Have you ever jumped out of your seat, cheering, when your favorite football team scores a touchdown? Or how about sitting at the edge of your seat, watching a horror movie, yelling at the person in the movie not to open the door because the monster awaits them on the other side? If you have experienced either of these - along with yawning when someone around you yawns - then you have experienced the result of mirror neurons.
Our brain is made up of billions of neurons - which are the cells that store and transmit information in our brain. Mirror neurons are actually neurons which "fire-up" whenever we are either engaging in a behavior, or watching someone else engage in that behavior. In essence, it is as if we are engaging in the behavior ourselves when we watch someone else. That's why we get those sensations when watching sports or horror movies.
Mirror neurons were discovered back in the 1990s when Italian scientists were studying the behaviors of monkeys which were hooked up to brainwave monitors. They realized that the same neurons would fire in the monkey's brain whether they grabbed food or watched another monkey grabbing food. This opened up a new door in the world of neuroscience because the findings showed that a great amount of our social interactions are affected by these neurons. This means that when we see someone smiling, it affects our brain in the same way as if we, too, were smiling - even if we are not. It allows us to empathize with others and feel what they are feeling purely by witnessing things going on in the lives of others.
These mirror neurons have the potential for imitation-learning and the simulation of other people's behavior. It is ultimately the beginning of understanding the concept of self-awareness. What this means for each of us is that it is these mirror neurons that have the greatest impact on our culture, civility and the state of human relations on the planet. It causes us to recognize our own individual responsibilities in how we each act and conduct ourselves in society. After all, if we "feel" the very emotions that we see being demonstrated by others as if we are engaged in those things ourselves, then the recipe for world peace begins in our own actions and behaviors.
So, armed with this information, what can we do to improve our lives and the lives of those around us? It's very simple. We need to become aware of our words, deeds and actions and whether or not they are conveying a message of happiness, kindness and love; or one of anger, selfishness and hate. The very things we would like to see in others must first come through us. Everyone wants to be happy and live a peaceful life in pursuit of their dreams. But far too often, our words, behaviors and actions toward others don't necessarily represent those highly sought ideals. In fact, science already has shown that the mere act of smiling has a whole host of positive health benefits. Now, it seems we can share those benefits with others when they see us smile. But it is more than just smiling. It is making the conscious attempt to embody all of the very things in our own lives that we would want to see in others. Mirror neurons make it possible for others to feel the warmth and kindness in their brains purely as a result of watching us demonstrate those qualities. So if we want that better world, it has to start with us.
Originally published on January 14, 2016 by SpeakerMatch Speakers Bureau