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How is the heart related to experienced effort and enjoyment during meditation?

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Lumma,  Anna-Lena
Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Kok,  Bethany E.
Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Singer,  Tania
Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Lumma, A.-L., Kok, B. E., & Singer, T. (2014). How is the heart related to experienced effort and enjoyment during meditation?. Poster presented at 4th IMPRS NeuroCom Summer School, London, United Kingdom.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0003-F2B9-B
Abstract
Meditation is often regarded as a mental training technique that calms the mind and the body and may therefore be experienced as pleasant. On the other hand, mental training has also been associated to mental effort and concentration on a demanding task, the latter being associated with an increase in heart rate rather than a decrease. In the current study we therefore focus on how engaging in different types of meditation influences heart rate and its relation to subjective experiences of effort and likeability over time. More specifically, likeability, effort ratings and heart rate were assessed during three types of meditation a) “on thoughts”, b) “on breath” and c) “loving kindness” in week 3 and in week 13 of a respective 3-month training module in the context of the ReSource project, a large-scale longitudinal mental training study. Results showed that heart rate and likeability ratings increased, whereas effort ratings decreased over the course of 10 weeks of training the respective core meditation practice. Across sessions and independent of the kind of meditation, participants liked the meditation more if they experienced it as less effortful. As participants become more skilled in meditation over time their subjective experience of effort became coupled to their physiological response in meditations; at least for practices on breath and on thoughts. Overall these findings suggest that learning meditation increases heart rate over time, and causes decreases in the subjective experience of effort, which is accompanied by increased liking for practice.