amiranatsheh | Research: Dan Siegel
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Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. is a pioneer in the field called interpersonal neurobiology. The student counsellor at VCUQ is the one who told me to look him up, because he has specific studies and theories about what well-being is and how one can achieve it.

There are multiple pages and videos on Dan Siegel’s website about this topic, so I’ll write a little bit about each in this post.
[Links are embedded in each header].


About Interpersonal Neurobiology


  • “Dr. Siegel’s mindsight approach applies the emerging principles of interpersonal neurobiology to promote compassion, kindness, resilience, and well-being in our personal lives, our relationships, and our communities.”
  • “…’integration’ which entails the linkage of different aspects of a system—whether they exist within a single person or a collection of individuals.”
  • “A result of integration is kindness, resilience, and health. Terms for these three forms of integration are a coherent mind, empathic relationships, and an integrated brain.”



  • I find it interesting how Siegel uses compassion, kindness, resilience, and well-being as a group of essential psychological states for mental health. I’m not even sure that is what he meant.
  • The concept of integration is quite vague, so I’m not sure if I entirely agree with him that it is what leads to well-being. Nonetheless, it is a theory that I can use in my projects.



The Hand Model of the Brain


  • “When you know about the parts of the brain, you can learn how to direct your attention in a way that can get certain areas, not only activated, but also just start to work together, and you can change both the function and the structure of your brain by knowing about how the brain is structured.”
  • Siegel invented the hand model for the brain—an easy way of understanding the different components of the “head brain.”
  • He calls the brain in our skull “head brain” because there are neurons around the heart and other organs that are sometimes referred to as the “heart brain” and so on.
  • In the hand model, the wrist is like the spinal chord, the lower inside of the palm is the brain stem, the thumb tucked in the palm is the limbic area, and the four fingers enclosing the thumb are representing the cortex.
  • The brain stem is the part that regulates the body (heart beating, lungs breathing, gut digesting, …etc.), it also includes the area where the “fight, flight, freeze or faint” response is created when we are threatened. The limbic area is the one that works closely with the brain stem and the body to create emotion; it motivates us and is not concerned about the meaning or significance of things. The cortex is the area that makes maps (visuals, sounds, …etc.), the frontal cortex a is the area that makes associations, and the pre-frontal cortex (the front most part) is the one that integrates all the parts together.
  • An emotionally driven outburst would be demonstrated by lifting the four fingers off the thumb and palm—only the limbic area and brain stem functioning, blocking the cortex (logical part of the brain)—and we become disintegrated.



  • This information is important for my research because it is an authoritative source that points out that it is helpful to know the technicalities of how our body works in order to be able to deal with our thoughts and feelings for effectively.
  • It also gave me new information that I can use in my book for project 2.



The Triangle of Well-being / The Neurological Basis of… 


  • The triangle of well-being consists of the Mind, the Brain, and Relationships.
  • “The mind is the process that regulates energy and information flow.”
  • “The brain can be seen as a mechanism by which energy and information flow.”
  • “We’re going to define a relationship as the sharing of energy and information.”
  • “Health is defined as integration.”
  • “Integration is when you link differentiated components together.”
  • “The ancient practices of mindfulness, yoga, …seem to let these nine functions grow.”
  • “The nine functions that the middle pre-frontal area is essential for: regulating your body, attuning to other people, emotional balance, the ability to extinguish fear from learned events, the ability to pause before you act, empathy, insight, morality, and intuition.”



I’m not sure if I agree with these definitions, but it’s great to have a basis to start exploring! This is probably going to be useful in my Well-being and Happiness course in which we’re trying to explain what well-being really means to us.



Brain Insights and Well-being / Why Compassion is Necessary for Humanity


  • Human beings have two fundamental states: the reactive state and the receptive state.
  • Altruism, empathy, kindness, compassion, love, caring, connection — are all receptive states. Reactivity happens when we’re threatened. And the response is fight, flight, freeze or faint.
  • How to thrive and flourish? Attain and maintain receptive states.
  • “What does it mean to have an emotion? … Compassion is feeling with another person. … I feel your pain and I’m able to hold that pain inside of me enough to think about how I’m going to skilfully take action to reduce your suffering… A widened definition of it is to produce flourishing.”
  • Kindness is when you want to help someone flourish.



This definitely explains why words have so much power over our emotions and therefore our well-being. It opens the door to explorations about different teaching and/or motivational methods; threatening vs. nurturing.



The Healthy Mind Platter


This is like a list of all the different activities one should include into their daily routine in order to foster well-being. The same way we have to eat a balanced diet of fruits, grains, protein, fats, …etc., to be physically healthy, we have to do certain things to keep our mind healthy. Dan Siegel wrote these down very clearly on his web page (link in the header of this section). He provides definitions for each of these 7 sections; sleep time, physical time, focus time, time-in, connecting time, play time, down time.

I want to explore this further, not only in terms of my life, but also observe others, or have others observe themselves.


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