With things being a little more normal - I'm back at work and the gym, I've noticed my mood has improved this week. This change surprised me a little. I mean, I felt perfectly happy to be exercising outdoors, and Neal's Yard was keeping me busy, even though it's only a small part of my business.
So why the uplift in the mood? Maybe it’s because I’m back doing what I love, supporting clients with pregnancy, relaxation, neck pain, back pain and spinal alignments.
Whatever the reason, living through the last 12 months has not been easy, and we have all been affected physically and emotionally. We are not designed to live in 'Fear' mode, constantly on edge about the next threat to our very existence. This is now chronic, and for many of us, it will take some time to adjust to the world.
However, it's not all bad news. In many ways, the past year's events have taught us all to be more kind and compassionate toward others. We've been looking out for our neighbours, supporting friends who might be struggling with loneliness or grief and learned to appreciate life's small pleasures. On the other hand, we have become more scared of strangers, more critical of ourselves, and perhaps more judgemental and frustrated.
If you have found yourself feeling like this, don't be too hard on yourself. Living through a global pandemic is not easy. Thankfully, there are mindful practices we can adopt to boost the love we have for ourselves and others and help to cultivate a sense of compassion. Loving kindness meditation is one example. With roots in early Buddhism, it's a powerful tool used to help nurture feelings of self-love and support empathy.
Loving kindness meditation is a popular self-care technique used to boost wellbeing and reduce stress. Those who regularly practise loving kindness meditation can increase their capacity for forgiveness, connection to others, self-acceptance, and more.
The first step involves deeply connecting with your heart and allowing the feelings of love and compassion to flood through your body. The loving kindness meditation then directs that energy outward. First, to the people you love, then your local community and even the whole world!
This technique is not easy as you are asking yourself to send kindness your way or to others. It often takes practice to allow yourself to receive your own love or to send it. When I first started this, I found it easy to direct love out to the world but extremely difficult to receive the same level of love. It was in a meditation class and was quite an emotional experience. Over time, this has become much easier, so if you struggle, keep going. It's called 'practice' for a reason!
Still not convinced? Here are 5 reasons to give it a go.
For those who struggle to be kind to themselves, this practice focuses on directing feelings of compassion inwards. This self-directed love can increase levels of self-acceptance, self-worth and will boost your happiness. It also has a positive impact on your confidence and productivity.
Studies have proven that our ability to show compassion has enormous health benefits, including boosting our mental health, reducing stress levels, increasing self-esteem, and encouraging social connections.
As the aim of a loving kindness meditation is to send out feelings of love, it makes sense that it would increase our level of compassion and strengthen our empathetic powers. When we are compassionate, we get a sense of satisfaction in seeing others happy, which improves our wellbeing. It's a win-win situation.
Loving others, just like loving ourselves, can be complicated. Practising this mediation can help to strengthen the connections and create a safe space in which to express love. When we direct these feelings of love and peace towards people we care about, it opens us to both give and receive love. It inspires the flow of love to move in both directions and increases our ability to forgive others.
As the loving kindness meditation focuses on feelings of goodwill, happiness and love, if we fully take on these ideas, we can start to embody them. It also helps the mind to wander less towards negative and anxious thoughts and feelings. And by focusing on the more positive things in our life, we are naturally more grateful and optimistic.
Although sending positive feelings out to the world might feel a little strange at first, this can make you feel a part of a community. This is important if you feel isolated or lonely - something many of us have felt due to the social restrictions. The point at which you direct your thoughts outwards can make us feel more connected and part of a whole. This can be hugely empowering and can increase feelings of worth, belonging and gratitude.
Meditation is the fastest, most effective way to magnify your intentions and energy. As you focus on sending peace, healing and love to those in need, you too will become a healthier, more joyful person. In just moments a day, you can make a difference in your own life and the lives of others. Just like that pebble, your intention can cast ripples into the consciousness of humanity.
Try it for yourself
Deepak Chopra shares a simple loving kindness meditation exercise to try at home.
Begin by finding a comfortable seated posture and ensure your spine is relaxed. Focus on your breath to help quiet and calm your mind. When you feel ready, repeat the following phrases, either aloud or in your head.
May I be healed.
May you be healed.
May we all be healed.
May I be happy.
May you be happy.
May we all be happy.
May I live in joy.
May you live in you.
May we all live in joy.
May I live with ease.
May you live with ease.
May we all live with ease.
May I be safe.
May you be safe.
May we all be safe.
May I be healthy.
May you be healthy.
May we all be healthy.
May I live peacefully.
May you live peacefully.
May we all live peacefully.
"Kindness begins with understanding we all struggle" - Charles Glassman.