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Temple stay beneficial to mental health, SNUH says
  • By Choi Gwang-seok
  • Published 2019.08.26 15:01
  • Updated 2019.08.26 15:01
  • comments 0

The temple stay program, or a retreat program to practice Buddhist meditation at a temple, is conducive to enhancing mental health, a local study found.

The research team, led by Kwon Jun-soo, a professor at the Psychiatry Department of Seoul National University Hospital, published the study on how temple stay affects mental health in international journals.

Professor Kwon Jun-soo of the Psychiatry Department at Seoul National University Hospital

The researchers studied 50 workers who attended a four-day temple stay program at Daewon Temple in Mt. Jiri from 2014 to 2015. They divided the participants into 12 groups. Thirty-three of them participated in the temple stay program, while the rest 17 stayed in the same place but freely maintained their lifestyle.

The results showed that the temple stay group had stronger resilience to stress, compared to the control group. The effect not only rose for a short period but remained high three months after the program.

To clarify whether the enhanced resilience was due to “simple psychological changes” or “changes in the brain,” the researchers conducted additional functional brain magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). The templestay group had their functional connectivity of the default mode network reinforced, compared to the control group.

“Temple stay’s enhancing default mode network signals that participating in the program might give the brain more rest than simply taking a rest,” the research team said.

Temple stay participants also had more excellent connectivity among the frontal and parietal lobes and the white matter bundles connecting the brain's left and right hemispheres, the researchers found in an additional study.

The study suggested that even a short-term temple stay with reduced physical activity could change the brain, enhance resilience to stress, and help maintain mental health, they said.

“In this complicated and stressed-out society, temple stay is advantageous for people to control their mental health on their own,” Kwon said. “We need a new study to prevent mental diseases by raising resilience or to explore potentials of temple stay as a new treatment.”

The National Research Foundation of Korea supported Kwon’s study as part of the support for basic research in the science and technology, in collaboration with Seoul National University Hospital and Cultural Corps of Korean Buddhism.

Among the results of the study, the increase of connectivity in the white matter bundles of the brain was published in Mindfulness, resilience, in Psychology Health & Medicine, and the enhancement of the brain’s default mode network, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, respectively.


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