Loving kindness is a DBT skill that helps reduce suffering and increase happiness. In short, it is a meditative practice where you repeat specific words and phrases to foster feelings of compassion and love. Essentially it is the opposite of negativity and judgement. You send loving kindness to yourself and others. In a way, it is like saying a prayer or well wishes.
It can be easy to get caught up in negativity and judgements. This negative thought process increases stress and anxiety, making things harder than they have to be. Hate and anger towards oneself or others is exhausting and can cause both mental and physical distress. Loving kindness is a way to counter this and generate a more positive mindset.
Loving kindness increases self-esteem by promoting positivity towards oneself over self-deprecation. A low self-esteem leads to constantly self-blaming, focusing on the negative, feeling inadequate and that you don’t deserve good things. This takes a toll on your self-care, because when you don’t feel deserving, you don’t prioritize your needs. Practicing loving kindness sends the opposite message to your brain. Instead of the negativity, you give yourself well wishes and thoughts of high self-worth.
Loving kindness also is beneficial towards interpersonal relationships. It is more difficult to interact with others when jealousy, hate, and judgements get in the way. In life, you will have to interact with people you don’t care for and you will sometimes be frustrated with those you do have a good relationship with. In those instances, sending loving kindness allows for the strong negative feelings not to take over. Instead, you can approach these relationships with more ease.
LOVING KINDNESS STEP BY STEP
- Choose someone to send loving kindness to. Pick someone that you want to relate to in such a way. It can be easiest to start with someone you already love to get a feel for how this process works
- Set your body into an accepting position. Sit, stand, or lie down. Have your arms out and open and palms up. Place a small smile on your face. Make sure all your muscles are relaxed and not tense.
- Breathe in slowly and deeply. Inhale and hold your breath for 5 seconds, then slowly release for a count of 7.
- Send warm wishes to someone. Things like “May you/I;”
- “Be at peace.”
- “Be healthy.”
- “Be safe.”
- “Find happiness.”
- “Get what you/I desire.”
Make sure to visualize who you are sending loving kindness too. Repeat your wishes slowly and focus on the meaning of each word. Continue until you feel loving kindness spread through you. It can also be beneficial to replace the word “you” with the person’s name (I.e. “May John be at peace.”). It is recommended to send multiple wishes, about 4 or 5, through the exercises and not just one.
- Gradually go through family, friends, those you are angry with, difficult people, etc. Start from easiest to hardest. Work up to sending loving kindness to yourself. This is important to help build a healthy self-esteem.
Make sure to be sincere. Repeating loving kindness well wishes without sincerity will not have the desired impact. Find well wishes that feel genuine. If you are struggling, it is not the right time to practice loving kindness for that person. You can come back to that person after further practice.
It is important to practice daily. Remember that it takes time to foster full loving kindness. With many people, especially ourselves, it will take time and multiple loving kindness meditations until you more naturally feel that way.
This is the first skill in the 5 day positivity challenge. The positivity challenge is for those who want to start actively building a more positive mindset. Each day for 5 days, you will receive a new skill to work on that will help increase positivity. Sign up below to start the challenge!