The benefits of mindfulness are not lost on us. Or on anyone who regularly takes the time, meditates, and looks within. According to science, mindfulness and meditation can already help you eat healthier, drink less alcohol, and improve your sex life, among a host of other daily benefits. Now, researchers out of California State University San Marcos are showing that it can also make you a better person overall.
Published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, those people who practice mindfulness are shown to be much kinder to strangers, and especially strangers who are being victimized by others.
“When people witness someone being victimized, it’s really common for us to get distressed by it,” study author Daniel Berry says.
“Sometimes that upset is displaced so that we’re not feeling upset for the other person; we’re just feeling negatively,” Berry explains. “When that happens, people actually tend to turn away from the person in need.”
But when the study authors performed the research, they found that people who regularly practiced mindfulness — and meditation, in particular — were more likely to channel their emotions toward the person who is being victimized by others.
In the study, participants were split into four different experiments, and half of the people in each experiment followed a guided meditation that would help them become more mindful over the course of the training. The other half of participants received no particular training.
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Then, the whole set of participants played a video game where one person was excluded from a game. That person was then left to stand off to the side on their own.
Their reactions to the person who was left out determined whether or not mindfulness changed their thinking and empathy toward a stranger.
“All four studies seemed to converge to suggest that they felt concern for the person in need, rather than feeling outraged at the people who were perpetrating the victimization,” Berry adds. “They weren’t feeling negatively for themselves. They were specifically concerned for the other person, and this was specific to the mindfulness condition.”
Yet another reason why we should all be taking some daily time to look within and meditate. Just finding the right meditation style for you could be the best place to start being a better person.