Metta meditation is a type of Buddhist meditation. In Pali — a language that’s closely related to Sanskrit and spoken in northern India — “metta” means positive energy and kindness toward others.
The practice is also known as loving-kindness meditation.
The goal of metta meditation is to cultivate kindness for all beings, including yourself and:
- difficult people in your life
The main technique of metta meditation involves reciting positive phrases toward yourself and these beings.
Like other types of meditation, the practice is beneficial for mental, emotional, and physical health. It’s especially useful for reducing negative emotions toward yourself and other people.
Metta meditation is a traditional Buddhist practice. It’s been used for thousands of years.
Different traditions approach the practice in different ways. However, all forms of metta meditation share the common goal of developing unconditional positive emotions toward all beings.
This includes feelings of:
To cultivate these emotions, you silently recite phrases toward yourself and others. These phrases are meant to express kind intentions.
Some examples of metta meditation phrases include:
- “May I be safe, peaceful, and free of suffering.”
- “May I be happy. May I be healthy.”
- “May you be strong and confident.”
It’s important to repeat each phrase with mindfulness. This helps you focus on the phrase and the associated emotions.
What are the benefits?
A regular metta meditation practice can be beneficial for both your mind and body. Let’s look at some of these benefits more closely.
1. Promotes self-compassion
Since metta meditation involves reciting kind phrases toward yourself, it can foster a sense of self-compassion.
The idea is that you must love yourself before you can love other people.
Self-compassion can also reduce negative emotions toward yourself, including:
These benefits were observed in a small 2014 studyTrusted Source. Participants who practiced metta meditation became less critical toward themselves than those who didn’t use this practice.
Another 2013 studyTrusted Source found that routine metta meditation had the ability to increase self-compassion and mindfulness in people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These effects helped decrease PTSD symptoms.
2. Decreases stress and anxiety
According to research from 2013Trusted Source, mindfulness meditation can significantly reduce anxiety symptoms.
Additionally, clinical evidence has shown that mindfulness meditation, when practiced regularly, can also reduce the inflammation response that’s caused by stress.
Metta meditation can take this even further, according to meditation practitioners. As you develop self-compassion, you perceive yourself in a more positive light. This promotes emotions like love and gratitude.
These emotions can increase your level of life satisfaction, thus reducing stress and anxiety.
3. Reduces physical pain
There’s some evidence that metta meditation can decrease some types of physical pain.
In an older 2005 studyTrusted Source, the practice decreased persistent lower back pain.
A 2014 studyTrusted Source found a similar effect in people with frequent migraine attacks. The researchers in both studies attributed the lower pain levels to the stress-relieving effect of metta meditation. Emotional stress, after all, can worsen physical pain.
Negative emotions can also reduce your tolerance for pain. Positive emotions, like those cultivated through metta meditation, have the opposite effect.
4. Improves longevity
Telomeres are DNA structures at the ends of each chromosome. They work to protect genetic information.
As we get older, our telomeres naturally shorten. Chronic stress can speed up this process, causing faster biological aging.
Stress-relieving activities, like metta meditation, can ease this effect. A small 2013 studyTrusted Source found that metta meditation is associated with longer telomere length. The researchers speculated that the practice could help improve longevity.
5. Enhances social connections
Metta meditation can also nurture stronger social relationships.
After you recite kind phrases toward yourself, you extend that kindness to other people. This allows you to display compassion and empathy toward them.
It also encourages you to think about others and to recognize how they make you feel.
Plus, as you develop self-love, you may be less likely to view yourself negatively. This makes it easier to hold space for others, which can cultivate more positive connections.