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Training Compassion ‘Muscle’ May Boost Brain’s Resilience to Others’ Suffering

A new study suggests that as little as two weeks of compassion meditation training — intentionally cultivating positive wishes to understand and relieve the suffering of others — may reduce the distress a person feels when witnessing another’s suffering. It may also improve their ability and likelihood to respond with compassion. The findings, published in Frontiers in Psychology, may have implications for professions in which people routinely work with others who are suffering, like doctors, law enforcement officers, and first responders who experience high levels of distress or empathic burnout. “Compassion meditation may shift habits of becoming overly distressed when we encounter another’s pain,” says Helen Weng, assistant professor of psychiatry at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

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