Loving Kindness Meditation for Challenging Times
This version of the ancient loving-kindness meditation known as Metta has four simple short phrases that seem perfect for getting through challenges, relieving anxiety, and upping life satisfaction. The phrases speak to safety, happiness, health, and ease of mind.
What's in This Post
|What is the Loving Kindness Meditation?
|Metta Loving-Kindness Meditation Phrases
|How to do a Loving-Kindness Meditation
|Sending Loving-Kindness to Others
|Benefits of Loving-Kindness Meditation
|More Help Dealing With Stress and Anxiety
What is the Loving Kindness (Metta) Meditation?
The Loving-Kindness meditation is known as a Buddhist meditation but may have pre-dated Buddhism. It is also known as Metta Meditation.
The meditation appears in different variations, but the intention and basic simplicity are consistent across different forms. The intention is based in compassion for yourself and others. The structure is focusing on 4 simple phrases in a relaxed state.
Metta meditation has the potential of relieving your stress, calming your anxiety, and lifting you up in everyday situations and in challenging times.
This is how the meditation is described on the Metta Institute website:
Loving-kindness meditation consists primarily of connecting to the intention of wishing ourselves or others happiness.
Metta Loving-Kindness Meditation Phrases
Begin by expressing supportive encouraging compassion toward yourself by saying these four phrases in your mind:
- May I be safe.
- May I be happy.
- May I be healthy.
- May my mind be at ease.
How to do a Loving-Kindness Meditation
While there is a formal practice of meditation, it seems to me that thinking these phrases can help you get through challenging times no matter how you use them.
You may want to sit comfortably, close your eyes, take a couple of slow deep breaths, and then begin to say the phrases in your mind.
Repeat the sequence as often as you like.
After these phrases that are focused on nurturing yourself, you may want to turn your focus onto other people.
Sending Loving-Kindness to Others
You can switch the phrases to "you" versions for sending loving-kindness to others.
Visualize individuals or groups of people and think these phrases:
- May you be safe.
- May you be happy.
- May you be healthy.
- May your mind be at ease.
You might want to think of family, friends, co-workers, first-responders, essential workers, people you like, and even people you don't like.
Repeat the phrases as many times as you want regarding as many people as you want.
Benefits of the Loving Kindness Meditation
A lot of research has been done on the Loving-Kindness Meditation, and that research shows a lot of benefits from this simple practice.
Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive Emotions, Induced Through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources
Positive Psychology pioneer Barabara Fredrickson and her colleagues divided 140 subjects into 2 groups for a 7-week study.
One group was given weekly meditation classes and asked to perform the Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) at home at least 5 times per week with a guided recording. They also completed daily emotion reports and more extensive beginning and end questionnaires.
The other group were told that they were on the waitlist for the meditation series.
The results included:
"When people initiated a practice of LKM, they enjoyed payoffs both immediately, in terms of self-generated positive emotions, and over time, in terms of increased resources and overall well-being. Meditators even experienced enhanced positive emotions in ordinary life situations, especially those involving other people. This substantiates the claim that this type of meditation changes the way people approach life."
The researchers did a follow-up study with the subjects from the study mentioned above 15 months after the initial study ended. They found that:
many people kept up daily meditation, some adopted another form of meditation such as prayer or self-reflection instead of, or in addition to, LKM
the people who kept meditating reported more positive emotions than those who stopped or had been in the non-meditation control group
A study project using 40 subjects who had chronic back pain put half of the subjects into a meditation group for 8 weeks. During that time period, subjects attended weekly meditation classes and were asked to perform the Loving Kindness meditation at home daily for 10 to 30 minutes. The participants completed daily diaries, questionnaires at the beginning and end of the project, and an additional questionnaire 3 months post project. The control half adhered to traditional treatment for their back pain.
The researchers chose to test the meditation's impact on pain since there is evidence that some chronic back pain is connected to harbored emotional pain, especially anger and resentment.
The meditation group subjects showed a decrease in pain, anger, and psychological distress:
"Moreover, a dose/response relationship was observed for patients’ day-to-day length of loving-kindness practice. Patients who practiced longer with loving-kindness meditation were much more likely to experience lower pain at the end of practice that day and less anger on the following day."
The article about the study included anecdotes from study participants that I found very interesting:
"a businessman who had initially described himself as 'totally cut-and-dry' in relationship to others remarked near the end of the intervention, “I never knew it was possible to have such space in my heart for others.' In a similar vein, a professional woman who used to quickly lose her temper when dealing with her debilitated aging mother reported by the end of the intervention, 'When I enter her room now, I can feel myself soften.'"
In this study, 113 subjects were assigned to either a 10-minute Loving-Kindness meditation group or a 10-minute visualization control group.
The results included that the brief 10 minute LKM intervention:
had an immediate relaxing effect as indicated by changes to respiration rate
"led to greater implicit positivity towards the self relative to the control intervention," and
"also protected against some of the negative physiological and psychological effects of social stress."
Other research projects associated the Loving-Kindness Meditation with:
More Help Dealing With Anxiety and Stress
Through decades of helping clients deal with anxiety and stress (and overcoming my own anxiety), I've created many self-help books and meditation recordings for anxiety and stress relief.
- Ann Silvers