Research at Stanford's Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education shows that formal compassion training increases both mental focus and caring behavior. The practice of compassion meditation may be a powerful antidote to a drifting mind, new Stanford research shows. Compassion meditation focuses on benevolent thoughts toward oneself and others, as the researchers noted. The research article, "A Wandering Mind is a Less Caring Mind," was recently published in the Journal of Positive Psychology. Doty said that mindfulness is extremely useful in today's world with its myriad of distractions, as humans are often overwhelmed and can find it difficult to attend to necessary tasks.
One way to thwart mind-wandering is through practices that enhance "mindfulness," or the state of paying attention in a non-judgmental way to the present moment, the researchers said.
Distinct from other forms of meditation, compassion meditation training involves the recognition of, and wish to relieve, suffering in others and oneself. As the researchers noted, compassion is defined by an awareness of suffering, sympathetic concern and a wish to see the relief of that suffering, and a responsiveness or readiness to help relieve that suffering.
The study examined 51 adults during a compassion meditation program, measuring their various states of mind-wandering (neutral, pleasant, and unpleasant topics) and caring behaviors for themselves and others.
The researchers also gave the participants examples of "kind or caring behaviors" a€“ such as visiting with people at a retirement home, helping a child with homework or in learning something new, and telling a friend, family member or co-worker what they appreciate about that person, for example.
The results indicated that compassion meditation decreased mind-wandering to neutral topics and increased caring behaviors toward oneself.
Moreover, the more that the participants engaged in their compassion meditation practice, the greater their reductions in mind-wandering to unpleasant topics and increases in mind-wandering to pleasant topics, both of which were related to increases in caring behaviors for oneself and others, according to the study. The researchers say the study is the first to provide initial support that formal compassion training can reduce mind-wandering and elicit caring behaviors for oneself and others.
People allow their minds to wander, by choice or accident, because it sometimes produces concrete rewards a€“ such as an intellectual insight or even physical survival.
For example, rereading a line of text three times because our attention has drifted away matters very little if that attention shift has yielded a key insight or a pleasant topic. Doty noted that one of the evolutionary traits in the human species is the ability to monitor potential threats and immediately focus one's attention on that threat. Doty added that mind-wandering can be reflective of this reality as one's attention keeps getting diverted. In the run-up to Christmas we find our to-do lists bloated with added chores: present shopping, card writing, preparing to travel or receive guests. The social transmission of fear, which can cause the development of phobias, can be prevented, according to a new study from Karolinska Institutet. A recent study suggests that who we are might be more integrated with where we are than previously thought. A study using functional-MRI brain scanning reveals certain areas of the brain have higher activity in children who are socially withdrawn or reticent compared to children who are not withdrawn. Compassion Meditation is a meditative practice that builds on basic mindfulness to develop compassion, gratitude and sense of service.
A compassion-based meditation program can significantly improve a person’s ability to read the facial expressions of others, finds a study published by Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. The meditation protocol, known as Cognitively-Based Compassion Training, or CBCT, was developed at Emory by study co-author Lobsang Tenzin Negi, director of the Emory-Tibet Partnership.
The research team also included senior author Charles Raison, formerly a psychiatrist at Emory’s School of Medicine and currently at the University of Arizona, and Emory anthropologist James Rilling. To test empathic accuracy before and following CBCT, all participants received fMRI brain scans while completing a modified version of the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET). Eight out of the 13 participants in the CBCT meditation group improved their RMET scores by an average of 4.6 percent, while the control participants showed no increase, and in the majority of cases, a decrease in correct answers for the RMET.

