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A case for social meditation

Meditation is often practiced alone, but two studies indicate that thinking of or being in the presence of others may confer different, and at times greater, benefits. Researchers in Leipzig, Germany, conducted two studies with 300 volunteers over nine months. In the first, an MRI showed that people who meditated alone by focusing on the breath or body had thickening of their prefrontal cortex, which is linked to attention control. Those who practiced loving-kindness meditation and then did a sharing and empathetic listening exercise with a partner had increases in the areas that process emotions and bring them into conscious awareness.

The second study measured cortisol levels among all participants, and found that those who meditated alone felt calm, but their cortisol levels didn’t change. In contrast, the people who practiced compassion meditation and shared with a partner experienced a 51% drop in cortisol.

Finding the intervention both low-cost and effective, the researchers concluded that meditating with a partner or group may hold promise for minimizing chronic social stress.

Nature’s classroom

If herding a classroom of elementary school students outside—and then getting them focused once back inside—seems daunting to some teachers, a new study may change their…

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