Picture of 2 rocks with one rock giving a heart to another

Loving-Kindness Metta Meditation: Live A Longer Life Full of Love

I want to share a secret with you. When I first tried loving-kindness meditation practice (aka Metta meditation), it felt weird.

What do you mean I have to send love to those I hate? That doesn’t even make sense. But a growing number of studies and meditation experts like Jon Kabat-Zinn are touting the transformative benefits of loving-kindness, so I decided to give it a try.

Loving-kindness meditation involves focusing on goodwill towards yourself and others by silently repeating affirmations or mantras and being mindful of the emotions that arise.

In this post, I’ll delve into what loving-kindness meditation is, how to practice it with metta meditation guided techniques, and why you need to start practicing.

What is Loving-Kindness Metta Meditation?

rear of woman with arms raised at beach during sunset practicing loving-kindness meditation

When you meditate, it’s important to remain fully present. Emotions such as anger, jealousy, and hate can take away from the full benefits of meditation.

Loving-kindness meditation has its origins in Buddhist practices. The term “metta” comes from the Pali language, meaning affection, benevolence, friendship, and kindness.

While the practice has a background in ancient spiritual principles, this form of meditation has caught the attention of the scientific community, showing measurable improvements in mental health.

Typically, the practice involves silently repeating words of care for yourself, those you care about, those you feel neutral towards, and eventually, all beings.

The Psychology Behind Loving-Kindness

Research backs the idea that loving-kindness meditation offers both physical and mental health benefits.

A study by Kok et al. (2013) measured participants’ vagal tone—a physiological marker of well-being—before and after a Loving-Kindness Meditation intervention. The results showed a significant increase in positive emotions compared to the control group.

Related: 11 Best Meditation Techniques for Beginners

9 Science-Backed Benefits of Loving-Kindness Meditation

woman practicing loving-kindness meditation in front of a window

By including loving-kindness meditation in your regular practice it can have positive effects on your psychology and happiness. Here are a few of the specific benefits.

1. Reduces Pain and Promotes Healing

Physical Healing

Studies have shown that loving-kindness meditation can help patients with migraines and chronic back pain. Remarkably, participants experienced benefits with as little as 2-5 minutes of practice per day.

Psychological Healing

A 12-week course for veterans suffering from PTSD led to a significant reduction in depression and PTSD symptoms. Participants used loving-kindness meditation scripts, and many were able to return to work sooner than those receiving other forms of therapy.

2. Boosts Mental Resilience to Anxiety and Depression

Meditation has consistently been shown to positively impact how we handle thoughts and emotions.

Loving-kindness meditation, in particular, promotes self-compassion and focuses our attention on positive emotions, quickly improving mental health.

Anxiety often arises without a clear cause, leading us to worry without knowing why. Practicing self-compassion and fostering feelings of happiness and love help redirect energy away from negative emotions.

3. Enhances Self-Image

Self-compassion is the first step in loving-kindness meditation. Practicing compassion toward ourselves helps us develop a more positive self-image.

woman looking at herself in a mirror

This newfound happiness spills over into other aspects of our lives and interactions, encouraging us to treat others with kindness and understanding. The knock-on effects it that it nurtures healthier relationships and social connections.

A study found that participants not only had a better mental self-image but also experienced reduced illness, increased mindfulness, and a greater sense of purpose in life.

Related: Why Is Everyone So Mean to Me? 11 Reasons Why

4. Bolsters Emotional Intelligence

Spending more time sending positive thoughts and emotions to others directly affects the part of the brain responsible for empathy and emotional intelligence.

In fact, there’s evidence that it increases the density of the brain region responsible for processing emotions. This is where ‘meditation for EQ’ (Emotional Intelligence) comes into play.

By practicing loving-kindness meditation, we are essentially training our minds to better understand and manage our emotions, thereby enhancing our emotional intelligence.

5. Fosters Empathy and More Compassion

As we practice loving-kindness meditation and direct loving-kindness towards others, our understanding of their feelings and emotions grows.

This increased awareness and empathy enables us to respond with greater compassion in difficult situations, strengthening our connections with others and promoting emotional well-being.

6. Slows Biological Aging of the Brain

If you’re seeking the fountain of youth, consider trying loving-kindness meditation instead of expensive serums.

Women of different ages hugging in nature

Telomeres, which shorten as we age, are affected by stress, which accelerates the process. In one study, researchers compared fifteen loving-kindness practitioners to a non-practicing control group.

The practitioners had longer telomeres, indicating a slowing of the brain’s aging process.

This could reduce the risk of age-related brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

7. Facilitates Recovery

A 2011 study introduced loving-kindness meditation to eighteen participants with schizophrenia. The practice led to improved feelings towards others and fewer negative symptoms like hallucinations and delusions.

8. Decreases Anger and Resentment

Focusing on emotions and feelings of loving-kindness can gradually help us let go of negative emotions like anger, resentment, and grudges.

As we practice loving-kindness meditation, managing these negative emotions and replacing them with feelings of compassion and understanding becomes easier.

9. Increases Life Satisfaction

Cultivating positive emotions through loving-kindness practice can enhance our overall well-being and life satisfaction. The happiness and contentment that stem from practicing loving-kindness help us appreciate the good things in life and maintain a positive outlook, even in challenging situations.

How I Practice Loving-Kindness Meditation (Metta Meditation)

woman raising two hands

There are generally four stages of loving-kindness meditation practices. Let’s explore them now.

As with all meditations, I like to start by finding a comfortable position, taking a few deep breaths to settle into the moment and ground the mind, inhaling the breath through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.

Receiving Loving-Kindness

To generate mindfulness and positive emotions, I visualize a calming setting (for me, it’s usually the bank of a tropical river).

