Valentine’s Day is a day of loving reflection and expression we share with our loved ones. It is equally important to send loving thoughts to ourselves, as well.
Loving-kindness is an ancient (about 2500 yr old) meditation practice that brings about positive attitude changes as it develops the quality of loving-acceptance. It acts as a form of self-healing as it frees the mind from pain, confusion, anger, resentment or other negative emotions. In my many years of working with cancer patients and individuals fighting serious illnesses, I have seen many individuals make radical shifts when doing this practice, having released some of the anger and resentment they have been harboring for other individuals. Some have even felt that this anger has been an unhealthy roadblock to their healing. Enjoy practicing this Loving Kindness Meditation all year round.
Loving Kindness Meditation
The practice always begins with developing a loving acceptance of your own self. To begin with the self is critical, for one must be in a good frame of mind to be able to offer support, love, and kindness towards others. After this feels natural and comfortable, you will be ready to offer loving-kindness towards others. Some suggest not sending it out to others until you have spent some time sending these positive thoughts to yourself.
The four types of people to send this meditation out to:
- A beloved person in your life
- A person that you may be currently having a challenge or difficulty with
- A neutral person that you barely know. (ex. a salesperson in a store, mail carrier)
Starting with the self and then systematically sending loving-kindness from each person in the above order will have the effect of breaking down the barriers between yourself and others.
Say the words silently or out loud if you choose. For each person, recite the full meditation 3 times. Picture each person, including your own self, in your mind’s eye right in front of you as you send them loving kindness.
The words of the meditation:
(For the self, say ‘I’ and for the others, change to ‘You’)
May I/You be filled with loving kindness.
May I/You be well.
May I/You be peaceful and at ease.
May I/You be happy.
I am excited to begin the new year with a monthly blog for my readers and website visitors! I look forward to sharing my tips each month with you to help you lead a more balanced, stress-free (or at least stress-managed!) life. With the holidays behind us and the new year ahead a blank slate, now is the time to learn new techniques to keep stress at bay and adapt a healthier lifestyle. Since it is impossible to avoid stress, these tips will help you cope with the stressors you face and live a more peaceful life.
1. Check Your Breath
- Check in with your breathing and take note.
- Are you holding your breath? Is your breath shallow? Where do you feel the breath traveling within your body?
- Start by simply developing an awareness of how your breath feels.
2. Balloon Belly
- Inflate the belly slowly as if you were expanding a balloon inside of it.
- SLOW down your exhalation as you deflate this ‘balloon’. This is the key to getting more deeply relaxed and immediately calming the parasympathetic nervous system.
- After a few deep, even belly breaths, you should begin to feel more relaxed.
- Hold tension in your fists and all the way up your arms for a few moments.
- Slowly release the tension gradually until there is no tightness being held.
- Do the same thing with your feet, legs, and then your buttocks. Feel the muscles contract and then release.
- Scrunch all of the facial muscles inward and hold. Then release.
4. Lavender Up!
- The essential oil lavender is one of the most calming scents and several studies demonstrate how our sense of smell can have an effect on our moods.
- Dab a few drops of this relaxing scent to your pulse points on your wrist and on the sides and back of your neck. Rub it between your hands and inhale this calming, soothing scent. Or place on the bottoms of your feet if you are having trouble falling asleep.
5. Make a Statement
- Inwardly state what you want to achieve whenever you feel stressed, tense, or overwhelmed. In a sense, you are replacing a negative thought with a positive one.
- For example, if a defeating, overwhelming thought creeps up, replace it with ‘I am calm, relaxed, and my life is in balance.’ Remember, what we think becomes our reality so state what you want positively and work towards that goal.
6. Visualize Your Outcome
- Like an athlete who visualizes the perfect golf shot, free throw, or home run before they even approach the ball, visualize a positive outcome of what you want in to occur when faced with an immediate stressor.
- See the obstacle being overcome and how it would look and feel in your life when that happens.
7. Have an Attitude of Gratitude
- Research has been shown demonstrating the positive effects of having gratitude and thankfulness in one’s life. Even in the face of the most difficult moments, there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for.
- Experience the healing, de-stressing benefits of gratitude as you practice this technique. Gratitude doesn’t only have to be practiced once a year at Thanksgiving anymore! Families can also benefit by individually expressing gratitude at every shared meal together.
8. Get Moving!
- Walk, dance, swim, run, bike ride, do yoga… just MOVE! Exercise is a proven way to increase the endorphins in our brain and people who exercise regularly benefit from a more positive mood and a lower rate of depression.
9. Laughter Therapy
- Read a funny book, watch a funny TV show or movie, or even engage in spontaneous laughter. Seek a Laughter Yoga class for this type of laughter. Not only is it enjoyable, but it also has aerobic benefits.
- When we laugh, we release stress-relieving hormones and bring balance to the immune system, as well.
10. Pocket Journal
- Keep a small notepad with you and pull it out if your thoughts are overwhelming you and you are experiencing tension.
- Without deciding in advance what you will write, write whatever comes to you at the moment in a freestyle way.
All of these tips and techniques can be a healthy arsenal of tools to use when we face challenging moments in our lives and experience stress, tension, worry, anxiety. Use the ones that work best for you. The breath, however, is on one of the most immediate ways to calm us down in the face of immediate stress. It has been said that it is virtually impossible to have an anxiety/panic attack when one breathes in this way. Learning to breathe in an optimal way can help us cope with stress and facilitate greater health and well-being within our lives. –S&B