Meditation has many benefits on your work and productivity, which I also discussed in this article on mindfulness. Personally I’m also a practitioner of meditation and I do notice that my stress levels go down dramatically while meditating and that I’m getting calmer when not practicing meditation as well. However, as I still think of myself as a down to earth kind of guy, the idea of “loving kindness meditation” really is not appealing to me. Because, egocentric as I can sometimes be, I immediately think: “what’s in it for me?” and “why would this be a good addition to my regular meditation?”.
Something changed my mind though and now I’m willing to give it a try. I’ve recently read the book “10 % happier” by Dan Harris – which refers to the fact that meditation will make you about 10 percent happier. In his book he starts with an autobiographic description of the cut-throat business of creating and anchoring for television news. Clearly he starts off as a big skeptic, which increases his credibility for me. After a few setbacks, such as freaking out on national television, he explored the terrain of meditation and now publicly advocates the benefits of meditation. In the end I was really persuaded by the fact that loving kindness meditation reduces overall stress levels. For the purposes of this blog I won’t diverge by summarizing the whole story here, but I definitely recommend you to read the book.
So what are the reasons why you should practice loving kindness meditation?
4 Benefits of loving kindness meditation, supported by science
So after reading 10 % happier, I was really curious about what scientific studies there are to validate the assertions Dan Harris is making in his book. When Googling, I easily found more than 100 references to scientific papers. Below I included just a few of the benefits that where most appealing to me and which are backed by research.
1. Reduces stress and slows down aging
Due to high stress levels and cortisol levels in your blood you age quicker. Focusing on well-being of others by loving kindness meditation reduces stress levels and therefore it slows down your aging as well. This was found in a (albeit exploratory) study by Hoge et al (2013). As indicated, this for me is an important advantage to start with this kind of meditation.
2. Loving kindness meditation relaxes immediately
After just 10 minutes of loving kindness meditation, you enter into a relaxed state in which your body can restore itself. This advantage is very important to me and billions of others with that, as after a hard day’s work it is very important to relax in an efficient way (Kok et al, 2013). And with efficient, I mean it is way better than scrolling an endless Facebook or Instagram feed showing people how happy they are with themselves – which I generally do not want to see 😉 .
3. Decreasing negative emotions while increasing positive emotions
Because of loving kindness meditation, you’ll experience a lot more positive emotions such as gratitude, contentment and love after on average just 7 weeks of meditation. This in turn increases life satisfaction (Fredrickson et al., 2008).
4. Increases your ability for emotion regulation
The grey matter in your brain actually increases because of meditation in general, but also specifically in the regions of emotion regulation. This really helps to prevent outbursts of emotions during stressful periods (this is supported by several studies, one example is Leung et al, 2013).
If you want more advantages on loving kindness meditation backed up by actual science, I definitely recommend also reading this awesome blogpost.
Will loving kindness meditation kill my edge?
In business we generally have to prove ourselves in a competitive environment. So will all this loving kindness kill the edge in such an environment? Because sometimes you do need to speak up, show what you can do etc.
In my view, loving kindness meditation will even give you an edge over others. This doesn’t mean you have to take any crap without doing something about it. However, it will help you to generate a feeling of empathy for the person “doing this to you”. And in turn, this helps you to let go and dissipate the negative feelings you have about the situation. This definitely also comes back in 10 percent happier, in which Dan Harris struggles with being too kind in a competitive environment. His conclusion is that you should not change who you are, but as I mention above to be more empathic without stopping to stand up for yourself and showing what you can do.
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How to meditate for loving kindness:
I hope I’ve made you curious on how to meditate for loving kindness. These are the steps you can follow for a 10 to 15 minute meditation. I advise you to set the stopwatch on your phone, so you do not have to check the time constantly:
- Start with deep breaths (for about 30 seconds)
- Listen to the sounds around you and feel where your body makes contact to the floor or chair. Scan your body from top to bottom (this step should not take longer than one minute).
- Think of something nice you’ve done for someone else. Also the little things count, it’s definitely the thought that matters here and the feeling that you got when helping that other person out. Do this for about 5 to 6 minutes. When you notice that your thoughts have wondered, (gently) go back to the initial image of you helping out another person. It is important to keep coming back to this image without being harsh on yourself because your mind has wondered – believe me: this is how the mind works.
- When you’re getting better, you can also imagine someone else being really happy. For instance, because that person doing what he/she enjoys the most. This works the same as step 3.
- Once the alarm on your phone sounded, let your mind be free for just 30 seconds.
- Then go back to the sounds around you and the feeling of the chair. After this, the meditation is finished.
There are great meditation apps out there which offer these type of meditations. The one I use is Headspace (just check it in the play store if you’re interested).
There also free guided loving kindness meditations out there, one example you can find here.
Loving kindness meditation summarized
Concluding, loving kindness meditation benefits us tremendously by, for example:
- Reducing stress and slowing down aging
- Immediate relaxation
- Decreasing negative emotions while increasing positive ones
- Increases your ability to regulate your emotions
There are a lot more benefits which are backed by actual science. I’ve just started out as I was a big skeptic at first, so I will have to see the benefits for myself.
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