Have you tried Metta meditation? The science behind ‘Loving Kindness’
Our final Meno-Well workshop of 2021 this week was a mini-retreat with the wonderful Henny Flynn - podcast host, best-selling author and life coach. Our ambition with the session was to explore the value of shifting our minds from resolution setting - both generally in menopause, and as we head into 2022 - to instead focus on the power of intention-setting.
Henny coached us through a series of exercises, designed to support us in discovering our own intentions for next year and Part 2 of our lives. She also shared the science behind why intentions work; and why they’ve been used across cultures for 1000s of years.
We ended with a short practice of Metta Meditation which felt particularly poignant and powerful given the news this week.
Metta Meditation, or Loving-Kindness Meditation, focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness, and warmth towards ourselves and others. It is a practice that encourages us to radiate kindness outwards - to those we love, to those we may have conflict with and then to the whole world, before returning the compassion back to ourselves.
It is also a practice that has seen increased interest from the research community in recent years, with impressive results.
In a landmark study, Barbara Frederickson, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of North Carolina, found that practicing seven weeks of Loving-Kindness Meditation increased love, joy, contentment, gratitude, pride, hope, interest, amusement, and awe. The report concludes:
“These shifts in positive emotions took time to appear and were not large in magnitude, but over the course of 9 weeks, they were linked to increases in a variety of personal resources, including mindful attention, self-acceptance, positive relationships with others, and good physical health…They enabled people to become more satisfied with their lives and to experience fewer symptoms of depression.”
In addition, researchers have found that Metta Meditation:
- Increases our vagal tone (effectively activating our parasympathetic nervous system), which increases positive emotions and feelings of social connection
- Increases gray matter volume in our brains in areas of the brain related to emotion regulation
- Improves our stress response and helps us be more resilient
- 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
- Delays biological markers of ageing: We know that stress decreases telomere length (telomeres are tiny bits of our genetic materials that are a biological marker of aging). However, A 2013 study found that women with experience in Loving-Kindness Meditation had relatively longer telomere length (which are used as a biological marker of ‘age’), compared to age-matched controls.
- There is even evidence that it can help mitigate migraine severity by alleviating emotional tension associated with chronic migraines.
The Dali Lama has said:
“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”
So, how do you start? Easy. Henny’s Metta Meditation is available to listen to now on Insight Timer. Download the app or click HERE, give yourself 10 minutes away from the bustle of life and…. Begin.
And to find out more about Henny and her work, head to her coaching site, HERE.
With love Rebekah and the MPowder Team.