With Valentine ’s Day around the corner I thought about writing a post on maintaining heart health, but instead I am going to introduce the loving-kindness meditation. As I wrote in my post on setting S.M.A.R.T. resolutions, one of my goals has been to establish a meditation practice. My goal was start meditating 2 times per week and I have been more or less successful (more on this journey and another technique to firmly imprint new habits in my next post). To gain new tools/resources and help support this resolution I joined a meditation group on Meetup.com and was recently introduced to the loving-kindness meditation.
Also called metta, loving-kindness meditation is the simple practice of directing well-wishes towards other people. The general idea is to sit comfortably with your eyes closed, and imagine/think about specific wishes and aspirations for yourself and others. Traditionally, the wishes include (1) may the person be free from enmity; (2) may the person be free from mental suffering; (3) may the person be free from physical suffering; and (4) may the person take care of him/herself happily. Really, you can can meditate on whatever well-wishes that appear in your mind, like good health, success, patience, compassion, and the strength to be free of stress, anger, greed and envy.
The metta meditation starts with directing the phrases at yourself, then proceeds through a number of stages that differ in focus. (1) May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease; (2) direct the metta towards someone you feel thankful for or someone who has helped you; (3) focus on a neutral person; (4) focus on a “difficult” person; and eventually (5) focus on the entire universe: May all beings everywhere be well, safe, peaceful and at ease.
According to the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, the loving-kindness meditation does far more than produce momentary good feelings. Over a nine week period, research showed that this type of meditation increased people's experiences of positive emotions and actually puts people on "trajectories of growth," leaving them better able to ward off depression and "become ever more satisfied with life." A review of the literature found that the loving-kindness meditation broadened attention, enhanced positive emotions, reduced pain, anger, and psychological distress and was associated with decreased stress-induced hormones. Another study showed that this meditation practice produced increases over time in daily experiences of positive emotions, mindfulness and social support. This is all great news since research shows that people who experience frequent positive emotions live longer.
So, this Valentine ’s Day (and every day!) I invite you to join me in practicing the loving-kindness meditation. It can take as little as 5 minutes, 20 minutes or as long as an hour depending on how many well-wishes you want to send out into the universe. Below is a guided version that I found YouTube and enjoy.
Have you tried the loving-kindness meditation? What was your experience practicing it? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below and spread this message to those around you in an effort to enhance wellness for us all!
Hello and welcome! My name is Andrea Notch Mayzeles. I am a Certified Health Education Specialist, Mom, and Master of Public Health dedicated to the path of well-being. As a wellness professional I am committed to continued learning and am here to share research, recipes and musings on health, psychology, personal development, and parenting. I hope you enjoy!