Want to efficiently put yourself in someone else’s shoes? Try taking a deep breath.
That’s because this new study has found that people who are better at being more physically aware of themselves through meditation or mindfulness are more empathetic and understanding of others.
This keen sense of social understanding, also known as the “Theory of Mind”, is the individual’s ability to hypothesize other people’s feelings, patterns, emotions, and reasoning, which the research team believes to be an improved byproduct of having heightened interoceptive abilities.
The researchers examined their claim by hosting a study composed of 72 different participants. To gauge their interoceptive abilities, the researchers asked participants to count their own heartbeats during an allotted amount of time. The team then measured the participants’ actual heartbeats in comparison to what the participants counted; those who had more accurate counts were considered more interoceptive.
The study group then showed the participants videos of events and occasions with multiple-choice answers. Some of the clips showed people’s faces with questions like “How is Lucy feeling?” – while other clips featured more factual questions like “Does the weather seem chilly in this footage?”
The results of the test showed that the participants with better interoceptive abilities were better at answering questions about people’s emotions than those who were not as interoceptive.
So maybe next time you’re puzzling over the emotional dilemmas of your friends and family, close your eyes and take a breath before jumping to conclusions.
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Reprint (Photo by Take Back Your Health Conference, CC)