The economy. Booking clients. Money. Marketing. Family. Earning CEUs. These situations and more are enough to stress out any massage therapist. But there is relief at hand: Meditation decreases depression, anxiety and stress, according to new research.

Schoolteachers who underwent a short but intensive program of meditation were less depressed, anxious or stressed, and more compassionate and aware of others’ feelings, according to a University of California-San Francisco-led study that blended ancient meditation practices with the most current scientific methods for regulating emotions.

The new study was designed to create new techniques to reduce destructive emotions while improving social and emotional behavior, according to a UCSF press release.

The study will be published in the April issue of the journal Emotion.

“The findings suggest that increased awareness of mental processes can influence emotional behavior,” said lead author Margaret Kemeny, PhD, director of the Health Psychology Program in UCSF’s Department of Psychiatry. “The study is particularly important because opportunities for reflection and contemplation seem to be fading in our fast-paced, technology-driven culture.”

Altogether, 82 female schoolteachers between the ages of 25 and 60 participated in the project. Teachers were chosen because their work is stressful and because the meditation skills they learned could be immediately useful to their daily lives, possibly trickling down to benefit their students

Researchers developed a 42-hour, eight-week training program, integrating secular meditation practices with techniques learned from the scientific study of emotion. It incorporated three categories of meditative practice:

• Concentration practices involving sustained, focused attention on a specific mental or sensory experience;

• Mindfulness practices involving the close examination of one’s body and feelings;

• Directive practices designed to promote empathy and compassion toward others.

The study will be published in the April issue of the journal Emotion, published by the American Psychological Association.

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