Loving Kindness is an energy that can cure and heal the body and mind!
Loving kindness meditation is used to improve your well-being and reduce your stress levels. If you practice it on a daily basis, in time you can expect to increase your capacity to forgive, your ability to connect with others, come to accept yourself for who you are and more besides. However, this is not an easy form of meditation as you are required to send love both to yourself and to others. More often than not, practice is required to be able to send love to yourself and to others. The practice is over two thousand years old and is commonly used by Buddhist monks as a form of meditation.
Regular practitioners of loving kindness can expect to reap a string of psychological benefits from it. For a start, loving kindness helps you to decrease your negative emotions while simultaneously increasing your positive emotions. In so doing, this form of meditation has been known to help those who suffer from depression and social anxiety. A study which lasted for seven weeks suggested that loving kindness helps to increase such emotions as joy, cheerfulness, appreciation and fulfilment. In just under two months, the test subjects reported a general increase in their level of life satisfaction as well.
It has been truthfully said that everyone is their own worst critic. If you suffer from anxiety or depression, you will doubtlessly be aware that your own self-critic can be especially harsh on you. It can range from being mildly annoying to downright cruel. Loving kindness has been known to quieten this inner voice of self-criticism and replace it with more gentle and loving emotions such as self-compassion. Self-criticism can lead to a variety of psychopathology ailments including eating disorders and symptoms of bipolar disorder as well as anxiety and depression. By reducing self-criticism through loving kindness, the door is opened for healthier coping mechanisms to develop and thrive.
If you feel you would benefit from a greater level of empathy and compassion, then loving kindness may well be the meditation practice for you. It has been reported that loving kindness can increase these positive emotions more than any other form of meditation and can increase them even further when the practitioner is confronted with people in distress. If we increase our capability to manage emotional information processed by our brain, it can have a positive effect on how we handle and react to stressful situations.
Loving kindness not only enhances positive emotions, it can also enable the practitioner increase their feelings of belonging and connectedness to others. Studies in this field suggest that loving kindness increases the level of activity in the parts of the brain that are involved in processing emotions and empathy. This is especially useful in a world where changes are resulting in increased levels of social distrust and alienation. Loving kindness can increase the level of positivity and closeness the practitioner feels towards people in general and not just those in their inner circles of family and friends.
There is also evidence to suggest that loving kindness provides physical benefits as well as psychological ones. For instance, a scientific study has reported a 33% drop in migraines after just one session of loving kindness meditation. It is also known to be useful in reducing the effects of other forms of chronic pain, especially those in the region of the lower back. Other studies have found that loving kindness can also help to reduce the symptoms of conditions as varied as PTSD, inflammations and schizophrenia.
There are various ways to practice loving kindness, with each one being based on a different form of Buddhist teaching, and it will be worth your while to consider looking for a practitioner in your area who can help you to get started. That being said, it is possible to practice some basic loving kindness by yourself.
First, you must set aside some time in which you will meditate. Close your eyes, take some deep breaths and ensure your muscles are relaxed. Picture yourself experiencing total and utter inner peace, thank yourself for being the person you are, and keep focusing on these feelings. Imagine that tension leaves you when you breathe out and love and positivity enter when you breathe in.
Repeat several positive messages to yourself. These could include things like “may I be happy”, “may I be safe”, “may I be free” or anything you choose to say. Surround yourself with self-compassion for a few moments. Shift your focus to other people afterwards if you like. Picture someone you are close to and visualise your gratitude and love and stay with this feeling for a while.
Then you can bring other people in your life into focus and picture them with inner peace and wellness. Extend your loving kindness to groups of people around the world and focus on connectedness and compassion. Here you can include people with whom you are in conflict and seek to reach forgiveness and inner peace with them. Only you can decide when your meditation is complete and open your eyes when you are ready. Remember how your loving kindness feels and you can access it throughout the remainder of the day by taking deep breaths and shifting your focus back to it.
Loving kindness is a flexible form of meditation that brings positive benefits in both immediate, smaller doses and more long-term and enduring practice. It may initially seem strange or off-putting to new practitioners, especially since generating self-compassion is seldom an easy task. It is worth looking into if you find yourself struggling with depression, anxiety or another related condition or even if you would just like to be a little kinder to yourself and others in your day-to-day life.
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