Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Compassion Boosts Resilience

Training compassion ‘muscle’ may boost brain’s resilience to others’ suffering.

Training consisted of practicing compassion meditation or reappraisal using guided audio instructions via the Internet or compact disc for 30 min/day for 2 weeks. Compassion trainees practiced cultivating feelings of compassion for different targets including a loved one, the self, a stranger, and a difficult person (someone with whom they had conflict). For each person, they imagined a time when the person had suffered, brought non-judgmental and balanced attention to reactions to suffering, and then practiced wishing the person relief from suffering. They repeated compassion-generating phrases such as, “May you be free from suffering. May you have joy and happiness.” They were also instructed to pay attention to bodily sensations (particularly around the heart) and to envision a golden light extending from their heart to the heart of the other person.

The reappraisal trainees practiced re-interpreting personally stressful events to decrease negative affect. They practiced the 3 strategies in response to daily stressors such as having an argument with a significant other. Strategies included: (1) thinking about the situation from a different perspective (such as thinking that the argument was helpful in working through conflict), (2) thinking about the situation from a friend or family member’s perspective, and (3) imagining a year had gone by and a positive outcome had occurred. Reappraisal training used common approaches in cognitive-behavioral therapy and was designed by a licensed clinical psychologist.

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