Improve Social and Nature Connectedness with Meditation
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Loving-kindness meditation is a contemplative practice focused on self-generated emotions of compassion, love, and goodwill toward oneself and others. . . individuals who regularly practiced loving-kindness meditation for approximately 2 months experienced significant increases in self-reported positive emotions, such as joy, awe, and gratitude. . . they also reported a stronger sense of social connectedness. . . individuals in the loving-kindness meditation group perceived themselves as being closer and more “in tune” with others during social interactions.” – Laura Schenck
We are social animals. Alone we are weak and vulnerable and would not have fared well in evolution. But, in concert with others we have dominated our world. By working together in organized societies, we have not only been able to provide for a vast population but create technical wonders expanding interpersonal interaction possibilities. It is obvious that we are connected to and depend upon one another and that, in general, is a good thing. All that the species has accomplished resulted from the ability to work together cooperatively and build upon the work of others.
Beyond, the importance of the group, interactions with other people are fundamental to personal well-being. People need to be with and connected with others. Social connections are crucial to our health and happiness. Hence, it is very important for the individual to have effective satisfying social relationships. Unfortunately, interacting with other people is extremely complex and many find it very difficult to effectively engage with others. Some are better than others, but everyone struggles with human connections to some extent. Hence it is important for us to find ways to improve how we connect with other people.
Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) is specifically designed to develop positive feelings toward the self and others. In LKM the meditator focuses on repeatedly wishing positive things, wellness, safety, happiness, health etc. for oneself and toward multiple other people from loved ones to enemies. LKM and other mindfulness practices have been shown to improve positive mood and improve social interactions. In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness and Loving-Kindness Meditation.” (See summary below). Aspy and Proeve examine the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation and Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) to improve connectedness to others and to nature.
They recruited college students who were occasional meditators and randomly assigned them to complete either a 15-minute recorded guided mindfulness meditation, Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM), or relaxation session. Before and after the session they completed measures of positive and negative emotions, social connectedness, and connectedness to nature. The entire study was conducted over the internet. So, they included objective questions regarding the recordings to insure that the participants actually completed the appropriate 15-minute session. 24% of the original participants were excluded for providing incorrect answers.
They found that the two meditation groups had significantly higher social connectedness, and connectedness to nature than the relaxation group. But, there were no significant differences between the mindfulness meditation and Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) groups. In addition, there were no significant differences between the three groups in positive and negative emotions. Hence, brief meditations appear to increase connectedness socially and to nature without altering mood.
It has been well established that both mindfulness meditation and Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) increase positive emotions and decrease negative emotions. It is likely that a single brief meditation is not sufficient to improve mood. But, it is interesting that connectedness was improved. This makes sense for Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) as it includes thoughts about others. But mindfulness meditation does not, focusing on the breath and bodily sensations. But, mindfulness meditation has been shown previously to improve social behavior. So, although the two types of meditation have the same effect on connectedness, they may do so in different ways.
So, improve social and nature connectedness with meditation.
“Loving-Kindness meditation focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness and warmth towards others. . . compassion, kindness and empathy are very basic emotions to us. Research shows that Loving Kindness Meditation has a tremendous amount of benefits ranging from benefitting well-being, to giving relief from illness and improving emotional intelligence.” – Emma Seppälä
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Denholm J. Aspy, Michael Proeve. Mindfulness and Loving-Kindness Meditation. Psychological Reports, Vol 120, Issue 1, pp. 102 – 117, 2017. 10.1177/0033294116685867
An experiment involving 115 undergraduate students (74.8% females; mean age = 20.5 years, SD = 4.3) was conducted to explore effects of meditation on social connectedness, nature connectedness, and affect. Participants listened to one of three brief guided meditation Mp3 recordings via the internet, which involved mindfulness meditation (MM), loving-kindness meditation (LKM), or progressive muscle relaxation (active control group). Participants in the MM and LKM groups reported greater social and nature connectedness at post-test than those in the control group. There were no significant differences in connectedness between the MM and LKM groups, suggesting they are both effective for enhancing connectedness. There were no significant changes in negative or positive affect at post-test due to the interventions. Recommendations for future research are provided.