Despite the “+” and “=” sign in the title of this post, it really isn’t a mathematical equation, but recent research suggests that Meditation = Nicer You is just as true as 1+1=2.
The fine folks at Northeastern University’s Social Emotions Group have concluded that meditation does indeed boost compassion, something that many practitioners have always considered true, but there hasn’t been much science behind that feeling. Using a control group, two types of “meditative” groups, and a secretly staged waiting room observation (nicely outlined in their succinct and very readable paper), the researchers found that those who meditated were five times more likely to assist a stranger in need than those who did not regularly meditate.
The bonus here is that it didn’t matter (in the study) whether the meditation was guided towards any particular set of teachings on compassion/suffering or not. Simply taking regular time to focus/relax one’s mind appeared to have the same “helping” effect as meditating on compassion and lessening the suffering of others. Theoretically then, any type of activity which allows you to enter a similar meditative state (yoga, visualization, or even some exercise routines for example) should provide similar benefits.
If you’ve been meditating, carry on! If you’ve been thinking about it (meditating on meditation?), here’s one more awesome reason to start. If you’ve always wanted to be a nicer person and your Free Hugs Campaign has resulted in a restraining order or two, maybe this is your sign. And don’t get me wrong – free hugs are awesome. I am just thinking meditation is less likely to get you into the court system.
So there it is – just something to meditate on
Gautama Buddha – Nepal National Heroes Blog
Yoga Dog – dumpaday.com
Free Hug Stormtrooper – favim.com (I feel a little badly – couldn’t find the original “owner” of this particular image. No lawsuits please!)