The Regulatory and Affective Dynamics lab (RADlab) at the University of Toronto Mississauga was established in 2014 to investigate the complex interactions between emotion and cognition that determine subjective well-being and stress resilience. The RADlab’s mission is to evaluate how individual employ regulatory strategies in the face of stress, with an emphasis on evaluating the central theoretical claims underlying contemplative health promotion techniques such as mindfulness meditation and yoga .
Our research focuses on the relationship between present-moment awareness and well-being. Attending to one’s immediate environment is critical for adaptive behavior, yet modern life is increasingly filled with distraction. While it’s important to think beyond one’s immediate situation to plan for future events, what happens when such cognitive habits come at the expense of responding adaptively to challenges in the present? How can attention be retrained to help people to better care for themselves?
A major theme of our research has been to look at attention training in present moment awareness. In much of this work, we have used mindfulness meditation training interventions to look at how intensive practice in attending to momentary sensations alters one's sense of self and well-being.
A central mechanism of mindfulness training appears to be the use of momentary bodily sensation as an anchor to focus attention on the present. Through the investigation of the neural and behavioral correlates of this training, I have begun to develop a neuroscientific model of embodiment: how we come to know ourselves and the world through our physical bodies.
Developing interoceptive attention, an awareness of changing body sensation, may be especially important when responding to problems that are created or perpetuated through negative thinking. In depression, rumination over one's situation can serve to reinforce depressed mood; turning to the present moment through an anchor such as the body can be a powerful technique for disengaging from rumination and disrupting the cycle of self-criticism.