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Positive emotions build resources through meditation

Research shows that experiencing positive emotions produces momentary gains: they broaden perception. However, can feeling good in the moment produce lasting changes such as building resilience, hope and acceptance of the self and others? A recent study demonstrates that love and kindness meditation boosts positive emotion. The study also found that the daily changes in positive emotions played a role in building physical, social and psychological resources. These changes in personal capital predicted life satisfaction and depressive symptoms in participants.

The study, conducted by Barbara Fredrickson and colleagues, adds further empirical support for the ?broaden and build? theory of positive emotions.

Researchers randomly assigned139 people, from a large business software and IT company, to one of two conditions: a control group, who were on a wait list for love and kindness meditation classes, and a group who participated in seven weekly session of love and kindness meditation. All participants filled out questionnaires before and after the intervention which measured physical, social and psychological resources e.g. illness symptoms such as headaches, sleep duration, positive relations with others, psychological well-being,  mindfulness.  Participants also wrote a daily dairy which reconstructed their morning in detail and answered questions about their emotions.

The findings revealed that those in the meditation group experienced more positive emotion, such as awe, gratitude, hope, on a daily basis.  This change in positive emotion was found to directly build resources e.g. decrease illness symptoms, increase positive relations with others and mindfulness. The authors also found that the changes in these resources resulted in changes in life satisfaction in the meditation group.  An interesting finding was that negative emotions did not decrease, but the interpretation of negative emotions did; depressive symptoms decreased.

Together these results show that positive emotion can be increased and that loving kindness meditation is a particularly good way to do this.  Unlike eating sweets or watching movie clips, for example, meditation encourages mindful awareness which makes people more tuned into the world around them and facilitates the building of personal resources.  The authors say ?when people open their hearts to positive emotions they seed their own growth in ways that transform them for the better? to read the article click here.



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