Research and Loving-Kindness Meditation

Why You Should Practice The Loving-Kindness Meditation

This type of meditation can help you to feel more connected with others. Philip Lee Harvey/ Getty Images

Positive psychology researcher Barbara Fredrickson is known for her broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions, which maintains that when people experience positive emotions on a daily basis, this experience enhances their lives in ways that grow and expand over time. People who regularly experience more positive emotions eventually see increases in personal resources and, in turn, greater life satisfaction, all of which can help relieve stress.

One way in which people can find these positive experiences in a simple and accessible way is to practice a loving kindness meditation, where they focus on tender feelings toward themselves, loved ones, and, eventually, people who are in their broader social circle.

(Loving kindness may bring more lasting benefits in the area of positive emotions because, while many harbingers of “feel-good feelings”, like uplifting films or candy, may bring a temporary lift in mood, these methods may lose some of their potency with repetition. Meditation, on the other hand, brings strengthened benefits with practice–the more you do it, the more you benefit!)

Somewhat recently, Fredrickson showed the effectiveness of loving kindness meditation with a study where she assessed a group of 139 working adults, half of whom were assigned to a 9-week program in loving kindness meditation. Through the course of 9 weeks, the changes were gradual, but significant.

The practice of loving kindness meditation led to shifts in people’s daily experiences of a wide range of positive emotions, including love, joy, gratitude, contentment, hope, pride, interest, amusement, and awe. These changes in emotions were linked to increases in a wide range of personal resources, including mindful attention, self-acceptance, positive relations with others, and good physical health. Additionally, these changes had a real impact on participants’ lives; participants experienced greater life satisfaction and fewer symptoms of depression. This research highlights the importance and effectiveness of creating the daily experience of more positive emotions.

Using the practice of loving kindness meditation to do this, you can create long-term gains that can make a genuine difference in your life.

There is other research as well that shows the benefits of mood-lifting activities like the loving-kindness meditation.  This technique alone has been found to bring the following benefits:

  • Reduce anxiety
  • Reduce negative affect or mood
  • Reduce physical and emotional pain
  • Reduce anger
  • Reduce psychological stress
  • Increase feelings of hope
  • Increase positive social emotions toward new people as well as loved ones
  • Produce more positive, and more lasting, positive emotions

With these benefits, it's clear that regular practice can reduce stress and help you feel more connected to others as well. This meditation can really change your life, and many people find this to be one of the easier forms of meditation to practice. Here’s a simple and effective tutorial for practicing loving kindness meditation in your life, starting today. While the practice of loving kindness meditation may have more lasting positive benefits than many other feel-good strategies, the following resources can also help you to experience positive emotions if you rotate them and try a few of them every day.

More Ways To Lift Your Mood


Fredrickson, Barbara L., Cohn, Michael A., Coffey, Kimberly A., Pek, Jolynn, Finkel, Sandra M. Open hearts build lives: Positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 95(5), Nov, 2008. pp. 1045-1062.

Pace TW, Negi LT, Sivilli TI, Issa MJ, Cole SP, Adame DD, Raison CL. Innate immune, neuroendocrine and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress do not predict subsequent compassion meditation practice time. Psychoneuroendocrinology. Februar 2010.

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