It’s not easy to feel compassionate towards someone we don’t like. So, imagine my surprise when a young woman, who is not a President Donald Trump supporter, said she sent Trump some Loving-Kindness during a recent meditation I was leading. I hadn’t even thought of doing that.
Loving-Kindness Meditation is a form of Mindfulness Meditation. It focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness and warmth towards one’s self, and others. In other words, it’s about developing greater compassion. Part of the practice includes offering compassion to an “enemy” or person we find “difficult.” Loving-Kindness meditation aims to help us be more accepting of others, and ourselves.
A host of research and science show Loving-Kindness Meditation positively changes our brain, and improves our physical, mental, and emotional well being. Here are seven reasons to start a compassion practice:
1. Increases Positive Emotions
A landmark study found Loving-Kindness Meditation increased love, joy, contentment, gratitude, pride, hope, interest, amusement, and awe, over a span of seven weeks. These positive emotions then produced further benefits, including a predicted increase in life satisfaction. So go ahead, get those positive vibes going!
2. Decreases Negative Emotions
Loving-Kindness Meditation trains the mind to prevent reactive emotions, such as fear, rage, and shame, by anticipating and transforming them into proactive emotions, such as kindness, tolerance, and acceptance (Loizzo, 2016). And in the study mentioned above, it also reduced depressive symptoms. Who wouldn’t want to feel less negative?
3. Quiets Your Inner Critic
Do you have a tendency to mentally beat yourself up? Well, practicing Loving-Kindness has been found to reduce self-criticism and the depressive symptoms that can follow, while improving self-compassion (and positive emotions). Next time negative self-talk rears its ugly head, kick it to the curb by sending Loving-Kindness to yourself, or others.
4. Improves Relationships
Could your relationships use a boost? Another study found that regularly practicing Loving-Kindness Meditation wires our brain for empathy. And increased empathy improves relationships. It can also lead to more compassionate action.
5. Slows Aging—Really
In another eye-opening study, researchers found that women with experience in Loving-Kindness Meditation had relatively longer telomere length (a biological marker of aging), when compared to age-matched controls. So not only are you being kinder and compassionate, you’re staying younger, longer! Sounds like a win-win to me. (Sorry men, you weren’t part of this study but it's hard to imagine there isn’t a benefit here for you too.)
6. Decreases Chronic Pain
A pilot study of patients with chronic low back pain found that those who practiced Loving-Kindness Meditation reported greater decreases in pain, anger, and psychological distress than the control group who didn’t. This may be something to consider or add in managing pain.
7. Works in Small Doses
A study found a single short session lasting less than 10 minutes increased feelings of social connection, and positivity toward strangers. So, no need to be a meditation guru, take a few minutes out of your day to send yourself, and others some love.
All this research is compelling. Practicing Loving-Kindness Meditation benefits our emotional, mental, and physical health. It can also make us more compassionate, and positive people.
Start with a small, but daily, commitment to Loving-Kindness Meditation. Ready to give it a try? Download my free, 7 minute guided meditation here. And let me know what you think!