October 12, 2008
Posted: 11:23 PM ET
Your 401k is plummeting. Your bank needs a bailout. You’re worried about your job. Never perhaps since the Great Depression has there been a more legitimate time to stress out.
A new study by Emory University researchers suggests a new, yet old, way to de-stress. Drawing on ancient Tibetan Buddhist teachings, Compassion Meditation teaches people to meditate on why they dislike someone, and how to take a more empathetic view of that person.
The goal is to change the perception of the disliked person; the theory is this can help someone brighten their view of the world as a whole.
The study showed that those who practiced Compassion Meditation had physiological changes that indicated lower stress levels. When presented with a stressful task, study subjects who’d practiced Compassion Meditation had lower levels of a stress hormone called cortisol compared to those who weren’t taught the meditation method. Distress scores, as measured by a 30-item profile, were lower among the meditators.
Lower stress levels have been linked to better immune function and lower rates of a variety of diseases, including depression and cancer.
"We’re using meditation to try to generate positive emotions and thoughts about everybody, whether you like them personally or you don't like them personally," says Dr. Charles Raison, assistant professor of psychiatry at Emory University School of Medicine. "It’s a way of using meditative concentration to change your mind so you say, 'I should be more equitable towards everybody.'"
Study subjects who saw physiological benefits meditated for about 20 minutes per day, four to five days per week.
Other stress busting techniques that don't require a lot of time include exercises at your desk, listening to tranquil music, and keeping a stress diary. Click here for a demonstration of how to do chair squats; click here for free relaxation music, and click here for advice on how to keep a diary of what triggers stress for you.
CNN's Matt Sloane and Tanika Gray contributed to this report.
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