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Mindful : August 2015
COMPASSION’S BIOLOGICAL FINGERPRINT The vag us nerve influences speech, head position, digestion, and heart rate—and over the past two decades, researchers have found that increased vagal activity is associated with more social behavior. What about compassion? In a series of five studies, a team at UC Berkeley outfitted college students with electrocardiogram sensors and then had them watch videos designed to elicit different emotions. The researchers found that provoking feelings of compas- sion always increased activity in the vagus ner ve. Another recent study from Purdue University found that vagal activity in kids at three years old predicted their ability to empathize with others three and four years later. Together, these studies show that what happens in your vagus affects whether or not you can handle the feelings provoked by another person’s suffering— and whether or not you’ll feel concerned and motivated to help. A TURNING POINT FOR PAIN TREATMENT In March 2015, The University of Kansas Hospital implemented an in-patient program with Turning Point, the Center for Hope and Healing, offering free mindfulness training to patients experiencing severe pain due to illness or health problems. This is the first in-patient program for Turning Point, a Kansas-based organization that usually offers out-patient ser vices and workshops to people suffering from severe and chronic physical illness. So far, the hospital reports substantial improvements to patients’ ratings of how well their pain was treated at the hospital. LOVE THY COWORKER A recent study published in Administrative Science Quar- terly suggests that a posi- tive emotional culture at work— what might be dismissed as “ touchy-feely”— is associated with both happier employees and healthier patients at long-term care facilities. HOW TO LOVE EVERYONE Loving-kindness meditation is the practice of cul- tivating uncon- ditional love and compassion for all beings. But what’s the best way to learn the practice: read a book or sit with a teacher? In a recent study in the journal Mind- fulness, a practi- cal loving-kind- ness meditation course conferred more benefits than did a series of readings and discussions. August 2015 mindful 13 PHOTOGRAPHS:©BEAUBELLE/DOLLARPHOTOCLUB,©ISTOCK.COM/T_KIMURA