The meditators, in comparison to those in the control group, also had significant increases in neural activity in areas of the brain important for empathy, including the inferior frontal gyrus and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex. Findings from the current study add to a growing database indicating that the CBCT style of meditation may have physical and emotional effects relevant to health and well-being.
Emory University is known for its demanding academics, outstanding undergraduate experience, highly ranked professional schools and state-of-the-art research facilities. Advertisements Summit Outpatient offers customized treatment programs designed to bring counseling and healing to those struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
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Our solar system's largest moon may be harboring a deep secret -- a subterranean saltwater ocean.
When Google engineer-turned-mindfulness expert Chade-Meng Tan gives a talk in front of a group of Silicon Valley developers and executives, he often starts with a simple exercise.
During one recent talk, he gave the group a homework assignment: Perform the exercise the next day at work, spending 10 seconds each hour randomly choosing two people and silently wishing for them to be happy. It’s not the first time that Tan -- who Wired recently dubbed an "Enlightenment engineer" -- has seen emotional intelligence exercises transform an employee’s work and life. More than 1,000 Google employees have gone through the SIY curriculum, according to Wired, the principles of which are outlined in Tan's New York Times bestseller, “Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path To Achieving Success, Happiness (And World Peace)".
The benefits of emotional intelligence in the workplace are well-documented, from career success to improved relationships to better leadership -- and Tan says getting Silicon Valley interested in a meditation program to train employees in emotional intelligence wasn't difficult. Here are four ways that you can cultivate emotional intelligence -- and revolutionize your work, relationships and happiness. Tan outlines three major steps to developing emotional intelligence: Training attention ("the ability to bring the mind to a state that's calm and clear, and to do it on demand," he explains), self-awareness, and social intelligence.
Tan is convinced that much like improving physical fitness, improving "mental fitness" through meditation and mindfulness practices can improve nearly every aspect of your life, from work to family life to physical health.
Research has confimed that mindfulness contributes to emotional well-being, in addition to improving memory and attention.
Meditation is also the primary vehicle for cultivating compassion: A recent Harvard University study found that individuals who underwent eight weeks of meditation training were significantly more likely to help others in need than those who hadn't gone through the meditation training. Neuroscientists have even seen that meditating on compassion can create an empathetic state in the brain. Tan explains that mindfulness training helps to boost self-compassion first and foremost, which then expands to compassion for others. But the benefits of cultivating compassion go beyond greater kindness towards oneself and others: In addition to improving happiness, compassion can also boost a business's creative output and bottom line, according to Tan -- a sentiment that LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, a leading proponent of compassionate management, would agree with. Mindful awareness of what's going on in the mind and body -- thoughts, feelings, emotions, physical sensations and disease -- is an important step in cultivating inner joy, says Tan. You may not think of inner peace as something that you can develop through creating good habits, but Tan explains that happiness is a habit that you can create through a daily mindfulness practice. The way that inner peace is trained is through regular meditation -- which isn't strictly limited to sitting quietly in lotus position. Being curious is the best way to become more insightful, says Klein, and a lack of insight often comes from being in a passive and disinterested state of mind. It is different in this aspect than most forms of meditation in the sense that participants are "guided" toward compassionate thoughts. Prior research suggests that people spend as much as 50 percent of their waking hours in mind-wandering, often without realizing it.
As such, there is an emphasis on the focus of one's attention on a particular person, object, or situation, rather than engaging in meditation where there is no specific object of meditation. Participants took a secular compassion meditation training program developed at Stanford University that consists of nine two-hour classes with a certified instructor.

At various intervals, participants were asked questions such as "Are you thinking about something other than what you're currently doing?" and 'Have you done anything kind or caring today for" yourself and then again for another? Unlike mind-wandering that drifted to negative or neutral topics, the researchers did not find a decrease in caring behaviors for self or other when the mind wandered to positive topics. This contrasts with mind-wandering that unleashes a flood of anxiety and fear, for example.
In this environment, attention can be elusive and difficult to sustain even when it is attained. The Oceanside VA clinic is offering 8 week classes to find out if this type of meditation can reduce symptoms of PTSD. This boost in empathic accuracy was detected through both behavioural testing of the study participants and through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans of their brain activity. Although derived from ancient Tibetan Buddhist practices, the CBCT program is secular in content and presentation. While CBCT includes these mindfulness elements, the practice focuses more specifically on training people to analyze and reinterpret their relationships with others. Thirteen participants randomized to CBCT meditation completed regular weekly training sessions and at-home practice for eight weeks. The RMET consists of black-and-white photographs that show just the eye region of people making various expressions. These changes in brain activity accounted for changes in the empathic accuracy scores of the participants. For example, previous research at Emory found that practicing CBCT reduced emotional distress and enhanced physical resilience in response to stress in both healthy young adults and in high-risk adolescents in foster care. Emory encompasses nine academic divisions as well as the Carlos Museum, The Carter Center, the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and Emory Healthcare, Georgia’s largest and most comprehensive health care system. The Mindful Word invites you to reprint, copy, distribute, and alter CC-licensed text as long as you provide a clickable link back to The Mindful Word and share-alike.
The following morning, Tan received an email from an employee who attended the workshop that read, “I hate my job. The program focuses on building up the five emotional intelligence domains of self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills, primarily through meditation and mindfulness training, which aims to improve one's focus and attention on the present moment. A 2013 University of Utah study found that individuals with mindful personality traits (such as self-awareness and attentiveness) exhibited more stable emotional patterns and reported feeling more in control of their moods and actions. When Tibetan Buddhist monks were asked to meditate on "unconditional loving-kindness and compassion" in a 2006 study, the researchers measured brain activity in the left prefrontal cortex, which is associated with positive emotions, that was 30 times stronger than the activity among a control group of college students who didn't meditate, Wired reported. A meditation habit can be a quiet daily walk around your block, a yoga practice, or any of these non-om forms of meditation. Eight randomized control subjects did not meditate, but instead completed health discussion classes that covered mind-body subjects like the effects of exercise and stress on well-being. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has spotted signs of a vast ocean lurking beneath the surface of Jupiter's moon Ganymede. Brown University research also found that mindfulness meditation could improve an individual's control over brain processing of pain and emotions.
The researchers theorized that empathy may be something one can cultivated by "exercising" the brain through loving-kindness meditation.
The important thing is that you create a habit by doing it regularly and turn mindfulness into a part of your daily life.

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