When I was pushing really hard last fall, I found myself running out of energy by Thursday. I was working full-time, going to graduate school, and in training with Flow Research Collective. Getting up at 5 AM to get two hours of study in before taking the kids to school and wrapping around 9 PM. I asked my coach what was happening and shared the symptoms, he suggested that I was pushing too much dopamine and needed to reset more often. He suggested Loving-kindness meditation, which I hadn’t done in years. I started mixing it in three days a week and within one week, I was sailing through the week with sustainable focus and energy. I now use it with clients as an easy tool to introduce meditation, engage the serotonergic system, and build in capacity when they are feeling low energy. It was a gamechanger for me and I was amazed by how quickly you can reset your physiology and neurobiology.
Benefits of Loving-kindness Meditation
Loving-kindness meditation, also known as metta meditation, is a simple practice that promotes the development of compassion, love, and kindness towards oneself and others. While it has been around for thousands of years, this form of meditation has gained significant attention in recent years due to its benefits for psychological well-being, emotional well-being, relationships, and stress management. Here are some of those benefits:
- Enhanced Emotional Well-being: Loving-kindness meditation has been found to cultivate positive emotions, such as love, joy, and gratitude, while reducing negative emotions like anger, anxiety, and depression. Individuals who engage in loving-kindness meditation experience an increase in positive emotions and a decrease in negative emotions compared to a control group (Fredrickson et al., 2008). These emotional improvements contribute to overall psychological well-being.
- Reduced Stress and Improved Resilience: Engaging in regular loving-kindness meditation has been associated with decreased stress levels and improved resilience. In a study by Kok et al. (2013), participants who practiced loving-kindness meditation exhibited lower levels of stress and greater psychological resilience compared to those in a control group. By developing a compassionate outlook and fostering self-acceptance, individuals can better cope with life’s challenges and adversities.
- Increased Empathy and Compassion: Loving-kindness meditation promotes the development of empathy and compassion towards oneself and others. A study by Hutcherson et al. (2008) using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) revealed that participants who practiced loving-kindness meditation exhibited increased activation in brain regions associated with empathy and positive emotions. This heightened empathy and compassion can improve interpersonal relationships, increase prosocial behavior, and contribute to a more compassionate society.
- Improved Relationship Satisfaction: Engaging in loving-kindness meditation has been linked to enhanced relationship satisfaction and increased feelings of social connectedness. A study by Stellar et al. (2015) found that individuals who practiced loving-kindness meditation for seven weeks reported greater relationship satisfaction and experienced improved positive interactions with others. By cultivating love and kindness towards oneself and extending it to others, individuals can establish and nurture healthier relationships.
- Boosted Psychological Well-being: Loving-kindness meditation has shown promising results in promoting overall psychological well-being. A meta-analysis by Khoury et al. (2015) examining the effects of meditation interventions, including loving-kindness meditation, found significant improvements in measures of positive affect, life satisfaction, and mindfulness. These findings suggest that regular practice of loving-kindness meditation can contribute to increased overall well-being and life satisfaction.
I find that doing LovingKindness meditation three days a week, for 15 minutes each, gives me more sustainable energy during the week, especially during busy times. The hypothesis is that by engaging the serotonergic system, you are able to give your dopamine production a rest for a while, making you more motivated throughout longer sessions of performance. I schedule it for Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday and do mindfulness meditation on the other days.
How to do LovingKindness meditation
Here is a simple script to get started. It’s super easy, don’t stress about getting it exactly right, it will come to you over time. Any time spent meditating is valuable time.
Sit comfortably on the floor or chair with your back straight, eyes closed, and hands on legs.
Focus on your breathing for a minute and notice the gentle fall and rise of the breath in the abdomen, and the air flowing in and out of your nose. don’t try to change it, just observe it.
Consciously set an intention for this practice such as “I am caring for myself right now”
Bring to your mind a person that you love and are happy to see. Imagine their face in front of you. Notice any feelings arising.
As you visualize this person, say to yourself (silently or out loud) “May you be safe, may you be happy, may you be healthy”.
Notice the feelings that arise and let them go. Bring another person to mind that you love and repeat the process.
Continue to repeat the process with more people, expanding to co-workers, boss, friends, even people that annoy you.
Expand your attention to all sentient beings and wish “May we be safe, may we be happy, may we be healthy”.
End with yourself by saying “May I be safe, may I be happy, may I be healthy”.
Sit for a few more moments and notice any sensations or feelings that arise. Let them go.
That’s all! Super easy, very effective, and easy to fit into the busiest of schedules. Work it in to enhance emotional well-being, reduce stress, improve resilience, increase empathy and compassion, improve relationship satisfaction, and boost overall psychological well-being.
Here is some of the research related to the benefits of Loving-kindness meditation:
- Fredrickson, B. L., Cohn, M. A., Coffey, K. A., Pek, J., & Finkel, S. M. (2008). Open hearts build lives: positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(5), 1045–1062.
- Hutcherson, C. A., Seppala, E. M., & Gross, J. J. (2008). Loving-kindness meditation increases social connectedness. Emotion, 8(5), 720–724.
- Khouri, R., Sharma, M., Powers, A., Pereira, M., Serpa, J. G., Goldin, P., & Vago, D. (2015). Mindfulness-based interventions for psychiatric disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 38, 12–24.
- Kok, B. E., Coffey, K. A., Cohn, M. A., Catalino, L. I., Vacharkulksemsuk, T., Algoe, S. B., Brantley, M., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2013). How positive emotions build physical health: Perceived positive social connections account for the upward spiral between positive emotions and vagal tone. Psychological Science, 24(7), 1123–1132.
- Stellar, J. E., Cohen, A., Oveis, C., & Keltner, D. (2015). Affective and physiological responses to the suffering of others: Compassion and vagal activity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 108(4), 572–585.