Loving-kindness meditation focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness, and warmth towards others. As I’ve described in my TED talk below, compassion, kindness, and empathy are very basic emotions to us. Research shows that loving-kindness meditation has a tremendous amount of benefits ranging from well-being to relief from illness. It also improves our emotional intelligence.
In a landmark study, researchers found that seven weeks of loving-kindness meditation practice increased love, joy, contentment, gratitude, pride, hope, interest, amusement, and awe. These positive emotions then lead to increased mindfulness, purpose in life, social support, and decreased illness symptoms.
This study also found that individuals in a loving-kindness meditation group, compared to a control group, also had increases in positive emotions toward themselves and others.
We don’t usually think of meditation as being able to help us with severe physical or mental ailments, but research shows it can help.
- Decreases migraines: A brief loving-kindness meditation was shown to reduce migraine pain and alleviate the emotional tension associated with chronic migraines.
- Decreases chronic pain: Patients with chronic low back pain who practiced loving-kindness meditation reported greater decreases in pain, anger, and psychological distress than the control group.
- Decreases PTSD: A twelve-week loving-kindness meditation course significantly reduced depression and PTSD symptoms among veterans diagnosed with PTSD.
- Decreases schizophrenia-spectrum disorders: A pilot study examined the effects of loving-kindness meditation on individuals with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders. Findings indicated that loving-kindness meditation was associated with decreased negative symptoms and increased positive emotions and psychological recovery.
Emotional Intelligence in the Brain
We know the brain is shaped by our activities. Regularly practicing loving-kindness meditation activates and strengthens areas of the brain responsible for empathy and emotional intelligence.
The Stress Response
Loving-kindness meditation also makes us more resilient. Just ten minutes of loving-kindness meditation has an immediate relaxing effect.
We know that stress speeds up the aging process. Throw out the expensive anti-aging creams and get on your meditation cushion!
Loving-kindness meditation appears to enhance positive interpersonal attitudes as well as emotions. A study that examined the effects of loving-kindness meditation on social behavior found that compared to a control group, the loving-kindness meditation group showed increased helping behavior.
A recent review of mindfulness-based meditations concludes that loving-kindness meditation may be the most effective practice for increasing compassion.
Loving Kindness meditation training was also shown to increase participants’ empathic responses to the distress of others.
Compared to a closely matched control group, six weeks of loving-kindness meditation training decreased implicit bias against minorities.
Increases Social Connection
Participants in a loving-kindness meditation group who reported more positive emotions also reported more gains in social connection as well.
How many of us are slaves to self-criticism or low self-esteem? How many of us do not take as good care as we should of ourselves?
Loving-kindness meditation was shown to be effective for self-critical individuals in reducing self-criticism and depressive symptoms, and in improving self-compassion and positive emotions.
Immediate and Long-Term Impact
The nice thing about loving-kindness meditation is that it is effective in both immediate and small doses (i.e. instant gratification) but that it also has long-lasting and enduring effects.
Is Effective Even in Small Doses
We studied a small dose of loving-kindness meditation (practiced in a single short session lasting less than ten minutes). Compared with a closely matched control group, even just a few minutes of loving-kindness meditation increased feelings of social connection and positivity toward strangers.
Has Long-Term Impact
Thirty-five percent of participants who practiced loving-kindness meditation continued to meditate and experience enhanced positive emotions fifteen months after they started. Positive emotions correlated with the number of minutes spent meditating daily.
Originally published at huffpost.com.
Watch Emma Seppala’s Ted Talk on Loving Kindness:
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