Loving-kindness meditation (also sometimes called Metta meditation) is a type of Buddhist meditation that can help you cultivate unconditional kind attitudes toward yourself and others. It involves repeating (out loud or in your head) phrases, such as “may you be happy” or “may you be free from suffering” toward specific others and yourself. Sometimes, loving-kindness meditation also involves visualizing positive energy or light directed towards these individuals (Zeng et al., 2015).
It's thought that loving-kindness meditation helps us cultivate four positive attitudes: unselfish friendliness; compassion; appreciative joy; and equanimity (mental calmness, even in difficult situations; Zeng et al., 2015).
In addition to these attitudes (or perhaps because of them), loving-kindness meditation has also been shown to have a variety of positive impacts on well-being. Loving-kindness meditation is especially well-known for increasing positive emotions (Zeng et al., 2015), but it also has been shown to increase feelings of social connection (Hutcherson, Seppala, & Gross, 2008), mindfulness, and self-compassion, and even reduce PTSD symptoms (Kearney et al., 2013). Overall, loving-kindness meditation appears to be good for well-being.
If you've never tried loving-kindness meditation before, you might want to start with a short one. The guided loving-kindness meditation video below is only 5 minutes long and can give you a good sense of what the practice is like.
The loving-kindness meditation below is led by clinical psychologist Tara Brach, Ph.D., who has studied meditation as a therapeutic modality in treating addiction and completed a five-year Buddhist teacher training program. Her teachings blend Western psychology and Eastern spiritual practices.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., is known for his work as a scientist, writer, and meditation teacher engaged in bringing mindfulness into the mainstream of medicine and society. Check out his loving-kindness meditation below.
Loving-kindness meditation is a relatively easy and fun way to boost positive emotions and well-being. A short meditation can fit in a spare few minutes you might have while riding the bus, or you could listen to a longer meditation at bedtime to help go to sleep. If it seems like a good fit to you, try to make the time for the practice, as it can have many benefits.
Adapted from an article on loving-kindness meditation published by The Berkeley Well-Being Institute.