Various psychological feel-good measures such as life satisfaction, perceived well-being, self-confidence and emotional self-regulation can be increased gradually. The participants in a new study coordinated by the University of Trento show the positive effects of an intensive program on happiness.
The study was carried out over nine months (with seven theoretical / practical weekends and two meditation retreats) at the Lama Tzong Khapa Institute for Tibetan Culture in Pomaia (Italy). The researchers reported a significant decrease in anxiety, perceived stress, negative thoughts, rumination and anger tendencies. The results simultaneously showed improvements in positive aspects and a reduction in negative emotions, both in the short term and lengthways throughout the program.
“The training we proposed to participants was inspired by the idea, present in both Western and Eastern philosophical traditions, that happiness is inseparable from developing inner balance, a kinder and more open perspective on yourself, others and the world is connected In this training process we need on the one hand the theoretical study of philosophy and science and on the other hand meditation practices “, explained Nicola De Pisapia, researcher at the Institute for Psychology and Cognitive Sciences of the University of Trento and scientific coordinator.
For the theoretical part, participants took part in a series of presentations, watched some video courses, and participated in open discussions on topics of psychology, neuroscience, the history of Western thought, and the philosophy of life in Buddhism. The scientific topics included neuroplasticity, mind wandering circles, stress and anxiety, pain and pleasure, positive and negative emotions, desire and addiction, self-esteem, empathy and compassion.
For the practical part, a number of exercises that come from various Buddhist and Western contemplative traditions (e.g. meditation on the breath, analytical meditation, personal diary) have been suggested.
In recent years research, excluding the “recipes” mistaking happiness for hedonism and the New Age obsession with positive thinking, has shown that meditation practices have important mind benefits, while studies of happiness and wisdom have been scarce.
“I believe that in times like these, which are full of change and uncertainty, it is of fundamental importance to scientifically examine how Western and Eastern philosophical traditions, along with the latest discoveries about the mind and brain, are mundaneously integrated into contemplative practices The goal is to give healthy people the opportunity to work on themselves to develop authentic happiness, not hedonism or superficial happiness. With this study we wanted to take a small step in that direction, “concluded De Pisapia.