meditation and its effect on the brain. It is also the story of the research around meditation and how it has gradually become more popular among scientist. The book does however attempt to dispel false myths about the wonders of meditation.

I was amazed at how they found out about the default mode network. One would think that the brain is less active when not focusing on a task but this turns out not to be true. T
Vladimir Slaykovsky
Oct 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
All the findings look too good to be 100% true. I wonder if the methodology of studies mentioned in the book was correct
Mar 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Good on the science, with attention to its design and reliability. Note: Science leaves open the question, what traits should you cultivate and why?
George Cove
A necessary overview of the scientific journey that meditation research has taken over the last 50 years. A slightly misleading subtitle "How to change your Brain, Mind and Body" - this book certainly is not a self-help book as that might suggest.
For me, it certainly confirmed that a daily meditation practice reaps benefits particularly over the long term and its reassuring that the science backs up my own anecdotal experience. In this sense, it has strengthened my commitment to the path of medi
Sep 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
A well earned 4 stars. If you're interested in the science and benefits of meditation, and want to know more then this book is a no-brainer. It's quite detailed about what we know, about how meditation works in the brain even up to a neuroscience level, and the history of the meditation science in general. Great reference material full with interesting discoveries, I would say the actual content does outshine the slower parts of the book. If you want to learn how to meditate then this still can ...more
Oct 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: meditation
I give it 4 stars for describing well the authors' investigations into meditation. Also, the structure of the book is great: most chapters end with a section called "In a Nutshell" that summarizes the chapter very well. These summaries, according to the authors, were included so that the reader could skip the chapter if desired. I read some of those summaries in place of their respective chapters and found them to be clear and detailed yet concise.

Now, do NOT read this book if you're expecting t
Mark Monroe
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the most inspiring books I've read!

The book gives a very easy to follow guide through the modern science of meditation. the authors, who are American scientists, established leaders in the field of Neuroscience, and avid mediators, are very relatable all throughout. they also have a close working relationship and with the Dalai Lama. the Dalai lama very much believes in the work of these authors/researchers and their organization, The Mind and Life Institute.

What I love about honest scien
Magnus Lidbom
Faith (belief without proof) is unacceptable to me as a basis for important choices. To truly commit to a lifelong meditation practice I need solid evidence that it is worth my time. Personal experience or scientific evidence. Preferably both. The results of my meditation practice so far provides me with the personal experience of early benefits. This book provides the science showing the amazing benefits that long term practice brings.

These two pioneers in the field of contemplative science hav
Oct 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
An honest meta-review on meditation from two meditation enthusiasts, who happened to be scientists in psychology.

Here are list of many researches on meditation, looking at the impact to the brain and traits, and it is amazing.

I would highly recommend this book to those who:
1. are into science as it feeds so much knowledge on meditation.
2. would like to know more about the vast range of meditation and Mindfulness practices, which is far beyond the mini practices available from apps and blogs and
Manik Patil
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
The authors have presented a meta-analysis of most of the scientific research done till date on meditation and it's impact on physiology as well as psychology.

This work is an attempt to remove any discredit around meditation. The authors have proactively criticized hyperbole claims around benefits of meditation by analyzing them through a critical lens.

For a practitioner of meditation, it offers the reader a very evidence-based journey on why one should continue on the path. However, if you ar
Jillian Doherty
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've studied TM and meditate as often (should always be more often :) as I can, as the results are not only instantaneous, but long lasting.
This well researched, and well written look into the science behind meditation is timely and important.

We as a nation have never been more open to 'alternative medicines' as we've seen the clean and abundant results. I appreciate this title as if outlines it in an understandable way for those interesting in the science, mind/body, or outcome from daily pra
Dec 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Looking for some inspiration to start or maintain a regular meditation practice? Read this book! Now, I want to go on retreat! Maybe not for 3 years, but at least for 3 days.
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Author of Emotional Intelligence and psychologist Daniel Goleman has transformed the way the world educates children, relates to family and friends, and conducts business. The Wall Street Journal ranked him one of the 10 most influential business thinkers.

Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence was on The New York Times best sellers list for a year-and-a-half. Named one of the 25 "Most Influential Busin

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“It’s not the highs along the way that matter. It’s who you become.” 3 likes
“26. Kieran C. R. Fox, “Is Meditation Associated with Altered Brain Structure? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Morphometric Neuroimaging in Meditation Practitioners,” Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 43 (2014): 48–73.” 2 likes
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