Reduces mind wandering

Jazaieri, H., et. al. (2015). A wandering mind is a less caring mind: Daily experience sampling during compassion meditation training. The Journal of Positive Psychology, (ahead-of-print), 1-14. Abstract.

Mind wandering, or the tendency for attention to drift to task-irrelevant thoughts, has been associated with worse intra- and inter-personal functioning. Utilizing daily experience sampling with 51 adults during 9-weeks of a compassion meditation program, we examined effects on mind wandering (to neutral, pleasant, and unpleasant topics) and caring behaviors for oneself and others.

Results indicated that compassion meditation decreased mind wandering to neutral topics and increased caring behaviors towards oneself. When collapsing across topics, mind wandering did not serve as an intermediary between the frequency of compassion meditation practice and caring behaviors, though mind wandering to pleasant and unpleasant topics was linked to both variables.

A path analysis revealed that greater frequency of compassion meditation practice was related to reductions in mind wandering to unpleasant topics and increases in mind wandering to pleasant topics, both of which were related to increases in caring behaviors for oneself and others.

How does loving-kindness meditation alter brain and body?

Mascaro, J. S., Darcher, A., Negi, L. T., & Raison, C. (2015). The neural mediators of kindness-based meditation: a theoretical model. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 109. To access full text, click here, then open PDF.

brain-budAbstract. Although kindness-based contemplative practices are increasingly employed by clinicians and cognitive researchers to enhance prosocial emotions, social cognitive skills, and well-being, and as a tool to understand the basic workings of the social mind, we lack a coherent theoretical model with which to test the mechanisms by which kindness-based meditation may alter the brain and body.

Here we link contemplative accounts of compassion and lovingkindness practices with research from social cognitive neuroscience and social psychology to generate predictions about how diverse practices may alter brain structure and function and related aspects of social cognition.

Contingent on the nuances of the practice, kindness-based meditation may enhance the neural systems related to faster and more basic perceptual or motor simulation processes, simulation of another’s affective body state, slower and higher-level perspective-taking, modulatory processes such as emotion regulation and self/other discrimination, and combinations thereof.

This theoretical model will be discussed alongside bestpractices for testing such a model and potential implications and applications of future work.

Less self-critical and more self-compassionate with loving-kindness meditation

Shahar, B., et al. (2014). A Wait‐List Randomized Controlled Trial of Loving‐Kindness Meditation Programme for Self‐Criticism. Clinical psychology & psychotherapy. Published online before inclusion in an issue. Full text.

Abstract. Self-criticism is a vulnerability risk factor for a number of psychological disorders, and it predicts poor response to psychological and pharmacological treatments. In the current study, we evaluated the efficacy of a loving-kindness meditation programme designed to increase self-compassion in a sample of self-critical individuals.

Summary. Self-criticism plays a major role in many psychological disorders and predicts poor response to brief psychological and pharmacological treatments for depression. The current study shows that loving-kindness meditation, designed to foster self-compassion, is efficacious in helping self-critical individuals become less self-critical and more self-compassionate. The study also suggests that practising loving-kindness may reduce depressive symptoms and increase positive emotions.

Loving-kindness meditation and schizophrenia

Johnson, D. P., et al. (2011). A pilot study of loving-kindness meditation for the negative symptoms of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia research, 129(2), 137-140. To access full text, search for article in GoogleScholar, then click on researchgate.net.

Abstract. This pilot study examined loving-kindness meditation with 18 participants with schizophrenia spectrum disorders and significant negative symptoms. Findings indicate that the intervention was feasible and associated with decreased negative symptoms and increased positive emotions and psychological recovery.

Loving-kindness meditation builds positive emotions

Fredrickson, B. L., Cohn, M. A., Coffey, K. A., Pek, J., & Finkel, S. M. (2008). Open hearts build lives: positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. Journal of personality and social psychology, 95(5), 1045. Full text.

The authors tested this build hypothesis in a field experiment with working adults (n = 139), half of whom were randomly-assigned to begin a practice of loving-kindness meditation.

Results showed that this meditation practice produced increases over time in daily experiences of positive emotions, which, in turn, produced increases in a wide range of personal resources (e.g., increased mindfulness, purpose in life, social support, decreased illness symptoms).

In turn, these increments in personal resources predicted increased life satisfaction and reduced depressive symptoms. Discussion centers on how positive emotions are the mechanism of change for the type of mind-training practice studied here and how loving-kindness meditation is an intervention strategy that produces positive emotions in a way that outpaces the hedonic treadmill effect.

Loving-kindness meditation for veterans with PTSD

Kearney, D. J., McManus, C., Malte, C. A., Martinez, M. E., Felleman, B., & Simpson, T. L. (2014). Loving-Kindness Meditation and the Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions Among Veterans With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Medical care, 52, S32-S38.

From the Abstract. Loving-kindness meditation (LKM) is a practice intended to enhance feelings of kindness and compassion for self and others.

Objectives: To assess whether participation in a 12-week course of LKM for veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with improved positive emotions, decentering, and personal resources.

Design: In an open-pilot trial, 42 veterans with active PTSD (40% female ) were assessed at baseline, after the course, and 3 months later. Emotions, decentering, psychological wellbeing including autonomy, environmental mastery, personal growth, positive relations, purpose in life, self-acceptance, and sense of social support were measured at each time point.

Conclusions: Overall, positive emotions increased, and enhancement of personal resources occurred over time. Further investigation of LKM for PTSD is warranted.

Loving kindness: conceptual understanding vs meditation

Kang, Y., Gray, J. R., & Dovidio, J. F. (2014). The Head and the Heart: Effects of Understanding and Experiencing Loving Kindness on Attitudes Toward the Self and Others. Mindfulness, 1-8. Abstract.

Formation and maintenance of compassionate and loving attitudes toward the self and others is essential for adaptive social functioning. In this study, we use loving kindness meditation (LKM) to enhance positive attitudes toward the self and others. Meditation-based programs often include several components for which specific effects and dynamics are largely unknown, precluding conclusive support for their effectiveness. The present study tested actions underlying two main components of LKM programs: discussion and meditation.

Discussion focuses on a conceptual understanding of loving kindness, whereas meditation focuses on direct experiences and cultivation of loving kindness. Participants (n = 54) were randomly assigned either to attend a 6-week loving kindness discussion course or to be waitlisted for 6 weeks, both followed by attending a 6-week LKM course.

Attending the loving kindness discussion course alone had beneficial effects on attitudes toward the self, but not others. Attending the LKM course had additional positive impacts on attitudes toward the self and others.

These findings suggest that understanding ideas of lovingkindness through knowledge-based discussion without meditation may be sufficient to create positive changes in the view of self. However, for more comprehensive changes in attitude toward others, direct experiences of lovingkindness through meditation may be necessary.