Love Bomb week is going on right now. While the intention behind Love Bombs is to show someone they are loved and expect nothing in return – the big secret is that, if you do this, you will get something in return.
Sharing love with others, being loving, being kind, being empathetic all contribute to making you happier and more resilient.
As a former science lab geek and eternal nerd, I read a lot of journal articles. And while the one I’m about to discuss isn’t necessarily breaking news (it was published in 2008), it is relevant to Love Bomb Week.
Open hearts build lives: positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. Fredrickson BL1, Cohn MA, Coffey KA, Pek J, Finkel SM. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2008 Nov;95(5):1045-62. doi: 10.1037/a0013262.
Barbara Fredrickson, author of Love 2.0 and leader in the field of positive psychology, has an interesting theory called ‘Broaden-and-Build.’ Oversimplifying her complex and well-researched theory –
more positive emotions =
broadened perspectives and thinking =
open to new ideas =
builds personal resources
Basically, the more positive emotions you have the more you will grow and evolve. You improve your ability to connect to other people and your ability to understand and consider alternate perspectives.
Is anybody suggesting that you try to find a way to have only positive emotions and positive experiences all the time? Nope. Not only is that not realistic, it’s not the point. The idea is that you can try to have more of the positive experiences and less of the crappy experiences.
Consider the Loving-Kindness Meditation
A Loving-Kindness Meditation (LKM) “involves directing one’s emotions toward warm and tender feelings in an open-hearted way” (Fredrickson et al., p.1046). Like most meditations, it can vary in length. I use a 5-10 minute version, it's short enough that I can work it into a 60 minute yoga class. I’ve found that many students are intimidated by meditation or think that they are doing it wrong; the LKM is something that is easily accessible to most people. They can understand it, relate to it, and do it. In general, the “LKM is a technique used to increase feelings of warmth and caring for self and others (Salzberg, 1995)” (Fredrickson et al., p. 1046). LKMs are also sometimes called meta-meditations, for cultivating love and compassion.
In this study:
Participants experienced six 60-minute group sessions over 7 weeks. “During Week 1 participants practiced a meditation directing love and compassion toward themselves. During Week 2, the meditation added loved ones. During subsequent weeks, the meditation built from self, to loved ones, to acquaintances, to strangers, and finally to all living beings” (Frederickson et al., ). Meditations lasted 15-22 minutes, with the remaining time of the session spent checking on participant progress, answering questions, listening to a short lecture about meditation, and sharing of ideas for real-life integration. In addition to the weekly sessions, participants were given a recording of the meditation and asked to practice at least 5 days per week at home.
Some of the results:
- “The practice of LKM 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” (Fredrickson et al., p.1057).
- Assessments 2 weeks after the completion of the study, showed that the positive emotions seen as a result in the LKM “were linked to increases in a variety of personal resources, including mindful attention, self-acceptance, positive relations with others, and good physical health” (Fredrickson et al., 1057).
There are many versions of a Loving-Kindness Meditation. The one I use was adopted from several of my instructors.
May all beings be happy and well
May all beings be healthy and whole
May all beings be free from inner and outer harm
May all beings live with grace and ease
Then, depending on the class, I replace “all beings” with: A person you love, A person you don’t like (because it’s ok not to like everyone), and then Yourself.
*interestingly, I tend to go in the reverse order of the study (the study begins with 'yourself' and ends with 'all beings', but I've found that sometimes people have difficulty sending love to themselves, so I save that for last).
You can change the language to suit your needs. But the concept is the same:
Take a moment, find the love and kindness within you and share it.
Love Bomb Week is similar. Taking the time to recognize the people you love. To see them. And then to take the time to let them know that they are loved. Maybe your Love Bomb this week is to devote a Loving-Kindness meditation to your loved ones?
Ready to try a Loving-Kindness Meditation?
Want to learn more about Loving-Kindness Meditations?
Small Amounts of Loving Kindness Meditation Lead to Big Change
by Angela Wilson
Ways to Deepen Your Loving Kindness Practice
by Sharon Salzburg