Then, I begin repeating positive phrases to myself such as “may I be happy, may I be healthy, and may I be safe.” The key is to not only say the words but also be mindful of the positive emotions they evoke.

Focus your full attention on these feelings. The time spent with positive emotions is what makes a difference in our brains.

Sending Loving-Kindness to Someone We Know

Now that our minds are more receptive to giving positive emotions, imagine someone who could benefit from the positive emotions you are focusing on them. This could be a friend or family member.

Using similar phrases as before, repeat them while being mindful of the feelings that arise: “May they be happy, may they be healthy, and may they be safe.”

Avoid getting caught up in stories or thoughts about this person’s life; instead, concentrate on the words and the positive emotions you are sending them.

Sending Loving-Kindness to All Beings

In this stage, practice sending positive emotions to people you may not know as well, such as neighbors or the barista at your local coffee shop.

One helpful suggestion is to extend these feelings not only to humans but also to all creatures and life forms (I often think about whales – I love those beautiful animals).

Aim to have as much compassion for those you don’t know as you do for those you know well.

Sending Loving-Kindness to Those Who Have Upset You

Everyone in the entire world deserves happiness, including those who have upset you. A loving-kindness intervention may be just what’s needed.

Use the same phrases as before: “May you be happy, may you be healthy, and may you be safe.”

Try to extend as much compassion and wishes for happiness to this person as you have for others.

It might be difficult to feel any positive emotions towards this person but don’t stress about it. Part of this meditation is training yourself to feel genuine happiness for others, including people you don’t like.

Practicing loving-kindness meditation daily for as little as two weeks can yield noticeable results.

A Short Loving-Kindness (Metta) Meditation Script

Follow this simple loving-kindness (metta) meditation script to cultivate positive emotions and compassion for yourself and others.

This mindfulness practice, also known as metta bhavana, can be done in just a few minutes.

1. Find a comfortable position

Sit comfortably or lie down in a quiet place. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Allow your body and mind to relax, bringing awareness to your own body.

2. Focus on yourself

Begin by directing loving-kindness towards yourself. Silently repeat these phrases in your mind:

  • May I be safe from inner and outer harm
  • May I be healthy
  • May I be happy
  • May I be at ease

As you repeat these phrases, try to feel the warmth and love they generate within you. Allow these positive emotions to fill your entire being.

3. Extend love to someone you care about

Next, bring to mind someone you care about deeply, such as a family member, friend, or even a beloved pet. Visualize their face and silently repeat the phrases:

  • May you be safe from inner and outer harm.
  • May you be healthy.
  • May you be happy.
  • May you be at ease.

Feel the feelings of loving-kindness flowing from your own heart to theirs, wishing them well-being and happiness.

4. Expand your circle of compassion

Gradually extend your loving-kindness to acquaintances, strangers, and even people you may have difficulty with. As you repeat the phrases, imagine your love and kindness spreading outward, encompassing more and more living beings.

  • May all beings be safe from inner and outer harm.
  • May all beings be healthy.
  • May all beings be happy.
  • May all beings be at ease.

Feel the warmth and compassion that come from wishing happiness and well-being for all beings, regardless of their relationship with you.

5. Return to yourself and close the meditation

Finally, bring your focus back to yourself. Silently repeat the phrases one last time:

  • May I be safe from inner and outer harm
  • May I be healthy
  • May I be happy
  • May I be at ease

Allow the feelings to wash over you once more. Then, take a few deep breaths and gently open your eyes. Carry the warmth and compassion generated during this meditation with you throughout your day.

The Takeaway

The first time I tried loving-kindness meditation, it felt weird.

It felt strange to consciously send love to people I was not fond of. But trust me, the experience has been life-changing.

Science also backs up the power of this meditation! Not only does it help to alleviate physical pain, but it also bolsters our mental resilience and promotes self-compassion.

As I’ve practiced more, I found myself feeling more empathetic, and my relationships improved. I even felt a little younger.

Let’s not forget the most beautiful part – this meditation teaches us to love ourselves. So why not give it a shot? Just like me, you might find it weird at first, but with time, you’ll see the incredible benefits that loving-kindness meditation brings. Take it from me, it’s worth it!

What to read next: 9 Different Types of Meditation

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be construed as professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms of any mental health condition, we strongly advise consulting with a qualified healthcare professional.

FAQs

Loving-kindness meditation, also known as metta meditation, is a method of developing compassion. It involves mentally sending goodwill, kindness, and warmth towards others by silently repeating a series of mantras.

The five steps of loving-kindness meditation are:

  1. Find a comfortable position and bring awareness to your own body.
  2. Focus on yourself and direct loving-kindness towards yourself, repeating a series of well-wishing phrases.
  3. Extend your well-wishes to someone you care about, such as a family member, friend, or pet.
  4. Gradually extend your loving-kindness to acquaintances, strangers, and even people you may have difficulty with.
  5. Return focus to yourself, repeating the phrases one last time, and close the meditation, carrying the generated warmth and compassion with you throughout your day.

The mantra for loving-kindness meditation involves repeating a series of well-wishing phrases towards yourself and others. They usually are:

May I be safe from inner and outer harm.
May I be healthy.
May I be happy.
May I be at ease.
These phrases can be altered to refer to others when directing your well-wishes outward.

While both loving-kindness and mindfulness meditation are forms of Buddhist meditative practices, they focus on different aspects. Mindfulness meditation is about bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment. On the other hand, loving-kindness meditation focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness, and warmth towards oneself and others. Both practices can complement each other in developing a more balanced and holistic mindfulness practice.

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