17 Feb Recovery Tools that Promote Self-Love by Kimberly Gibson, LPCC
The theme for our blog this month is Recovery Tools that Promote Self-Love. One way to promote self love towards yourself is by trying a loving-kindness meditation. Also, called metta, loving kindness meditation focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness and warmth towards oneself and towards others. Below is an example and some simple instructions to get you started.
First, find a quiet place and commit 15 to 20 minutes to this mediation. Sit in a comfortable fashion, most find it comfortable to sit straight up either on a chair or on the floor with a cushion. Let your body rest and relax. Try and visualize your heart opening up. Let go of any plans or preoccupations.
Begin with yourself. Breathe softly and recite the following phrase directed towards yourself.
May I be filled with lovingkindness.
May I be safe from inner and outer dangers.
May I be well in body and mind.
May I be at ease and happy.
As you repeat these statements, picture yourself either as you are now or as a young child. Hold this image in a heart of loving-kindness. You can change the phrases or the images you are holding as needed. For example, one may find it helpful to state, “May I be free of emotional and physical pain.” Do whatever helps you open your heart up to love and kindness the most. Sometimes during loving-kindness meditation, opposite feelings such as anger, grief, or sadness may arise. Take these to be signs that your heart is softening, revealing what is held there. Try not to judge one’s self for having these feelings, just note them and accept them.
When you feel like you have develop a greater loving-kindness for yourself, you can build on the mediation to include others. Start with a benefactor, someone in your life who has truly loved you or someone who you are thankful for. Next, visualise someone that you are neutral about, perhaps a neighbor or a co-worker, and offer them loving kindness. We are often quick to judge people as positive or negative in our lives so it may be hard, at first, to come up with a neutral person. Next, visualize someone who you are having a hard time with or someone you do not like and offer them loving-kindness. Sometimes this can lead to a feeling of empowerment. Finally, direct the metta to everyone. “May all beings everywhere be happy.”
I hope these instructions were easy to follow and enough to get you started. I’d like to also point out that the research on loving-kindness meditation is really strong. It is worth trying. In a landmark study, Barbara Frederickson and her colleagues found that practicing seven weeks of loving-kindness meditation increased 9 emotions- love, joy, contentment, gratitude, pride, hope, interest, amusement, and awe. These positive emotions then produced increases in a wide range of personal resources such as the ability to give and receive social support, the ability to stay present in the moment and the ability to fight off a common cold. Their study also showed that the increases in personal resources resulted in greater life satisfaction and less depression. Another study demonstrated that one twenty minute loving kindness meditation can have immediate results in reducing migraine pain and alleviating emotional tension associated with chronic migraines.
Fredrickson, B. L., M. A. Cohn, et al. (2008). “Open hearts build lives: positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources.” J Pers Soc Psychol 95(5): 1045-62.
Tonelli, M.E., Wachholtz, A.B. (2014). “Meditation-based treatment yielding immediate relief for meditation-naïve migraineurs.” Pain Manag Nurs. 2014 Mar;15(1):36-40.