Turns out science has found yet another added benefit to meditation, even if it’s not necessarily what you may be going for. According to a new study from Harvard University and Northeastern University, meditation can actually help you be a better person in terms of compassion.
The study, published in Psychological Science, found that meditation improves do-good behavior along with compassion, in addition to helping you both emotionally and physically.
The team of researchers tested the compassionate behavior of the participants after 8-week meditation training sessions with two types of medittion. To test the behavior, the scientists checked if they would offer help to someone (an actor) in pain and using crutches in a pretend waiting room.
For the study, the participants entered a waiting room with three seats, two of which were already occupied by actors for the study. After the participant takes a seat, a third actor on crutches with a look of pain on his face comes in. The other two actors avoided eye contact, ignored the man on crutches and didn’t leave their seat, prompting the well-known bystander effect in which people copy the behavior of others, even if it means failing to help someone in need.
Only 15% of the individuals who didn’t receive meditation helped the individual, while nearly 50% of those who received the meditation training offered assistance.
According to David DeSteno, a psychologist and researcher in the study, “The truly surprising aspect of this finding is that meditation made people willing to act virtuous, even in the face of a norm not to do so.”