Key Point: My last blog underscored the importance and positive impact of kindness. Kindness is totally free and accessible to us all. It is a mindset and an intentional choice. Even better, we can further develop our capacity for extending kindness. And in keeping with this kindness theme and holiday season, here is a gift to all of us that literally does keep on giving, to others AND ourselves. It is called LOVING-KINDNESS meditation. I’m going to share the science that reinforces that this is serious stuff. For those that may think that both kindness and meditation are for mush-brained sissies, this is especially for you.
Loving-kindness meditation focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness and warmth towards others. Emma Seppälä, Ph.D, is a research scientist and the Associate Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University. In her TED talk, she emphasizes that compassion, kindness and empathy are very basic emotions to us. She also has collected research relative to loving-kindness meditation and it has a tremendous amount of benefits. The following are just a few noted in her study:
A study by Shahar B found that loving-kindness meditation was effective for self-critical individuals in reducing self-criticism and depressive symptoms, and improving self-compassion and positive emotions. These changes were maintained three months post-intervention.
2. SOCIAL CONNECTION
Makes you a more helpful person
Loving-kindness meditation appears to enhance positive interpersonal attitudes as well as emotions. For instance, Leiberg, Klimecki and Singer conducted a study that examined the effects of loving-kindness meditation on pro-social behavior, and found that compared to a memory control group, the loving-kindness meditation group showed increased helping behavior in a game context.
A recent review of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) concludes that loving-kindness meditation may be the most effective practice for increasing compassion.
Similarly, Klimecki, Leiberg, Lamm and Singer (2013) found that loving-kindness meditation training increased participants’ empathic responses to the distress of others, but also increased positive affective experiences, even in response to witnessing others in distress.
Decreases your bias towards others
A recent study found that compared to a closely matched active control condition, six weeks of loving-kindness meditation training decreased implicit bias against minorities.
3. EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE IN THE BRAIN
We know that the brain is shaped by our activities. Regularly practicing loving-kindness meditation can help activate and strengthen areas of the brain responsible for empathy & emotional intelligence.
Activates empathy & emotional processing in the brain
Increases gray matter volume in areas of the brain related to emotion regulation.
4. THE STRESS RESPONSE
Loving-kindness meditation also benefits your psychophysiology & makes it more resilient.
Increases respiratory Sinus Arrythmia (RSA)
Just 10 minutes of loving-kindness meditation had an immediate relaxing effect as evidenced by increased respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), an index of parasympathetic cardiac control (i.e., your ability to enter a relaxing and restorative state), and slowed (i.e., more relaxed) respiration rate.
Increases telomere length—a biological marker of aging
We know that stress decreases telomere length (telomeres are tiny bits of your genetic materials—chromosomes—that are a biological marker of aging). However [a study] found that women with experience in loving-kindness meditation had relatively longer telomere length compared to age-matched controls! Throw out the expensive anti-aging creams and get on your meditation cushion!”
- Simply repeat the mantra below. An example of kindness – loving meditation. There are many more meditations to match your comfort level. Just Google or develop one that works for you:
“May all beings be happy, content and fulfilled, May all beings be healed and whole, May all beings have whatever they want and need. May all beings be protected from harm and free from fear. May all beings be awakened, liberated and free, May there be peace on earth and the entire universe.”
- Practice this kindness-love meditation every day… Walking, closing your eyes at your desk, while you mute the TV during a commercial break, etc. Contemporary science is solid in outlining the benefits. If you’d like more historical evidence, “the most ancient Buddhist collection of texts ‘Pali Canon’ fully defines the benefit of loving-kindness meditation.
Kindness meditation gifts in The Triangle,
One Millennial View: Alright, I’m not usually one for chants, meditation, incense, or any of those “typical” mind exercises you may avoid yoga studios because of… But then again, that’s me just tricking myself, because I certainly have my own methods of “meditation.” They come in the form of a good beach run, a beloved podcast/playlist, or even biking to the gym to clear my head after a tough workday. If you have those little daily releases, you’re generally happier, and if you haven’t noticed, it’s the happy folk that are the kindest. However you can create that full circle for yourself, it’s worth figuring out how to draw it.
Edited and published by Garrett Rubis