Internet-based randomised controlled trial\ud of the effect of loving-kindness meditation\ud on wellbeing and helping behaviour

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Galante, Mariana Julieta
  • Subject: R1

This thesis presents the development and testing of an online lovingkindness\ud meditation (LKM) intervention. Previous studies were systematically reviewed,\ud showing complex but encouraging evidence that LKM can enhance the wellbeing of\ud individuals and communities by promoting pleasant emotions and empathic attitudes.\ud However, previous randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are small and have\ud methodological limitations.\ud An online RCT was conducted, which recruited 809 adult volunteers to test whether an\ud LKM intervention offered to the general population improves wellbeing through\ud pleasant emotions, psychological resources, empathy and altruism. LKM was\ud compared to a light physical exercise course (LE). Participants followed prepiloted\ud videobased\ud instruction, wrote about their experiences in online diaries and interactive\ud fora, and completed questionnaires and an objective measure of helping behaviour.\ud The data were analysed using a mixed methods approach.\ud Both courses led to greater wellbeing. LKM participants were significantly less anxious\ud and more likely to donate money to charity than LE participants. Differences in other\ud outcomes were not significant. Attrition was high but generally unrelated to the\ud interventions’ content.\ud The pathways to wellbeing differed. LKM was an emotionally intense experience,\ud generating deep reflections and an increased connectedness with self and others. LE\ud led to increases in relaxation and physical wellbeing which generated a sense of\ud achievement. Some participants had early difficulties with LKM, in which personal\ud factors played an important role.\ud The study provides suggestive evidence that both LKM and LE enhance pleasant\ud emotions, psychological resources and wellbeing, and that LKM specifically stimulates\ud empathy and altruism. The LKM training platform used in this study is available for\ud immediate largescale\ud implementation as an inexpensive public health intervention.\ud However, future research is needed to confirm present findings and devise LKM\ud interventions that reduce the negative impact of initial training. Completion rates\ud might be improved by nesting online RCTs within cohort studies.
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