When you think of meditating, do you picture sitting in lotus, focusing on nothing but your breath? ‘Emptying your mind’ isn’t the only kind of meditation. You can do a relaxing body scan, practice a walking meditation or count your breaths. A little less known, but not less meaningful, is the loving-kindness mediation.
A loving-kindness meditation is a mindfulness technique used to increase feelings of warmth and goodwill towards yourself and others. As you might expect, experiencing warm feelings has several benefits for your wellbeing. In her book Positivity, Barbara Fredrickson shows how regularly practicing loving-kindness mediation produces positive emotions like joy, contentment and gratitude. Studies also found that doing loving-kindness meditation increases your compassion, helps you feel more connected and improves your self-image.
What’s less obvious, is that doing a loving-kindness mediation also supports your physical health. Because mindful awareness lowers your stress levels, having loving thoughts improves your vagal tone – a physiological marker of wellbeing – and decreases pain.
Sounds pretty good, right? If you also want to give your happiness, relationships and body image a boost, take a look at how you can do a loving-kindness meditation.
How to Practice a Loving-Kindness Meditation
There’s no right or wrong way to do a loving-kindness meditation. You can modify the script below to your own liking. The idea of a loving-kindness meditation is to cultivate compassion and well-wishes first towards yourself and then an expanding circle of others.
If you struggle with self-love or a negative body image, you could also reverse the order and start by sending love to someone you deeply care about before you focus on yourself.
Here’s an example of a loving-kindness mediation:
- Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. Sit or lie down comfortably and close your eyes. For a few moments, focus on your breathing to get in a relaxed state of mind.
- Start by placing your hands near your heart. Notice how that area begins to feel warmer. Now imagine how that warmth slowly grows, covering your chest and belly.
- As you mentally expand that warm feeling until it covers your entire body, gently say a few reassuring phrases to yourself:
“May I be well. May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be at peace today.”
- Bask in that feeling of loving kindness for a while. If your mind drifts off, just bring your attention back to that warm sensation in your body.
- Next, you can extend your compassion to someone you care about. Picture your partner, child, parent or best friend and let your love for them slowly swell. Send your loved one positive thoughts by repeating your well-wishes:
“May you be well. May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be at peace today.”
- Now stretch your loving-kindness to other important people in your life: your relatives, friends, favorite co-worker. You can gradually expand your warm feelings to acquaintances, neutral people and even individuals you dislike. When you realize how all people just want to be happy and protected from suffering, say to yourself:
“May everyone be well. May everyone be safe. May everyone be happy. May everyone be healthy. May everyone be at peace today.”
- Finally, you could even include the Earth and all its living creatures in your well-wishes. Feel grateful to be a part of this wonderful thing we call nature.
- When you’ve completed your meditation, try to remember this loving-kindness sensation. That way, you can easily revisit that warm feeling when you can use some peace.
Doing a loving-kindness meditation might feel strange at first. You might feel awkward sending love to yourself. Or maybe you struggle to picture how that warm feeling in your chest can expand, to your whole body or even others. But if you put your hesitations aside for a few meditation sessions, the results may surprise you.
Have you ever tried a loving-kindness meditation, and how did it make you feel?