Day to day, it’s easy to see acts of kindness happening around you. And you can easily practise this type of kindness yourself. You could help someone less able with a heavy bag, or smile at the commuter you pass every morning while heading to the station. But, kindness doesn’t just come in a physical form. You can practise it within as well. In particular, loving-kindness meditation (LKM) is a type of Buddhist practice that’s all about ‘thinking kind’ to help increase your positive emotions.
How does loving-kindness meditation work?
LKM helps to develop parts of your brain that are involved in keeping your emotions in balance. It’s essentially a type of training for your brain. In LKM, you train your brain and alter its activity to help you adopt positive feelings and generate compassionate and empathetic emotions towards yourself and others.
Want to try it out? Here’s how:
Be kind to yourself
Being kind to yourself is often the hardest part, but it’s really important in order to help remove any negative emotions you may have. These emotions may otherwise hinder your ability to generate loving-kindness towards others.
First, you should start to become aware of yourself. Focus on positive emotions like peace and then move on to more empowering emotions like confidence.
Secondly, in your mind, repeat to yourself: ‘may I be happy and well’ or something similar. Doing this can help you to feel loving-kindness for yourself. You could also imagine positive images around yourself, like a light mist surrounding you, to help with this step.
Think kindly about a friend
The next step is to transfer loving-kindness to someone who you are already fond of. This could be a friend or family member. You might find this step a bit easier. It’s often easier to feel positively about someone you like, or are particularly close to.
Try using the methods above to transfer loving-kindness to your target.
Instead of wishing yourself well, repeat in your mind: ‘may they be happy and well’. Similarly, instead of imagining a light mist around yourself, imagine a light misty path that spreads between you and your target, along which your loving-kindness can travel.
Spread your kind thoughts to someone you don’t know
For this step, choose someone you feel neither positive nor negative emotions towards. This could be someone you regularly pass in the street or in the corridor at work. Use the methods outlined above to help you transfer loving-kindness towards them.
Include someone you dislike in your kind thoughts
This stage can be challenging. It may feel unnatural to project kind thoughts to someone you dislike. To help with this stage, try not to focus on any negative feelings you may have. The key is to think positively of them. It may help you to wish them happiness in your mind like you have in the previous steps.
If you can, try to stay with each step until you can feel loving-kindness appearing. Allow yourself a few moments to observe the loving-kindness you have generated and then gradually move on to the next step. Continue this process until you have completed all of the steps.
There are lots of moments throughout your day when you could spread a little kindness in this way. You could do it when you’re standing in a queue, on your commute to or from work, when you’re making dinner, or before you go to sleep. And on World Kindness Day, there’s no kinder time to start.
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