An intensive meditation program may help schoolteachers to become less stressed and more compassionate towards others.
Previous research has linked meditation to positive changes in blood pressure, metabolism and pain, but less is known about the specific emotional changes that result from the practice.
The new study by the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), was tasked with creating new techniques to minimize destructive emotions while improving social and emotional behavior, the journal Emotion reports.
"The findings suggest that increased awareness of mental processes can influence emotional behavior," said Margaret Kemeny, director of the Health Psychology Program at California, who led the study.
"The study is particularly important because opportunities for reflection and contemplation seem to be fading in our fast-paced, technology-driven culture," added Kemeny, according to an UCSF statement.
Altogether, 82 female schoolteachers aged between 25 and 60 years participated. Teachers were chosen because their work is stressful and meditation skills they learned could be immediately useful to their daily lives.
The study arose from a meeting 2,000 between Buddhist scholars, behavioral scientists and emotion experts at the home of the Dalai Lama.
There, the Dalai Lama and Paul Ekman, emeritus professor at the UCSF and world expert in emotions, pondered the topic of emotions, leading the Dalai Lama to pose a question: "In the modern world, would a secular version of Buddhist contemplation reduce harmful emotions?"
From that, Ekman and Buddhist scholar Alan Wallace developed a 42-hour, eight-week training program, integrating secular meditation practices with techniques learned from the scientific study of emotion.