The Science of Being ‘Okay’ Part II: Dr. Avi Adhikari of UCLA Psychology

The Science of Being ‘Okay’ Part II: Dr. Avi Adhikari of UCLA Psychology
Words by Erwin Davis II

In my first stage of finding the TSOBO, I spoke with Dr. Andrew Elliott of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. I learned the importance of grabbing the reigns on what we can in life, and embracing the choices that are abundant to me—even in the, seemingly, worst scenarios.  

Now, I needed to find out more on his closing statement: mindfulness.  

California is quite a bit different from Chattanooga, Tennessee—the southern city where I lay my head. The cars are faster, the lights are brighter, and the way of living is almost entirely flipped on its head from here in the south. However, one thing remains a constant; people are trying to find themselves. My first stop was  at the University of California, Los Angeles for a conversation with Dr. Avi  Adhikari. 

As a professor at UCLA, Dr. Adhikari has the unique perspective of teaching  behavioral neuroscience to a generation of students more curious about mental  health than any generation before. In our conversation, we discuss the first  principle of effective meditation: being able to calm ‘the f’ down.  

“When we talk about the human brain, we often do it like it’s a computer,” says Dr. Adhikari, “but that’s not true. We can’t just tell it to do something and the result happens. Instead, we need to think about it as a form of government. There are some factions that want one thing, and others that want something completely different. When we are asking ourselves to calm down, some of those factions in our psyche have the potential to conflict—causing even more stress.” 

As you can imagine, I was completely bought into the idea that inside of my head was a miniature John F. Kennedy fighting against a down-sized Francis  N’Guannou about whether or not I should honk at the car in front of me when the light was green. Nevertheless, I quickly regained focus as he continued.  

“It’s important that we try to listen to all parties involved in our own mental jousting to hear the best method of proceeding. In doing this, we slow the mind down to focus on what is being thought. This, in turn, becomes the gateway to meditative thought flow and a state of intentional mindfulness.” 

This makes sense.

Listening to our brains, even in moments of complete  cognitive chaos, offers a moment to step away from the external stress and hear what our ‘factions’ have to offer as solution.  

Dr. Adhikari’s words offered a bit of insight into how to engage with a state  of mindfulness, but it got me thinking about something deeper.  

How do you deal with factions that are unanimously negative? To be put more  recognizably: depression. This gave me cause to reach out to another professor at UCLA—one with some southern ties—and to gather info from a friend back home in the south with experience managing elephants in the room.