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Scientific Outcomes of Loving Kindness Meditation. Skills Notes 8 Emma Seppala is a highly respected researcher who works in the area of the science of health, happiness and social connection. This excellent piece is adapted from an internet post. “Loving-Kindness meditation focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness and warmth towards others (Salzberg, 1997). Research shows that Loving Kindness Meditation has a tremendous range of benefits from benefitting well-being, to giving relief from illness and improving emotional intelligence: WELL-BEING 1. Increases Positive Emotions and Decreases Negative Emotions In a landmark study, Barbara Frederickson and her colleagues ( Fredrickson, Cohn, Coffey, Pek, & Finkel, 2008) found that practicing 7 weeks of loving-kindness meditation increased love, joy, contentment, gratitude, pride, hope, interest, amusement, and awe. These positive emotions then produced increases in a wide range of personal resources (e.g., increased mindfulness, purpose in life, social support, decreased illness symptoms), which, in turn, predicted increased life satisfaction and reduced depressive symptoms. 2. Increases vagal tone which increases positive emotions and feelings of social connection A study by Kok et al (2013) found that individuals in a Loving Kindness Meditation intervention, compared to a control group, had increases in positive emotions, an effect moderated by baseline vagal tone – a physiological marker of well-being. HEALING We don’t usually think of meditation as being able to help us with severe physical or mental ailments, but research shows it can help: 3. Decreases Migraines: A recent study by Tonelli et al (2014) demonstrated the immediate effects of a brief Loving Kindness Meditation intervention in reducing migraine pain and alleviating emotional tension associated with chronic migraines. 4. Decreases Chronic Pain A pilot study of patients with chronic low back pain randomised to Loving Kindness Meditation or standard care, Loving Kindness Meditation was associated with greater decreases in pain, anger, and psychological distress than the control group (Carson et al., 2005). 5. Decreases Post Traumatic Stress Disorder A study by Kearney et al (2013) found that a 12-week Loving Kindness Meditation course significantly reduced depression and PTSD symptoms among veterans diagnosed with PTSD. 6. Decreases Schizophrenia-Spectrum Disorders Also, a pilot study by Johnson et al. (2011) examined the effects of Loving Kindness Meditation with individuals with schizophrenia spectrum disorders. Findings indicated that Loving Kindness Meditation was associated with decreased negative symptoms and increased positive emotions and psychological recovery. EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE IN THE BRAIN We know that the brain is shaped by our activities. Regularly practicing loving-kindness meditation activates and strengthens areas of the brain responsible for empathy and emotional intelligence. 7. Activates empathy and emotional processing in the brain We showed this link in our research (Hutcherson, Seppala and Gross, 2014) and so have our colleagues (Hoffmann, Grossman and Hinton, 2011) 8. Increases grey matter volume in areas of the brain related to emotion regulation: Leung et al (2013); Lutz et al (2008); Lee et al (2012) THE STRESS RESPONSE Loving Kindness Meditation also benefits your psychophysiology and makes it more resilient 9. Increases respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia (RSA) Just 10 minutes of loving-kindness meditation has an immediate relaxing effect as evidenced by increased respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), an index of parasympathetic cardiac control (i.e. your ability to enter a relaxing and restorative state), and slowed (i.e. more relaxed) respiration rate (Law, 2011 reference) 10. Slows Ageing We know that stress decreases telomere length (telomeres are tiny bits of your genetic materials – chromosomes – that are a biological marker of aging). However, Hoge et al (2013) found that women with experience in Loving Kindness Meditation had relatively longer telomere length compared to age-matched controls! Throw out the expensive anti-aging creams and get on your meditation cushion! SOCIAL CONNECTION 11. Makes you a more helpful person Loving Kindness Meditation appears to enhance positive interpersonal attitudes as well as emotions. For instance, Leiberg, Klimecki and Singer (2011) conducted a study that examined the effects of Loving Kindness Meditation on pro-social behaviour, and found that compared to a memory control group, the Loving Kindness Meditation group showed increased helping behaviour in a game context. 12. Increases Compassion A recent review of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) concludes that Loving Kindness Meditation may be the most effective practice for increasing compassion (Boellinghaus, Jones and Hutton, 2012) 13. Increases Empathy Similarly, Klimecki, Leiberg, Lamm and Singer (2013) found that Loving Kindness Meditation training increased participants’ empathic responses to the distress of others, but also increased positive affective experiences, even in response to witnessing others in distress. 14. Decreases Your Bias towards others A recent study (Kang, Gray and Dovido, 2014) found that compared to a closely matched active control condition, 6 weeks of Loving Kindness Meditation training decreased implicit bias against minorities. 15. Increases Social Connection A study by Kok et al (2013) found that those participants in Loving Kindness Meditation interventions who report experiencing more positive emotions also reported more gains in perception of social connection as well. SELF-LOVE How many of us are slaves to self-criticism or low self-esteem? How many of us do not take as good care as we should of ourselves? 16. Curbs Self-Criticism: A study by Shahar et al (2014) found that Loving Kindness Meditation was effective for self-critical individuals in reducing self-criticism and depressive symptoms and improving self-compassion and positive emotions. These changes were maintained 3 months post-intervention. IMMEDIATE & LONG-TERM IMPACT The nice thing about Loving Kindness Meditation is that it is effective in both immediate and small doses (i.e. instant gratification) but that it also has long-lasting and enduring effects. 17. Is Effective Even in Small Doses Our study – Hutcherson, Seppala and Gross (2008) – found an effect of a small dose of Loving Kindness Meditation (practiced in a single short session lasting less than 10 minutes). Compared with a closely matched control task, even just a few minutes of loving-kindness meditation increased feelings of social connection and positivity toward strangers. 18. Has Long-Term Impact. A study by Cohn et al (2011) found that 35% of participants of a Loving Kindness Meditation intervention who continued to meditate, and experience enhanced positive emotions 15 months after the intervention. Positive emotions correlated positively with the number of minutes spent meditating daily. This information is gathered from various reputable sources and edited together by me. I’d like to thank all those whose original inspiration I wish to build upon. The research continues and all this still considered to be valid.
Be Mindfully Aware
A programme of guided audio meditation, supporting notes and guides to learn and encourage a daily programme of meditation.
To be more mindful. Meditate daily and then: 1. Work to be mindful during routine activities remembering to switch into knowing what you are doing (mindfulness) using reminders like regular sounds, action, post-it notes or what ever.. 2. Get in the habit of stopping first thing. Deliberately become mindful and aware immediately when you wake up. 3. Manage the mind that wanders as soon as you notice it.This is awareness in action. 4. At first keep mindfulness periods short. Our brains respond better to short bursts of mindfulness.
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