Love and Kindness as a SUPERPOWER
People who have a positive mindset are said to be more successful in life, and they are healthier as well as happier than people whose mind is inclined to negativity. It seems that thoughts have more power in human life than imagined. It also makes sense why people have been told to think positively and see the bright side of even miserable situations. However, just being told to think positively or deciding to think more positive way might not be the solution and sustainable way to long-term mindset changing. One way to practice positive thinking and increase positive emotions is Kindness -based Meditation like Loving Kindness Meditation.
This essay is based on the subjective experience of using Kindness -based Meditation (KBM) and especially Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) as tools for the rehabilitation of hamstring injury. Outcomes of experiences have been mirrored with studies which have been made in 2008 and 2014 about Kindness -based Meditation. With this essay, I want to show how powerful the human mind is and how meditation and practising positive emotions can have a crucial effect on well-being but also in physical condition just in two weeks.
Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM)
Loving-Kindness Meditation (LKM), one type of Kind -based meditation, is a mental practice that has a long history but was just recently woken up the interest in neuroscience, medicine and the education field. That meditation is based on the Buddhist practice whose goal is to create positive emotions towards oneself and others while reducing anxiety, anger and negative emotions. LKM practices differ from regular mindfulness practices. According to Salzberg (2016), the LKM practice, in short, is to sit comfortably eyes open or closed, and choose some particular phrases like “May I be safe and healthy”. (Mindful 2016.)
Sharon Salzberg, an author and speaker, highlights in her interview that the main idea of LKM practice is attention training. The main thing is to move the focus from negative thoughts and things that happened during the day and see things in the bigger picture. People are too focused on mistakes and falses of the day even though a human being is more than their mistakes. LKM helps to move that negative-focused thinking to the bigger picture and see over negativity and mistakes made during the day. (Mindful 2016.)
What studies show us about Kindness -based meditation?
Studies show that KBM increases positive thinking through positive emotions and has a positive impact on well-being, health and social interactions. (Galante, Galante, Bekkers & Callacher 2014, 9.) Fredrickson etc. study also supports that outcome: Loving Kindness Meditation practices can have a big effect to increase personal resources in life by, for example, feeling purpose in life and reducing depressive emotions (Fredrickson 2008, 1). This means that daily practice of Kindness -based meditation can increase positive emotions and affect to life satisfaction.
According to Salzberg (2016), love, kindness and compassion not impact positive ways to happiness but also improve resilience in general (Mindful, 2016). In that way, doing Kindness -based meditation, like Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM), can be seen as a powerful tool for making life happier and individuals more successful.
I was recommended to try the LKM method as a part of the rehabilitation of a hamstring injury after noticing that concerns, anxiety and negative thoughts were taking too much time and seeing them block the opportunity to progress and heal. I did the LKM guided practice for two weeks once or twice per day to increase my positive thoughts in general and also reduce anxiety towards my rehabilitation. In that guided practice I did during two weeks, the practice included phrases Salzberg introduced earlier. Start with calm breathing, focusing on the body and heart. Then after Salzberg’s mentioned phrases, the focus moved from ownself to other people, loved ones. That was new for me in meditation: Focus on other people and not just yourself.
What happened in two weeks with LKM?
About the background of my case with LKM, I got a severe hamstring injury in May 2022. An injury was healed with systematic rehabilitation with cooperation with a physiotherapist and orthopaedic. After eight weeks of well-progressed rehabilitation, the progress went backwards without any reason. Time pressure towards the rehab caused stress and anxiety which caused negative thoughts over the whole process.
Even though the injury was physical, the stop of progress seemed to be mostly about mental stress and concern about if rehabilitation is not going to make progress as fast as I would like to. After looking for help and solutions for the issue, I got recommended to tools and practices of positive psychology. One of the tools was to try LKM practices for two weeks.
After a couple of times doing LKM practice, I noticed how anxiety and concern for the rehab and hamstring were decreased. During two weeks, meditation showed a positive impact on rehabilitation by relieving stress, making relaxing easier and improving sleeping. Positive effects did not limit to only rehab but to whole life: Anxiety, stress and concern levels decreased in general while compassion for myself and others increased. My experience goes in line with the results that came from Fredrickson’s etc. study in 2008.
Focusing on kind thoughts and compassion for myself and others made it easier also to show those to other people. During that two weeks, I felt my friends closer and it was easier to show positive emotions and care to others. It was also easier to leave difficult situations behind and be more understanding in conflict situations both towards others and myself.
In summary, two week period of practising LKM gained my progress in my rehabilitation, lowered anxiety and stress levels in general, increased my relaxation level and improved sleep, and made it easier to talk about feelings and reflect own emotional behaviour. Just in two weeks.
Because compassion and kind thoughts didn’t limit just to me but also to other people, I started to wonder, how much meditation could help team companies and their individuals to improve their communication and understanding in the team.
Love, kindness and compassion as a strength in team
My two-week experience showed how powerful meditation by the Loving-Kindness method can be and it woke me up to think how we could use that powerful tool also in team companies and workplaces to increase happiness in work life and also improve resilience and productivity. Life in team enterprises is hectic and sometimes causes much anxiety. That is normal in teams with many people and in stressful times, but would meditation improve the compassion in the team in general if every team member would be committed to practising LKM regularly? Could that be also the key to reducing the anxiety and anger we can see in stressful situations? I believe that yes.
One challenge to starting to use meditation as a tool in companies can be that many people can find meditation frustrating or unsuitable for them. Salzberg also pointed out in her interview in 2016 that compassion, kindness and a loving attitude might not be those skills which are highly respected or seen as a strength in work life (Mindful, 2016). Living in the year 2022 I believe that skills like compassion, understanding and social intelligence are more considered a skill to be taking a concern. Maybe not in all fields of business in the same way and there is the difference between different companies. However, when checking for example job advertisements the trend seems to be that strong social skills and adaptability are skills that are looked for and highly valued.
As the research showed, LKM shows promising outcomes to improve individuals’ health and lives in their communities by decreasing depression and increasing compassion for own-self and others. Even though results are mixed and are based on individuals’ self-reflection and subject experiences. (Galante etc. 2014, 11.) Would LKM or any kind of meditation be one tool to use in team companies to reduce possible misunderstandings and conflict situations as well as decrease the amount of exhaustion and tiredness? And taking to the levels of burn-outs in working culture into consideration, would meditation tools be one key element to make people more resilient and healthy in their working communities?
Galante, J., Galante, I., Bekkers, M-J. & Callacher, J. 2014. Effect of Kindness-Based Meditation on Health and Well-Being: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Vol. 82, No. 6, 1101 – 1114.
Fredrickson, B., Cohn, M., Coffey, K., Pek, J. & Finkel, S. 2008. Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive Emotions, Induced Through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol. 95, No. 5, 1045–1062.
Mindful, 2016. An Introduction to Lovingkindness Meditation from Sharon Salzberg and 10% Nicer. Published 25.2.2016 on YouTube. Referred 4.11.2022.