There are various types of meditative techniques, many of which teach releasing the tension, sleeping better, reducing stress, and a lot of other self-improvement skills. Of these, Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) is one that does so by offering compassion to others.
The practice aims at developing a feeling of kindness, warmth and goodwill towards oneself and others. When fostering such positive feelings, researchers have found that these positive emotions and outlook can also impact the health of an individual on both the physical and mental level.
That is to say that ailing individuals may see the benefits of practising Loving Kindness Meditation and be able to note an overall improvement in their quality of life. By boosting positivity in different life aspects, people can also become more successful at countering negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, stress, depression and even the physical sensation of pain.
Even though Loving Kindness Meditation is a fairly new branch of meditation compared to some others, it has started to get attention in the research field. Some research indicates that practising Loving Kindness Meditation for a couple of weeks can help increase positive emotions.
When a person feels happier, or simply more content, they can better reduce their symptoms of depression, exhibit greater empathy, and even become less critical of themselves.
Research also indicates that the brain holds the ability to form new connections all the time. With this in mind, researchers believe that mind-body techniques such as Loving Kindness Meditation can teach the brain to become more compassionate.
When a person is able to share this compassion better, it can help with all kinds of healing processes including physical and emotional healing. It also teaches a person to be kinder to themselves and be less critical.
This point is validated using fMRI brain scans of regular meditators. Images from the study show that brain circuits used to detect emotions and feelings in people who meditate are stronger than others who did not. And the connections became stronger, the more they meditated.
As such, with regular meditation sessions, brain areas that trigger empathy and emotional intelligence stay activated.
Some other studies showing the benefits of practising Loving Kindness Meditation include the following:
- Study participants who suffered from migraine headaches and engaged in LKM intervention experienced a 33% reduction in pain and a 43% reduction in emotional tension.
- For chronic low back pain sufferers, an 8-week LKM program provided pain reduction in their lower back.
- Another 9-week study investigated the effect of LKM on pain severity and associated anger. Results show that participants experienced a reduction in pain severity and anger and an increase in pain acceptance after having undergone LKM intervention.
- One study done with people with schizophrenia spectrum disorders showed that LKM intervention could reduce their negative symptoms while increasing their positive emotions.
- For cancer symptom management, patients who enrolled in LKM therapy reported improvements in anxiety as compared to those who received usual care. Participants also reported improvements in self-compassion and mindfulness while increasing acceptance of their condition.
- Studies that deal with stress and depression show LKM to be a helpful technique to develop self-compassion. This self-compassion can then help regulate some of the stress.
- Self-compassion is also a very important component in the case of individuals who are highly self-critical. This is another area where LKM seems to help. Engaging such individuals in a study with LKM intervention showed that the practice was helpful in reducing self-criticism. It also increased self-compassion while reducing depressive symptoms.
Based on these various studies, experts conclude that Loving Kindness Meditation doesn’t have to be practised for long sessions, but even short, individual sessions can be beneficial as well. The benefits reaped can provide a relaxing effect in both the short and long-term.