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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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