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Meditation and emotional mindfulness reduces depression

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A new study reports that teachers who underwent a short, intensive program of meditation were less depressed, anxious or stressed. They were also more compassionate and aware of others’ feelings.

For millions of people around the world meditation alleviates psychological problems, improves self-awareness and helps the mind to focus. Meditation is linked to positive changes for blood pressure, metabolism and pain control. This study was meant to look at emotional changes in particular which may occur after meditation.

“The findings suggest that increased awareness of mental processes can influence emotional behavior,” said lead author Margaret Kemeny, PhD, director of the Health Psychology Program in UCSF’s Department of Psychiatry. “The study is particularly important because opportunities for reflection and contemplation seem to be fading in our fast-paced, technology-driven culture.”

Teachers were chosen for the study because of their high stress jobs and the immediate feedback that could be obtained from their classroom experience. ”We wanted to test whether the intervention affected both personal well-being as well as behavior that would affect the well-being of their intimate partners,” said Kemeny.

The idea for the meditation program came from the Dalai Lama who suggested that the secular world might benefit from meditative practice. Paul Ekman, UCSF emeritus professor and expert on emotions, combined the practice with techniques learned from the scientific study of emotion. Three components emerged: concentration, mindfulness and directive practices promoting empathy.

Scientists were able to track changes in facial expressions to see how the meditation affected their interaction with others. Depressive symptoms dropped by more than half and at a follow up assessment the positive changes remained.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, University of California – San Francisco

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