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Meditation can ease political polarization

The study follows recent research in the US that found the technique helped heal rifts between Democrats and Republicans

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By Mark Waghorn via SWNS

Mind therapy that helps focus on forgiveness and warmth reduces feelings of polarization, according to a new psychological study.

The finding is based on a study of people who were split in their decision on Brexit (the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union: 501 voted to stay 433 voted to leave.

Miniature people, protesters holding signs, raising their hands for revolution or protesting Concept
Political polarization can cause feelings of anxiety and depression globally. (Oakland Images/Shutterstock)

Participants were randomly assigned to listen to one of two 10-minute audio-guided recordings.

One instructed listeners to bring friendship and kindness to themselves and to others.

The other instead featured educational information about meditation.

The researchers then assessed 'affective polarization' - the divide between positive feelings toward one’s own political group and negative feelings toward the other.

Lead author Dr. Otto Simonsson, of the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden, said: "Statistical analysis of the results found lower levels for people who listened to the meditation versus those who listened to the informational recording.

"Additional questions answered by the participants suggested the underlying psychological mechanism for this effect may involve an increase in perceived commonality between sides for those who listened to the meditation."

Brexit's victory pierced the national psyche. Britain's withdrawal from the European Union has affected some people's mental health - causing anxiety and depression.

Dr. Simonsson said: "The European Union Brexit referendum has divided the British electorate with high levels of animosity between those who affiliate with the 'Remain and Leave' side of the debate."

Following the 2016 vote, the use of antidepressants rose by 13 percent.

Dr. Simonsson said: "These findings suggest an audio-guided befriending meditation could help boost perceived commonality between opposing political groups, and thereby reduce affective polarisation.

"Such a strategy could be employed in public campaigns in the UK to address polarization between remainers and leavers."

Observers need to go back to the Second World War to find tension comparable to that brought on by Brexit.

The study in the journal PLOS ONE follows recent research in the US that found the technique helped heal wounds between Democrats and Republicans.

Dr. Simonsson and colleagues suggest various areas for future research.

It may open the door to meditation-based smartphone apps that impact affective polarization.

Despaired married couple is on bed
(True Touch Lifestyle/Shutterstock)

Dr. Simonsson said: "The results in this study build on previous findings and provide additional support for the potential benefits of meditation in political contexts."

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