Humans are social creatures. All that the species has accomplished resulted from its ability to work together 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 interaction to some extent. Hence it is important for us to find ways to improve how we interact with other people.
Mindfulness in general appears to improve social relationships. In today’s Research News article “The interventional effects of loving-kindness meditation on positive emotions and interpersonal interactions.”
one form of mindfulness training, Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM), is shown to be quite effective in facilitating interpersonal interactions, and enhancing the complex understanding of others. This appears to produce an enhanced ability to interact socially and to increase positive emotions, improving the individual happiness.
Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) is a meditative practice that focuses on repeatedly wishing well to the self and others. It focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness and warmth towards the self and others. It is simple in concept, yet powerful in effect. How can this simple practice improve one’s social relationships?
LKM appears to increase positive emotional states and it is known that we tend to find people experiencing positive emotions as more attractive. In addition, feeling positive emotions in the presence of others increases our self-confidence and enjoyment of social interactions. LKM like other forms of meditation reduces perceived stress. Many people find social interactions stressful. So reducing perceived stress should make it easier to engage with other people.
These effects by themselves could account for LKM’s improvement of social interactions.
LKM has been shown to increase compassion and empathy and decrease biases. It also increases our feelings about ourselves and decreases self-criticism. These effects of LKM produce more positive and caring feelings towards ourselves and others. Not only does this make us feel better about others, it is communicated either verbally or nonverbally to others making them feel better about us, hence, improving interactions. Indeed, being around people who like themselves and understand others on an emotional level, induces positive feelings toward these people and is very attractive, facilitating interpersonal connection.
Finally, LKM appears to have direct effects on our ability to engage in social interactions. LKM is associated with increases in prosocial behavior, increasing helping behavior. It also improves feelings of social connection. In addition, it improves our ability to have a sophisticated understanding of other people in their full complexity. All of these effects of LKM positively influence our ability and effectiveness in interacting with others.
Loving Kindness Meditation appears to be a technique to help us develop positive feeling toward ourselves and others. This makes us want to help others, feel good in their presence, and helps us understand and care for them. It’s quite amazing that such a simple practice could have such far reaching effects.
So, practice Loving Kindness Meditation and be better socially.