The results showed that several measures of psychological well-being in the participants gradually increased from the beginning to the end of the course. This was especially true for life satisfaction, perceived well-being, self-perception and emotional self-regulation. Study participants also reported significant decreases in anxiety, perceived stress, negative thoughts, brooding, and angry tendencies. The researchers simultaneously observed improvements in positive aspects and a reduction in negative emotions, both short-term and longitudinally throughout the program.
Nicola De Pisapia, researcher at the Institute of Psychology and Cognitive Sciences of the University of Trento and scientific coordinator, explained the basic principles of the study: “The training we proposed to the participants was inspired by the idea – in both Western and Eastern philosophical traditions – that happiness is inextricably linked with the development of an inner balance, a friendlier and more open perspective on oneself, others and the world, towards a better understanding of the human mind and brain on the one hand the theoretical study of philosophy and science and on the other hand meditation practices “.
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). For the theoretical part, participants attended a series of presentations and watched some video courses and participated in open discussions on topics of psychology, neuroscience, the history of Western thought and the philosophy of life of Buddhism. Scientific topics included neuroplasticity, the brain circuits of attention and wandering of thoughts, stress and fear, pain and joy, positive and negative emotions, desire and addiction, self-esteem, empathy and compassion. For the practical part, a number of exercises from different Buddhist and Western contemplative traditions were suggested (e.g. breathing meditation, analytical meditation, personal diary).
In recent years, aside from the “recipes” mistaking happiness for hedonism and the New Age obsession with positive thinking, research has shown that meditation practices have important mind benefits, while studies of happiness and wisdom have been scarce . De Pisapia therefore concluded: “I believe that in times like these, which are fraught with change and uncertainty, it is of fundamental importance to scientifically examine how Western and Eastern philosophical traditions integrate along with the most recent discoveries about the mind and brain Contemplative practices can be secular. The aim 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 this direction. ”