Loving-kindness for heart health

I am glad to learn that the practice of loving-kindness meditation is now being promoted by the American Heart Association (AHA) as a healthy lifestyle to reduce bias, anger, depression, and anxiety. In the infographic published by AHA online [1] (you can download it from here), loving-kindness meditation is presented as a way to direct kindness and love from oneself to others. The visual illustrations show the expansion a circle of compassion gradually in six steps: yourself, family and friends, someone neutral, someone difficult, group of people, and everyone. The advice is to start with just a few minutes and then extend the time.

Radiating loving-kindness invokes posiive emotions.

Its promotion by AHA is a clear sign that loving-kindness meditation has become mainstream. Not surprisingly, as there have been a lot of scientific studies into the benefits of meditation in general, and loving-kindness meditation, in particular. AHA published a scientific statement on meditation in 2017, supporting its use of as an add-on to the established guidelines, especially for those who are interested in lifestyle modification to reduce cardiovascular risk [2].  

Loving-kindness meditation opens heart!

How do the thoughts of loving-kindness improve heart health? Research has shown that such practice can affect and permanently change the emotional processing circuits of the brain [2], making one becoming more focus and imbuing with positive emotions [3]. Positive emotions include feelings of love, appreciation, joy, and freedom are known to improve emotional well-being [4]. Positive emotions also help to reduce pain [5] and overcome stress, depression and anxiety [6], all of which are known to be associated with worsening of cardiovascular diseases [7]. Furthermore, newer studies also showing that practising loving-kindness medication can slow the ageing process [9,10].

Truly, loving-kindness opens the heart and strengthens the mind and body. May all be well and happy!

May all be well and happy!

References

[1]        American Heart Association, Loving-Kindness Meditation, (n.d.). https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/mental-health-and-wellbeing/loving-kindness-meditation-infographic (accessed August 14, 2020).

[2]        G.N. Levine, R.A. Lange, C.N. Bairey-Merz, R.J. Davidson, K. Jamerson, P.K. Mehta, E.D. Michos, K. Norris, I.B. Ray, K.L. Saban, T. Shah, R. Stein, S.C. Smith Jr, A.H.A.C. on C.C.C. on C. and S.N. and C. on Hypertension, Meditation and cardiovascular risk reduction: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association, J. Am. Heart Assoc. 6 (2017) e002218. doi:10.1161/JAHA.117.002218.

[3]        X. Zeng, C.P.K. Chiu, R. Wang, T.P.S. Oei, F.Y.K. Leung, The effect of loving-kindness meditation on positive emotions: a meta-analytic review, Front. Psychol. 6 (2015) 1693. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01693.

[4]        B.L. Fredrickson, T. Joiner, Positive emotions trigger upward spirals toward emotional well-being., Psychol. Sci. 13 (2002) 172–175. doi:10.1111/1467-9280.00431.

[5]        M.M. Hanssen, M.L. Peters, J.J. Boselie, A. Meulders, Can positive affect attenuate (persistent) pain? State of the art and clinical implications, Curr. Rheumatol. Rep. 19 (2017) 80. doi:10.1007/s11926-017-0703-3.

[6]        B.L. Fredrickson, The role of positive emotions in positive psychology. The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions, Am. Psychol. 56 (2001) 218–226. doi:10.1037//0003-066x.56.3.218.

[7]        A.K. Dhar, D.A. Barton, Depression and the Link with Cardiovascular Disease, Front. Psychiatry. 7 (2016) 33. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2016.00033.

[8]        D.J. Kearney, C. McManus, C.A. Malte, M.E. Martinez, B. Felleman, T.L. Simpson, Loving-kindness meditation and the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions  among veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder., Med. Care. 52 (2014) S32-8. doi:10.1097/MLR.0000000000000221.

[9]        E.A. Hoge, M.M. Chen, E. Orr, C.A. Metcalf, L.E. Fischer, M.H. Pollack, I. De Vivo, N.M. Simon, Loving-kindness meditation practice associated with longer telomeres in women, Brain. Behav. Immun. 32 (2013) 159–163. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2013.04.005.

[10]      K.D. Le Nguyen, J. Lin, S.B. Algoe, M.M. Brantley, S.L. Kim, J. Brantley, S. Salzberg, B.L. Fredrickson, Loving-kindness meditation slows biological aging in novices: Evidence from a 12-week randomized controlled trial, Psychoneuroendocrinology. 108 (2019) 20–27. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2019.05.020.

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