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Regulation of the neural circuitry of emotion by compassion meditation: Effects of meditative expertise

The Researchers: A. Lutz, J. Brefczynski-Lewis, T. Johnstone, and R. J. Davidson

Published In: PLoS ONE, Vol. 80 (3): e1897, 2008

Prognosis

Meditating can make you kinder.

Particulars

Think about someone you care for and wish her well. Now send those good vibes to everyone, by wishing them happiness and freedom from suffering. You’ve just tried “loving-kindness-compassion meditation,” aimed at opening your heart to others.

In this study, researchers at the University of Wisconsin examined the effects of loving-kindness meditation by comparing expert meditators (Buddhist monks with over 10,000 hours of training) to novices (volunteers with only one week of training). Using an fMRI, they tracked the brain activity of 16 monks and 16 novices in response to happy and sad human sounds, like laughing and crying.

Monks were better able to detect the emotions they heard, and displayed more activity in the part of the brain that processes empathy.

In other words, regular compassion meditation increases empathy—the ability to recognize, and even feel, others’ emotions—a skill used to connect with other people. If you want to be a kinder, more caring person, meditation may be just the ticket.

Beauty connection

The ability to empathize with others is key for great life satisfaction and fulfilling relationships. Daily loving-kindness-compassion meditation can help you hone that skill. Plus, meditation can lower stress, heart rate and blood pressure. So long, furrowed brows, hypertension and stress-induced aging. Say hello to healthy waistlines, clear skin and better circulation. You can find five minutes a day to reap those benefits, right?

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