Loving Kindness for You!
We all have flaws that we tend to beat ourselves up about. It could be our weight, hair, intellect, or even the car we drive. Being kind and compassionate to others often comes easy; however, doing the same for ourselves is often just outside of our reach.
A recent study conducted in Israel, entitled “A Wait-List Randomized Controlled Trial of Loving-Kindness Meditation Programme for Self-Criticism” (featured in Volume 2, Issue 4 of Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy) has shown that practising loving-kindness meditation can help minimize these feelings.
Loving-kindness meditation brings about a change in attitude by developing the quality of loving acceptance, freeing the troubled mind from its pain and confusion. The end result is the changing of habitual negative patterns, such as self criticism, by replacing them with warmth and kindness towards oneself (and others). Loving-kindness activates what’s known as the soothing-caring regulatory system, something that is often lacking in self-critics, according to the study.
At the end of this article there is a loving kindness meditation you can practice for yourself.
During the study 38 highly self-critical people 23 female and 15 male as (determined during pre-study evaluations of self-criticism, self-compassion, and psychological distress), were divided into two groups. The first group was assigned to a seven week loving-kindness meditation program and the other half formed a control group.
The participants assigned to the loving-kindness program first practised directing feelings of warmth and compassion towards themselves during 90 minute sessions led by an instructor. Later, they imagined directing those emotions to others, specifically close friends, friends in need, neutral individuals, and people with whom they had a difficult relationships.
Three months after the study, participants completed several questionnaires. The results showed that participants of the meditation program scored lower on self-critical perfectionism and inadequacy and higher for self-compassion and self-reassurance. The scores for the control group didn’t change.
The study didn’t have any effect on self-hate, which is a severe form of self-criticism but did show that practising loving-kindness may reduce depressive symptoms and increase positive emotions. (Recommendations were made by researchers for further studies to ensure the practice of loving-kindness was responsible for the changes and not other factors.)
The meditation below is based on a Budhist meditation referred to as Metta Bhavana
Loving Kindness for Yourself
- Set aside at least 10 minutes for this meditation, (longer say 15 to 25 minutes is even better).
- Find a quiet place to practice and make sure it will stay quiet by turning off your phone and anything else that might distract you.
- Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
- Bring your attention to the heart area of your body.
- Take three slow breaths allowing your body to relax with each breath.
- Feel the sensations in your body as you sit. Some of the things you might notice are
- How your body feels against the chair
- The temperature of the air
- Any parts of your body that feel a bit tense
- Allow the thought and intention to form “I can be calm and happy with who I am”
- Let yourself feel the warmth of that statement allowing yourself to feel contentment.
- See yourself sitting in the chair feeling good will towards yourself and repeat the following phrases silently (you may prefer to use the words “I am” rather than “May I be”)
- May I be calm
- May I be safe
- May I be healthy
- May I be happy
- May I accept all that I am
- As you say each phrase reflect on how it feels to you. Some phrases may seem difficult to believe, these are the phrases you can benefit from repeating a couple of extra times to help yourself accept them.
- Take your time, savour the meaning of the words.
- Any time your mind wanders, (which is quite common), repeat the phrases again.
- If at any time you find the words become meaningless, refocus on the feeling behind the phrase.
- Let this exercise be easy. Loving-kindness can be most natural thing in the world.
- Distractions often come up, let them go and return to the phrases.
- When your attention wanders, return to giving love to yourself.
- When you are finished open your eyes and remind yourself that you can always come back to these feelings of loving kindness whenever you need.
The next time you feel critical of yourself, take a moment to mediate and allow yourself to let go of those feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy. You are beautifully amazing just as you are.
To your inner self-confidence and strength – Anna
LUKITS, A. (2015, August 3). After Meditation, Self-Critical People Ease Up.
Shahar, B. (2014, March 16). A Wait-List Randomized Controlled Trial of Loving-Kindness Meditation Programme for Self-Criticism.