Tag Archives: mood

Compassion Training Surpasses Empathy Training to Reduce Stress

Susanne Leiberg

Susanne Leiberg

Compassion training has positive effects on mood and health, and University of Zurich’s Susanne Leiberg, Olga Klimecki, Tania Singer demonstrated that it can actually change the brain’s functioning, and related emotions and behaviors.

Olga Klimecki

Olga Klimecki

Klimecki, Leiberg, Singer, now at Max Planck Institute collaborated with Claus Lamm of University of Vienna to examine the impact of compassion training on brain activity in response to observing another person’s distress.

Tania Singer

Tania Singer

A frequent experience in daily life, most people experience distress, or empathy, when observing another’s distress, due to activation of the brain’s “mirror” neurons.

Claus Lamm

Claus Lamm

In contrast, compassion is concern with others’ suffering coupled with the desire to alleviate the other person’s pain, and can exist without actually experiencing the other persons’ distress through empathy.

The researchers evaluated whether personal distress be transformed into compassion, a useful coping strategy for those in health care professions, and in caretaking roles.
They developed the Socio-affective Video Task to measure neural and subjective responses to witnessing the distress of others.

Most volunteers experienced initial empathic negative feelings and activations in the brain’s pain empathy areas, the anterior insula and anterior medial cingulate cortex, when they observed the distress of others.
However, the volunteers who completed compassion training experienced less negative emotion, and more positive feelings when witnessing others in distress, related to increased activity in brain areas associated with positive emotion and affiliation:  the medial orbitofrontal cortex, putamen, pallidum, and ventral tegmental area.

In contrast, control group volunteers who received memory training did not have more positive emotions, and participants in empathy training actually experienced more negative feelings.

The studies suggest that compassion training can be an effective coping strategy when observing or supporting others in distress, and the mental discipline of compassion training can increase positive emotion more effectively than memory training or empathy training.

Besides changing the brain and related feelings, compassion training triggered more “prosocial” behavior, including helping and cooperating.

This researcher team developed the Zurich Prosocial Game (ZPG) to validly assess helping behaviors in light of reciprocity, helping cost, and distress cues influences.
Volunteers who had received short-term compassion training increased their helping behaviors in the game, but this was not true for volunteers who received short-term memory training.

Charles Raison

Charles Raison

Emory University’s Charles Raison advocated compassion training as a better day to deal with “enemies,” whether globally or interpersonally.
He collaborated with Emory colleagues including Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi, who developed Cognitive-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) and Sheetal Reddy of Atlanta’s Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, to evaluate the impact of compassion training with youth in foster care.

Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi

Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi

The team considered whether these participants, who had suffered maltreatment, experienced improved psychosocial functioning after twice-weekly Cognitive-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) for six weeks compared with young people assigned to the “wait-list-no treatment” group.

Researchers found no difference in measured functioning, but young people who practiced compassion more frequently reported greater hopefulness and ability to deal with life stressors, and decreased generalized anxiety.

These findings suggest that compassion training can improve stress management, mood, and cooperation.

-*How have you seen compassion training affect feelings and behaviors?

RELATED POSTS:

Twitter:  @kathrynwelds
Blog: – Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary 
Google+:
LinkedIn Open Group Psychology in Human Resources (Organisational Psychology)
Facebook Notes:

©Kathryn Welds


 

 

Health Benefits of Positive Emotions, Outlook

Barbara Fredrickson

Barbara Fredrickson

Barbara Frederickson of University of North Carolina posits that negative emotions aid human survival by narrowing and limiting people’s perceived range of possible actions, whereas positive emotions enhance survival by “broadening and building” options for action.

She detailed her lab-based research in Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3 to 1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life and her talk at UC Berkeley Greater Good Science CenterPositivity

Her lab’s findings suggest that positive thinking expands awareness and perception of the surrounding world, so can lead to innovative solutions to problems.

She suggests intentionally implementing a “broaden-and-build” approach to emulate this expanded view: Choose a degree of focus and perspective depending on requirements.

For example, to garner more clout in a discussion, she suggests involving more people who will provide support.
Similarly, to mitigate negative thinking or “tunnel vision,” think more broadly by viewing “the big picture.”

Rosabeth Moss Kanter of Harvard Business School referred this perceptual shift as “zooming in” and “zooming out”, depending on the perspective requires.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Frederickson found that people who experience positive thinking are:

* Healthier
* More generous
* More productive
* Bounce back from adversity more quickly
* Are better managers of people
* Live longer
than those with a bleaker outlook.

Fredrickson’s research implies that positive emotions can mitigate the cardiovascular effects of negative emotions and stress.

In these activated conditions, people generally have increased heart rate, higher blood sugar, greater immunosuppression.
These conditions tax physical systems and can lead to life-threatening illnesses like coronary disease.

To mitigate these negative health consequences, Fredrickson recommends observing positive emotional experiences of joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love.
Besides noticing these experiences, she advocates writing and meditating about these to increase grateful awareness.

In addition, Frederickson echoes common wisdom:

  • Spend time in nature to appreciate the natural world
  • Develop interests
  • Invest time in relationships
  • Reduce exposure to negative news
  • Practice kindness
  • Dispute negative thoughts and replace them with more positive, realistic thoughts.

Frederickson extends her research agenda on positive emotions in her latest book, Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become. Love 2-0

She broadens the concept of love to suggest that love – or an intense connection – occurs when people share positive emotion.
This lead to alignment between people’s biochemistries,  particularly the release of oxytocin and vagal nerve functioning.
Related emotions and behaviors synchronize and mirror each other, resulting in shared interest in mutual well-being  in a three-phase  “positivity resonance.”

She argues that love “literally changes your mind.
It expands your awareness of your surroundings, even your sense of self.
The boundaries between you and not-you – what lies beyond your skin – relax and become more permeable.
While infused with love, you see fewer distinctions between you and others.”

Fredrickson argues that this intense connection requires physical presence, and cannot be replaced by existing digital media — reinforcing her recommendation to invest in relationships with others.

-*What practices enable you to cultivate and sustain positive emotions?

Related posts:

Twitter:  @kathrynwelds
Google+:
Blog: – Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary
LinkedIn Open Group Psychology in Human Resources (Organisational Psychology)
Facebook Notes:

©Kathryn Welds