Use These Mental Tricks to Prepare for Dealing with Unpleasant People
In a new study published online last month by the journal Mindfulness , researchers analyzed day-to-day trajectories of 51 adult participants in Stanford's 9-week Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT). An educational program developed by a team of clinical psychologists and contemplative scholars including the Dalai Lama's principal English translator Thupten Jinpa, CCT trains individuals how to choose more compassionate thoughts and actions and build relational skills.
While taking the course, participants used an app to record twice-daily ratings of four emotional states - anxiety, calm, fatigue and alertness - along with their capability and desire to manage how they were feeling. They also provided week-to-week feedback about the strategies they employed - including techniques such as modifying their reaction to a situation to simply accepting a situation.
The results? Researchers found that actively practicing compassion - the capability to recognize another's suffering and be motivated to relieve that suffering - not only decreases anxiety, but it also increases an overall state of calm.
And, more importantly, they found that it is indeed possible to teach people to be more compassionate.
Want to do some training of your brain at home with a few CCT concepts? Try tips like these suggested by the Wall Street Journal :
- Notice and pay attention: Notice how you're feeling in a situation and how your body is reacting. Figure out what you need. You might just need a few deep breaths to settle your mind and those sweaty hands.
- Put yourself in the other person's shoes: Take time to consider life from her perspective. Recognize that just like you, she has family and friends, goals and dreams ... and baggage.
- Let it go: Acknowledge that you're anxious about a person or situation and let that thought move on to allow the flight-or-fight part of your brain to relax instead of obsess. (Meditating daily, in particular, can help train your brain to let go.)
- Practice makes perfect: Start where it's easier. Practice compassion with yourself and with a loved one. Then ease into those more difficult relationships.
And if you want to take it further, Stanford's CCT program, now in its eighth year, is open to the public, and you don't have to be in California to take the classes. More than 100 certified teachers offer sessions year-round across the U.S. and in 10 other countries. Through meditation and mindfulness practices, lectures and interactive communication exercises (and homework), participants learn to develop resilience, strength and courage in the face of suffering, both others' and their own.