Train Your Brain to be Compassionate…
in 7 Hours Or Less!
A NeuroTip by Mark Waldman
A new study at the University of Wisconsin shows that adults can be quickly trained to be more caring toward others by practicing loving kindness meditation.
Participants spent a half hour each day listening to an audio recording in which they envisioned a time when someone has suffered. As they did so, they repeated a phrase like this: "May you be free from suffering. May you have joy and ease."
Participants then played a money game where people were treated fairly or unfairly. Those who did the compassion training were more likely to give money to people who suffered financial loss. When their brains were scanned, they showed more activity in circuits involving motivation, awareness, and pleasure.
Altruism not only gave these people more satisfaction, they gained more control over their emotions. Compassion can also lower social anxiety and reduce antisocial behavior.
Begin by thinking about a loved one and sending kind thoughts toward them: "May you be happy, may you be well, may you be filled with love and peace."
Then send kind thoughts toward yourself. Next, send kindness to a stranger. Finally, repeat these phrases as you think about a difficult person – someone you have had a conflict with and who deeply hurt your feelings. This step is difficult, but the emotional release can feel fantastic. If you can't send kindness or forgiveness, that's okay. Perhaps it will be easier on another day. Try it again later.