There are many reasons to bring meditation into our daily lives. It’s always been considered a way to improve our own mindfulness, but a new study suggests that meditation may also be a way to connect better with others.

Meditate to understand

According to a recent study published by Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, meditation may be a way to increase our compassion for others—specifically in reading facial expressions.

The study was based on a form of meditation called “Cognitively-Based Compassion Training” (CBCT). While more popular forms of meditation focus on exploring one’s own thoughts and feelings, CBCT also encourages us to analyze and reinterpret our feelings towards other people. The strategy is based on training our feelings toward the people we interact with.

To measure the empathy of the 13 participants, researchers used the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET). The test consists of viewing black and white photos of only a person’s eyes while expressing different emotions. Respondents attempt to identify the thoughts and feelings of the person in each photograph based on what they see in the eyes.

In the study, eight out of 13 participants improved their RMET scores by an average of 4.6 percent after practicing CBCT. This was compared to the control group participants where none showed improvement and many decreased their performance.

Meditate for health

Meditation has been shown to :

  • lower hypertension
  • lower sensitivity to pain
  • lower emotional responses to stress
  • increase melatonin and serotonin in the blood
  • help alleviate depression and anxiety

Some researchers suggest that meditating regularly over a long period of time can help prevent thinning of the frontal cortex, which happens due to age.

Explore meditation

Zen gardens: Cancer patients are encouraged to meditate in Zen gardens to relieve stress.

Movement meditation: explore movement and sound as a vehicle for meditation.