Lovingkindness meditations are meditations that guide us through setting positive intentions for ourselves, others in our lives, and every other being in the world. The meditation centers us on these positive intentions as a means of offering well-wishes to others and ourselves and to practice compassion, kindness and empathy.
“‘People were taught to silently repeat phrases like ‘May you feel safe, may you feel happy, may you feel healthy, may you live with ease,’ and keep returning to these thoughts when their minds wandered. They were also advised to focus on these thoughts, and on other people, in stressful situations like when they were stuck in traffic. ‘It’s kind of softening your own heart to be more open to others,’ says Fredrickson.”
TIME Magazine reports on a study of stress and meditation, particularly “lovingkindness” meditations. This type of focused exercise can have a powerful impact on how we experience our world and how we respond to it. What the article touches on toward the end, however, is something that I’ve noticed when using this activity as a therapeutic tool: it takes more than just “doing” the meditation for it to have any effect on stress; it takes the active intention of the person meditating to experience emotions differently and to connect differently with others.
Meditation, particularly lovingkindness meditation, can be useful as a therapeutic intervention for a variety of issues. Professionally, I have found meditation to be helpful for clients struggling with anxiety, including social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks and even PTSD. The relationships that these researchers found between meditation, decreases in stress, and increases in interpersonal connection seem to further support the use of therapy formats such as Mindfulness-Based Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (MCBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for anxiety.
What I also see in this article is support for the practice of positive focus and remaining open to experiencing positive emotions, which is something I believe in very strongly. The effect is not just emotional, though, but can be physical as well:
“The biggest news is that we’re able to change something physical about people’s health by increasing their daily diet of positive emotion…”
And that is powerful.
If you’re interested in finding out how developing a meditation practice, including lovingkindness, can help you to address the stress and anxiety in your life, contact me for a free 30-minute consultation at my office. I’d love to help you figure out the right next step!
Nicole Stone, MS LMFT is a relationship-minded and marriage-friendly therapist passionate about working with adults and couples facing anxiety, relationship crisis, and the divorce/separation experience. She offers individual, couple, and group therapy services in the North Raleigh, NC area.