Emma Seppälä is fascinated with health, well-being and happiness. Her research has centered on these topics and approached them from various angles. She has studied the impact of yoga-based practices on trauma and mental health, the benefit of meditation for social connection, and the impact of cultural perspectives on well-being. Below is a short summary of some of her areas of research. To see a complete list of publications, see her Google Scholar profile here.
Mind-Body Interventions for Veterans with Trauma
As a postdoctoral fellow and research scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Emma Seppälä investigated the impact of yoga and meditation based interventions for veterans recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with trauma with Dr. Richard Davidson. The results have been published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress.
Seppala, E. M., Nitschke, J. B., Tudorascu, D. L., Hayes, A., Goldstein, M. R., Nguyen, D. T. H., Perlman, D., & Davidson, R. J. (2014). Breathing-based meditation decreases posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms in military veterans: A randomized controlled longitudinal study. Journal of Traumatic Stress. To read the full paper, click here.
- See Press for the latest on this research and Film to watch a trailer of documentary filmed about the this work.
Interview on Emma’s Research of Yoga-Breathing for Veterans with PTSD
Social Connection, Compassion & Meditation
Social connection is one of our fundamental human needs (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). Social connection has been linked to psychological and physical health, recover from disease and even longevity while lack of social connection is worse for health than smoking and obesity. For more information on the health benefits of social connection, see Emma Seppälä’s psychology today post. The following paper was a result of research conducted by Seppälä with Cendri Hutcherson, Ph.D. and James Gross, Ph.D. at Stanford University.
- Read Hutcherson C., Seppala E., Gross J.J. (2008). Loving-kindness meditation increases social connectedness. Emotion, 8: 720–724.
- Read Hutcherson C., Seppala E., Gross J.J. (2014). The Neural Correlates of Social Connection. Cognitive Affective Behavioral Neuroscience.
- Read Seppala, E., Rossomando. T., Doty, J. R. (2013). Social Connection and Compassion: Important Predictors of Health and Well-Being. Social Research Quarterly
- Read Chapin, HL, Darnall BD, Seppala E, Doty J, Mackey S. Compassion meditation training for people living with chronic pain and their significant others: A pilot study and mixed-methods analysis (in press). Journal of Compassionate Healthcare.
- Neff, K., Seppala, E. M. Compassion, Well-being, and the Hypoegoic Self . Handbook of Hypo-egoic Phenomena (Ed. Brown, K. W., Leary, M.)
- Zimbardo, P, Seppala, E. M., Doty, J.R. Heroism: Socially-Engaged Compassion in Action. Oxford Handbook of Compassion Science (Ed. Doty, J. R., Seppala, E.M. et al.)
- Read Kirby, J., Seppala, E.M, et al, (2019) “Positive and negative attitudes towards compassion predict compassionate outcomes” Current Psychology.
Compassion & Business
What role do of a company’s values play in the well-being of their employees? How does someone’s attitude toward their work impact their well-being levels. How important is social connection at work? The field of organization behavior and corporate well-being is relatively new yet we spend most of our time at the workplace. Recent research is showing that happier workplaces are more profitable. This line of research seeks to understand how to increase happiness at the workplace and what factors most contribute to employee well-being.
- Read Martin, D., Seppala, E., Heineberg, Y., Rossomando, T., et al. (2014) Dominance Orientation, Economic Systems Justification and Compassion [PDF]
- Read Martin, D, Seppala, E. et al. (2014). Multiple facets of compassion: The impact of social dominance orientation and economic systems justification. Journal of Business Ethics.
- Read Seppala, E. M., Hutcherson, C. A., Nguyen, D. T. H., Doty, J. R., Gross, J. J. Loving-kindness Meditation: A tool to improve healthcare provider compassion, resilience, and patient care (2014). Journal of Compassionate Healthcare.
- Read Emma’s articles in Harvard Business Review
Culture and Emotion
Culture impacts how we feel. Emotions are experienced differently in different cultural contexts. In East Asian contexts, for example, preference is given to positive emotions that are more peaceful such as calmness whereas in American contexts, preference is given to positive emotions that are more high-intensity, such as excitement.. The following papers, the results of Emma Seppälä’s research with Dr. Jeanne Tsai at Stanford University, explain how social interactions and religion may relate to these cultural differences.
- Read Tsai J.L., Miao F., Seppala E. (2007). Good feelings in Christianity and Buddhism: Religious differences in ideal affect. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33: 409–421.
- Read Tsai J.L., Miao F.F., Seppala E., Yeung D., Fung H.H. (2007). Influence and adjustment goals: Sources of cultural differences in ideal affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92: 1102–1117.