Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Meditation improves emotional behaviors in teachers

Date:
March 28, 2012
Source:
University of California - San Francisco
Summary:
Schoolteachers who underwent a short but intensive program of meditation were less depressed, anxious or stressed -- and more compassionate and aware of others' feelings. The novel project blended ancient meditation practices with the most current scientific methods for regulating emotions.

Happy effective teacher. Schoolteachers who underwent a short but intensive program of meditation were less depressed, anxious or stressed -- and more compassionate and aware of others' feelings, according to a UCSF-led study that blended ancient meditation practices with the most current scientific methods for regulating emotions.
Credit: iofoto / Fotolia

Schoolteachers who underwent a short but intensive program of meditation were less depressed, anxious or stressed -- and more compassionate and aware of others' feelings, according to a UCSF-led study that blended ancient meditation practices with the most current scientific methods for regulating emotions.

A core feature of many religions, meditation is practiced by tens of millions around the world as part of their spiritual beliefs as well as to alleviate psychological problems, improve self-awareness and to clear the mind. Previous research has linked meditation to positive changes in blood pressure, metabolism and pain, but less is known about the specific emotional changes that result from the practice.

The new study was designed to create new techniques to reduce destructive emotions while improving social and emotional behavior.

The study will be published in the April issue of the journal Emotion.

"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."

Altogether, 82 female schoolteachers between the ages of 25 and 60 participated in the project. Teachers were chosen because their work is stressful and because the meditation skills they learned could be immediately useful to their daily lives, possibly trickling down to benefit their students.

Study Arose After Meeting Dalai Lama

The study arose from a meeting in 2000 between Buddhist scholars, behavioral scientists and emotion experts at the home of the Dalai Lama. There, the Dalai Lama and Paul Ekman, PhD, a UCSF emeritus professor and world expert in emotions, pondered the topic of emotions, leading the Dalai Lama to pose a question: In the modern world, would a secular version of Buddhist contemplation reduce harmful emotions?

From that, Ekman and Buddhist scholar Alan Wallace developed a 42-hour, eight-week training program, integrating secular meditation practices with techniques learned from the scientific study of emotion. It incorporated three categories of meditative practice:

  • Concentration practices involving sustained, focused attention on a specific mental or sensory experience;
  • Mindfulness practices involving the close examination of one's body and feelings;
  • Directive practices designed to promote empathy and compassion toward others.

In the randomized, controlled trial, the schoolteachers learned to better understand the relationship between emotion and cognition, and to better recognize emotions in others and their own emotional patterns so they could better resolve difficult problems in their relationships. All the teachers were new to meditation and all were involved in an intimate relationship.

"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.

As a test, the teachers and their partners underwent a "marital interaction" task measuring minute changes in facial expression while they attempted to resolve a problem in their relationship. In this type of encounter, those who express certain negative facial expressions are more likely to divorce, research has shown.

Some of the teachers' key facial movements during the marital interaction task changed, particularly hostile looks which diminished. In addition, depressed mood levels dropped by more than half. In a follow-up assessment five months later, many of the positive changes remained, the authors said.

"We know much less about longer-term changes that occur as a result of meditation, particularly once the 'glow' of the experience wears off," Kemeny said. "It's important to know what they are because these changes probably play an important role in the longer-term effects of meditation on mental and physical health symptoms and conditions."

The study involved researchers from a number of institutions including UCSF, UC Davis, and Stanford University.

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - San Francisco. The original article was written by Elizabeth Fernandez. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Margaret E. Kemeny, Carol Foltz, James F. Cavanagh, Margaret Cullen, Janine Giese-Davis, Patricia Jennings, Erika L. Rosenberg, Omri Gillath, Phillip R. Shaver, B. Alan Wallace, Paul Ekman. Contemplative/emotion training reduces negative emotional behavior and promotes prosocial responses.. Emotion, 2011; DOI: 10.1037/a0026118

Cite This Page:

University of California - San Francisco. "Meditation improves emotional behaviors in teachers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120328142852.htm>.
University of California - San Francisco. (2012, March 28). Meditation improves emotional behaviors in teachers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120328142852.htm
University of California - San Francisco. "Meditation improves emotional behaviors in teachers." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120328142852.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

AFP (July 24, 2014) A so-called drugs rehab 'clinic' is closed down in Pakistan after police find scores of ‘patients’ chained up alleging serial abuse. Duration 03:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A study by German researchers claims watching TV while you're stressed out can make you feel guilty and like a failure. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

AFP (July 24, 2014) China's elderly population is expanding so quickly that children struggle to look after them, pushing them to do something unexpected in Chinese society- move their parents into a nursing home. Duration: 02:07 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins