Scientific research has revealed some seriously impressive benefits of Metta Bhavana / Loving Kindness Meditation.
There are more than 100 benefits of meditation. And Metta Bhavana is one of the most beneficial meditation techniques you can practice.
I’m sure you will agree with me that some of the best feelings are compassion, love, and warmth for both ourselves and for other beings on this beautiful planet of ours. And the main benefit of Loving Kindness meditation is that it helps us to cultivate those feelings.
It goes a lot deeper than this though. There are seriously powerful spiritual benefits of Metta Bhavana and benefits for the mind and body too.
Loving Kindness Meditation is massive for your well-being. I personally practice this meditation once a week as one of my main meditation techniques, and every time I do it I feel so much more relaxed, happier, loving and connected to other people and to the world.
In the Pali Canon (an ancient Buddhist text), it is said that Loving Kindness Meditaiton (Metta Bhavana) helps us to:
- sleep well
- start the day positively
- avoid nightmares
- feel a sense of emotional protection
- feel closer to others
- Develop concentration.
- Develop compassion [read: The Importance Of Compassion].
Now the science:
Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist and Director of the University of Waisman Center, conducted research involving fMRI scans of monks who had been meditating for many years. 
The research revealed that Loving Kindness benefits the brain because it significantly heightens our compassion for others. Loving Kindness was shown to heighten levels of joy, happiness and contentment. So it was scientifically proven that Loving Kindness makes people happier.
So what are the specific benefits of Loving Kindness Meditation. Let’s take a look.
The Benefits Of Loving Kindness Meditation / Metta Bhavana
1. Spiritual benefits of Loving Kindness Meditation / Metta Meditation
Buddha taught that the practice of Loving Kindness Meditation will develop four traits in the individual:
- Metta (Friendliness),
- Compassion (Karuna)
- Joy (Mudita)
- Equanimity (Upekkha)
Specifically, the benefits of Metta Bhavana come from four essential steps:
- Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta) develops a warmth of feeling towards others.
- This leads to compassion (Karuna). We develop heightened levels of empathy and so we feel happy for the successes of others and compassionate for their suffering.
- This leads to Appreciative Joy—the appreciation of the good fortune of other people.
- Finally, we achieve Upekkha, equanimity, the state in which we extend love and kindness to all living beings. This is one of highest states a human can achieve, and it is best achieved through the practice of loving kindness meditation.
A state of equanimity (mental calmness) that is part of the process towards enlightenment in Buddhism.
2. Loving kindness meditation increases positive emotions and decreases negative emotions
In 2008, positive psychologist Barbara Frerickson conducted research that showed that practicing loving kindness meditation (metta) for seven weeks led to increased love, joy, pride, contentment, awe, gratitude, and hope.
These positive emotions in turn lead to increased mindfulness, increased sense of purpose, a decrease in illness, and an increased sense of social connection. This is arguably the most popular benefits of loving kindness meditation, because we are all trying to reduce those negative emotions.
3. Increases vagal tone
A study in 2013 showed the effect of loving kindness meditation on emotions. The study revealed that loving kindness meditation benefits our wellbeing by improving vagal tone, a physiological marker of well-being. This in turn shows that loving kindness meditation can help us to heal physically and emotionally.
4. Decreases migraines:
The positive emotions and stress reduction created by loving kindness meditation leads to less migraines.
Research conducted in 2014 Tonelli studied the effects of metta meditation on people who suffer from migraines, and observed a significant decrease in migraine frequency in those who practiced the technique.
5. Helps Chronic Pain
In 2005 research (by Carson et al.) studied the effect of metta meditation on people with chronic lower back pain. They showed that the reduction in stress led to less severe pain. You can also these meditations for pain.
6. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
In 2013 research (by Kearney et al.) showed that practicing loving kindness meditation for 12 weeks leads to less severe symptoms in post traumatic stress disorder patients.
A pilot study conducted by Johnson in 2011 researched the effects of metta meditation on individuals suffering from schizophrenia spectrum disorders. The results showed that meditation led to decreased negativity and increased positivity, and therefore was instrumental in recovery. Because of this benefit of Metta Bhavana it is not a serious treatment for some mental health conditions.
8. Emotional intelligence
By the science of neuroplasticity, the brain evolves based on the activities we perform. Regular practice of loving kindness meditation leads to increased compassion and thereby teaches our brain to be more socially intelligent. This is just one of the ways meditation makes you more intelligent. You can also use these these tips for emotional intelligence.
9. Gray Matter increase
In 2013, Leung et al. showed that loving kindness meditation leads to increase gray matter in the areas of the brain related to emotional regulation.
10. Respiratory Sinus Arrythmia
Another important benefit of loving kindness meditation is that it relaxes the body. This results in several physical benefits. Ten minutes of practice, for instance, leads to increased cardiac control, slow and more relaxed breathing, and increased respiratory sinus arrhythmia.
11. Decreases telomere length (it decreases the aging rate and helps you live longer)
Stress has been scientifically proven to decrease the length of telmores, which are genetic materials that are a marker of aging. In 2013, Hoge et al. proved that loving kindness meditation led to longer telomeres and thereby slowed the aging process.
12. Social Value
Practicing loving kindness meditation makes you a more socially valuable person. In 2011 Leiberg et al. showed that loving kindness led to increased compassion, which in turn motivated individuals to behave in a way that was beneficial to society.
One of the most important aspects of Buddhism is compassion for all life. So perhaps it’s not surprising to hear that research conducted by Jones & Hutton in 2012 showed that loving kindness meditation significantly increased compassion.
A study in 2013 showed that loving kindness meditation also leads to increased empathy.
15. Makes you less biased
In 2014 Kang, Gray & Dovido showed that six weeks of loving kindness meditation led to less bias against minorities. This suggests that communal practice of loving kindness meditation will stop racism and other prejudices.
Alexander Stell, a doctoral student on the Universit Of Sussex’ psychology degree program, says, “This indicates that some meditation techniques are about much more than feeling good, and might be an important tool for enhancing inter-group harmony.”
Loving Kindness Meditation is a practice in which the individual imagines sending out feelings of compassion towards others.
Further studies have shown that racism can be countered by listening to meditation music.
“We wanted to see whether doing Loving Kindness Meditation towards a member of another ethnic group would reduce the automatic preference people tend to show for their own ethnic group.”
In his study, Stell took 71 Caucasian, non-meditating adults and showed them a photo of a black person. Half the group were asked to just look at the photo. The other half were asked to practicing loving kindness meditation and imagine sending out positive feelings to the black person in their photo.
The researchers studies the participants’ prejudices using the Implicit Association Test, which asks test subjects to describe the people in the photo.
The research shows that after loving kindness meditation people are more likely to describe the black person in the photo in a positive way. The researchers concluded that Loving Kindness Meditation is a powerful way to quickly end personal prejudices.
16. Increases Social Connection
This is the one benefit of loving kindness meditation that you will notice above all others. Loving kindness meditation makes you feel much more connected to the people around you. This was proven by research conducted by Kok et al in 2013.
17. Less self criticism
Part of practicing loving kindness meditation is extending thoughts of love and kindness towards yourself. This leads to less self criticism, which in turn raises self esteem and can help to cure depression and negative thoughts. This was proven by research in 2014 by Shahar et al. You can also use these techniques to become less self critical.
18. It works in small doses
In 2008, Hutcherson proved that just 10 minutes of loving kindness meditation was enough to provide the benefits listed above.
19. It lasts
Finally, the benefits of loving kindness meditation will endure. In 2011 Cohn et al showed that 35% of participants who practiced loving kindness meditation had improved emotions for 15 months.
Oh, and it will also create good karma and stop bad.
My experience with a student who lost weight with LKM
LKM helps with self forgiveness. And forgiving yourself is a surprisingly effective alternative way of losing weight.
I learned that with a student.
One girl I taught Loving Kindness Meditation to was struggling to accept the fact that she had allowed herself to put on weight.
She was hurt.
She was a beautiful and healthy but she’d gone through severe stress and had been comfort eating, which led her to put on 100lbs. She was still beautiful but she didn’t feel that way. She hated the fact that she had allowed herself to ruin her own health. She was depressed because of what she’d done to herself.
With Loving Kindness Meditation I was able to teach her to accept what she had done and to forgive herself.
This was an important case of self love.
She forgave herself and accepted the fact that she was now overweight. And it’s worth noting that forgiveness and self love are very important to weight loss.
Once she had gotten over the past and had found self love once again, she found it easy to return to her healthy habits and to lose weight. Now she’s even fitter than she had been previously.
That’s just one example of why self love and “self loving kindness” are so important: they empower us to behave positively towards ourselves.
Let me share a story about one student I taught loving kindness to.
My personal experience on the benefits of Metta Bhavana
I’ll give an example from my personal life.
About a decade ago my father had been on business down in Portsmouth (a port city on the southern coast of England). He was walking back to his hotel when two men ran down the road. One of the men pulled a knife out of his pocket. He slashed it down my father’s face and through his throat.
They then ran.
My father, bleeding to death, managed to crawl into the nearest building, which happened to be a restaurant. By some miracle there happened to be a doctor in the restaurant when my father crawled in covered in blood and near death. The doctor managed to wrap the wound up to help control the bleeding. He then called the hospital, who through the modern miracle of health technology managed to save my father’s life.
Three miracles. But I don’t mention the story because of those miracles. Rather because of the fact that at first I had an extremely negative reaction to what happened. I (rightfully, perhaps) hated those two men who had attempted to murder my father. I felt mad at society too. But I knew that I could not allow those two men to destroy my state of mind. They’d already hurt my family more than enough. So I practiced Loving Kindness Meditation. I imagined sending compassion towards those two men who had tried to kill my dad. And in so doing I managed to forgive them and to move on.
When I talk about those two guys now everyone says “You must want to kill them”. I could want to do that if I let myself. It would be easy, I suppose. But that would only lead to damage. Instead I’ve chosen to understand that they’re the unfortunate result of an imperfect society. They themselves are almost definitely victims of some sort of suffering. You don’t act that way unless you’re truly hurting inside. So they’re victims themselves.
Instead of hating,I figure it’s better to try and understand them and where they come from, and to help cure their hatred and anger so things like this stop happening. In my mind that’s just a healthier and more positive way to be. But I’m only able to be so positive towards those guys because I’ve been practicing Metta Meditation.