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Resilience Is the New Happiness

Groups looked at neutral images and photos of people suffering — like a child dying or a burn victim — while undergoing brain scans. Researchers tracked their eye movements and asked what the study subjects were thinking. People who had practiced compassion meditation were able to look at suffering in the negative images while showing less activity in the amygdala, insula, and orbitofrontal cortex, areas of the brain that are active during emotional distress. The meditators weren’t just more calm, they also had more compassion for the photo subjects than the other group, which tended to reframe situations with notions like, “This person isn’t suffering — he’s just an actor.” The researchers conclude that meditation seems to develop resilience in practitioners — a trait that’s critical for people in helping professions, like medicine and law enforcement. They say the results indicate that compassion is a muscle that can be developed and flexed, which makes people more resilient, and ultimately more capable in the face of challenges.

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