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Mindful : April 2015
Emodiversity: the key to happiness? Is the route to happiness simply to feel more positive emotions and fewer negative ones? Some research already cast doubt on that view, and a new paper in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General lends an even stronger rebuttal. Researchers from four countries and six institutions—including Yale University and Harvard Business School—measured par ticipants’ positive emotions (like amuse- ment, awe, and gratitude) and negative ones (like anger, anxiety, and sadness), con- sidering both the level of these emotions and also their variety and abundance—what the researchers call “emodiversity.” Their first study sur veyed over 35,000 French speakers and found that emodiver- sity is related to less depression. This was the case for all types of emodiversity: posi- tive (experiencing many different positive emotions), negative (many different nega- tive emotions), and general (a mix of both). In fact, people high in general emodiversity were less likely to be depressed than people high in positive emotion alone. With almost 1,300 Belgian par ticipants, the second study linked emodiversity to less medication use, lower government health- care costs, and fewer doctor visits and days spent in the hospital. It was also related to better diet, exercise, and smoking habits. Surprisingly, the effect of emodiversity on physical health was about as strong as the effects of positive or negative emotion alone. The message? Emotional monotony is a drag, so we may be better off mentally and physically if we seek out and embrace a variety of emotional experiences—even the negative ones. DISRUPTING OUR BRAIN’S BIAS Racial bias in policing is at the forefront of the news. So it’s hear tening to see a study that finds bias can be reduced through mindfulness tra ining. Adam Lueke and Brian Gibson of Central Michi- ga n University looked at how instructing white college students in mindfulness would affect their “implicit bias”—or unconscious negative reactions—to black faces and faces of older people. After lis- tening to a 10-minute mindfulness audio- tape, students were significa ntly less likely to automatically pair negative descriptive words with black and elderly faces than were those in a control group—a find- ing that could be importa nt for policing, which often involves split-second assess- ments of people. Why the connection between mindfulness and bias? Mindful- ness has the power to interrupt the link between past experience and impulsive responding, the authors speculate. MINDFULNESS=HELPFULNESS Have you ever had a bad feeling when helping someone, like g uilt or resentment? In the January issue of the journal Mind- fulness, C. Daryl Cameron and Barbara Fredrickson explored if mindful qualities could help people feel good about aiding others. They asked 313 adults if they had recently helped someone out—and if they had, then researchers asked them how they felt while helping. They also assessed the mindful traits of participants, asking if, for example, they often criticize them- selves “for having irrational or inappropri- ate emotions.” In a nalyzing the answers, the resea rchers found that mindfulness did indeed lead to increased helping behavior. They also found that two facets of mindfulness—present-focused attention and nonjudgmental acceptance—specifi- cally encouraged people to experience emotions like compassion, joy, or elevation during the act of helping. For individual study citations, please visit mindful.org/ researchroundup AIDING TROUBLED TEENS It’s not easy teaching mindfulness to teenagers. Yet teens, especially troubled ones, might sta nd to gain more than most by cultivating moment-to-moment awareness. A team at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine studied the responses of 27 at-risk, ethnically diverse students who had been randomly assigned to either a mindfulness or substance-abuse control class. As they taught the kids mindfulness, the team continually modified the teach- ing based on their feedback. At the end, they found teens in the mindfulness class were significa ntly less prone to depres- sion and stress compared to those who attended the substance-abuse class. They also found the credibility of the mindful- ness course among initially skeptical teens went up as the class went on through the semester. MINDFUL MOM, HEALTHY CHILD A new study finds there may be a link between the mind of a mother and the health of her infant. A Dutch and Belgian team of resea rchers gave 90 mothers with 10-month-old babies sur veys designed to measure their levels of mindfulness and anxiety, asking such questions as whether they are “open to the experience of the moment” or if they “obser ve mistakes and difficulties without self-judgment.” The team then asked about the babies, to gauge their hea lth a nd development, and found ver y strong evidence that mindful traits in moms are associated with better outcomes for the babies. This is a new area of study, but the preliminar y results suggest that mindfulness training for preg nant women sure couldn’t hurt! ● Research gathered by the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and compiled and written by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. 16 mindful April 2015 brain science Research Roundup