Mindful Mondays: Loving Kindness with Guided Imagery


F! feeling bad, let’s practice loving kindness with guided imagery!

This mindfulness practice ACTUALLY makes you kind, which encourages others to be kind, and on and on and on. It also takes it easy on your body by taking you out of survival brain (fight flight or freeze) and calming anxiety.

I know this is a repeat, but I’ve added more information for the benefits of the practice and some guided imagery at the end.


How

Sit in a comfortable position where you can breathe easily and are not likely to be interrupted. As you extend love, kindness, and compassion to you and others, use the guided imagery at the end of the recorded practice to visualize doing so.

  1. Recite through the first stanza three to five times while focusing on the love you have for you.
  2. Recite through the second stanza three to five times while focusing on the love you have for someone in your life that you care about.
  3. Recite through the second stanza three to five times while focusing love and kindness for someone in your life that you do not have a relationship with, like someone you pass on the street often.
  4. Recite through the second stanza three to five times while focusing love and kindness for someone with whom you have conflict.
  5. Recite through the last stanza three to five times focusing love and kindness toward all living things.

Why

Emotions

At times our emotions can be so intense and overwhelming that we fail to recognize all the information about what is happening in our situation. I am certain you can think of a time when you aggressively reacted to something only to discover later that your assumptions about the situation were misguided. Unattended anger, sadness, or anxiety can create barriers to your ability to feel compassion, empathy, and love toward you and others. Of course, there are quite a few ways to use mindfulness to observe your emotions to better address their needs, but this is a different approach.

Our words are important. What we say and what we hear becomes truth over time. You can call it self-fulfilling prophecy, manifesting, or even priming, but where we focus our attention and the words we use to describe and define our situations are correlated with our actions and achievements. If you consider the days you felt irritable, weren’t you more likely to think poorly of others? What about the days you felt accomplished, joyous, or grateful? The practice of focusing on having love for the self and others coupled with speaking words confirming compassion have a strong effect that builds over time. The more compassion you feel, the more opportunities for joy. The more opportunities for joy, the more you balance feelings of anger, anxiety, and sadness. Check out the science behind it, according to Seppala (2014) and Nunez (2020):

  • Increased positive emotions;
  • Decreased PTSD symptoms;
  • Reduces self-criticism; and,
  • Increases compassion.
Body

Since the mind and body are intimately connected, the ability to increase empathy through loving kindness is either impacting or impacted by changes in the body that occur after practicing it, even after a short amount of time. Studies have demonstrated increased activity in the parts of the brain associated with emotional processing and empathy (Hoffman, Grossman, & Hinton, 2012; Zeng, et. al., 2015). These changes are associated with changes in affect toward more comfortable emotions over distressing ones, which leads scientists to believe that Loving Kindness Meditation can improve conditions related to anxiety or conflict with others.

Using attentional focus, your loving kindness practice stimulates your brain in areas that provide relief from stress that keeps you in survival brain. While in survival brain your muscles are tense, your breathing is shallow, and your heart pumps rapidly, wearing out all your bodily functions. Headaches, muscle pain, and other physical symptoms of unwellness (that also cause irritability) are often due to lack of relief from stress. Which explains why practicing loving kindness benefits us by (Seppala, 2014; Nunez 2020):

  • Slowing aging;
  • Increasing relaxation;
  • Increasing gray matter in the brain—related to emotion regulation;
  • Increasing emotional intelligence;
  • Decreasing pain; and,
  • Reducing migraines.

Brain plasticity, your brain’s way of adapting its functioning to be most effective given changed circumstances in your body and/or environment, accounts for changes made in the way you think, feel, and act after practicing mindfulness over time. Your behavior creates connections among neurons in the brain that strengthen over time and increase the likelihood that your behavior, thoughts, and emotions will eventually default to. Over time, you can change the way your brain fires to reduce or eliminate some symptoms associated with discomfort.

Social

Most noticed a change in anxiety and a loss in socially skilled engagement since the pandemic; however, anxiety has been increasing since before we were forced out of social situations. Technology has interfered with the ways in which our brain observes and collects data to inform us how to function in society—it’s robbing us of our agency (our confidence in our ability to have an impact on our environment.) Additionally, most of us are overly engaged in social media, which gives us a skewed perspective of others and how they live. Not only is it easier to be irritable with someone you can’t see face to face, but we are missing the physiological reactions from doing so. Did you know that we release different hormones associated with empathy, compassion, and bonding when we are in the presence of others?

Practicing loving kindness combats this effect in the following ways by (Seppala, 2014; Nunez 2020):

  • Increasing motivation to help others;
  • Reducing bias toward others;
  • Increasing social connection; and,
  • Activating empathy.
Recovering From Narcissistic Abuse

Any practice that focuses on maintaining the love and kindness you have bestow upon others is healing. Too often people recovering from narcissistic abuse in relationships refrain from being kind or loving for fear it will subject them to harmful situations or more abuse. The goal is not to be sheltered from the risk of loving and caring for others, rather, it is to grow in your ability to love and care while setting healthy boundaries to honor both you and your relationships. It is possible to have compassion for another and deny them access to your life. Anger exists to motivate setting the boundary, but carrying anger as hatred or grudges is not healthy for you. Radical acceptance for who they are and why they are not welcome in your life can exist alongside compassion for them. If you are not there yet or just not there today, radically accept that, as well. The healing process takes time and must be approached willingly, not willfully.


If you are interested in increasing your ability to regulate your emotions, move through the world more purposefully, and manage overwhelming anger and anxiety, consider registering for updates on upcoming programs, check out other videos and podcasts, stay up to date on groups and events, and sign up for your free consultation.


References and Further Reading:

5 Benefits of Metta Meditation and How to Do It – Nunez

18 Science-Backed Reasons to Try Loving-Kindness Meditation – Seppala

The Effect of Loving Kindness Meditation on Positive Emotions: a Meta-Analytic Review – Zeng, et al

Loving-Kindness and Compassion Meditation: Potential for Psychological Interventions – Hoffman, Grossman, and Hinton

Metta Meditation: The Benefits, The Science Behind It, & How to Do It – Fisher

This Loving-Kindness Meditation is a Radical Act of Love – Kabat-Zinn


Disclaimer: This content is intended for educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for mental health treatment. It is important for survivors of abuse to find mental health professionals who understand trauma and abusive relationships. Please seek support from trusted and trained practitioners. This content is not meant to be used by anyone as diagnostic criteria. Permissions have not been granted for anyone to utilize this material as a source to make allegations about specific individuals. Any online content produced by Michelle Minette and F! All That Wellness Coaching is an educational discussion about narcissism which is a descriptive term for tendencies and behavioral patterns. Individuals with narcissistic features or tendencies do not necessarily meet DSM-5 diagnostic criteria. The terms narcissistic and narcissism are used as descriptions of tendencies and behaviors and are not meant as clinical terms.