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6 Amazing Benefits of Loving Kindness Meditation Backed by Science

6 Amazing Benefits of Loving Kindness Meditation Backed by Science

Loving Kindness Meditation is about cultivating compassion and love through mentally repeating a series of phrases directed at someone you love, a neutral person, yourself, and then all living things.

Ever wonder if repeating these Loving Kindness phrases, such as “May you be well”, “May you be happy”, “May you live with ease and in peace”, is really a productive use of your time?

Turns out science now backs what Buddhists have long known about this powerful ancient practice. The incredible thing about Loving Kindness meditation is that a single short session of about 10 minutes, can kick-start a positive ripple effect, leading to increased feelings of social connection and positivity towards strangers.

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Loving Kindness Meditation also has continued benefits for those that practice more frequently. In fact, science suggests that the benefits can be surprisingly far reaching.

Here are six incredible benefits of Loving Kindness Meditation backed by science you should know about.

1. Increases Positive Emotions

If you’re looking to boost your happiness and well-being, loving kindness meditation could be just the practice for you. One study showed that practicing seven weeks of Loving Kindness Meditation increased multiple positive emotions including love, joy, contentment, gratitude, pride, hope, interest, amusement, and awe. These positive emotions then had a ripple effect on the participants, increasing both life satisfaction and reducing depressive symptoms.

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2. Quiets Your Inner Critic

We all have an internal dialogue and near constant chatter that goes on inside our minds. For many of us, this voice inside our heads can be downright nasty. Research shows this critical voice can be tamed through practicing Loving Kindness Meditation. Beyond reducing self-criticism and depressive symptoms, Loving Kindness Practitioners also experienced improvements in self-compassion and positive emotions that were maintained 3 months post-intervention.

3. Strengthens your Capacity for Empathy

Because of recent advances in the field of neuroplasticity, we know that what we think, do, and pay attention to changes the structure and function of our brains. And guess what? Regularly practicing Loving Kindness Meditation has been shown to activate and strengthen areas of the brain responsible for empathy. One of the most important benefits of empathy is that it improves relationships. Increased empathy can also lead to more compassionate action.

4. Decreases Migraines

Time to toss out your Tylenol? While meditation isn’t usually thought to be a remedy for debilitating migraines, research shows it can help. A brief Loving Kindness Meditation intervention was shown to immediately help reduce pain and alleviate emotional tension associated with chronic migraines.

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5. Increases Compassion

According to the Dalai Lama, love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive. The good news is: Loving Kindness Meditation may be one of the most effective practices for increasing compassion. Being more compassionate has a host of benefits, including improved health, well-being, and relationships.

6. The Foundation of Youth: Increases Telomere Length

In another eye-opening study (and my personal favorite), 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. Bye bye botox, time to get on that meditation cushion and repeat the Loving Kindness phrases “May you be well, may you be happy, and may you live with ease and in peace.”

Conclusion

What are you waiting for? Start with a small, but daily, commitment to Loving Kindness meditation. If you commit to just five minutes each day, you are much more likely to stick with it, and you’ll start to see benefits soon enough.

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Don’t know where to start? There are plenty of free meditation challenges available online to help you get started and learn the techniques.

Featured photo credit: Alexa Miller via alexamiller.com

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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