An excellent article today from The Greater Good Science Centre which is based at the University of California, Berkeley. The centre sponsors scientific research into social and emotional well-being and earlier this year I enjoyed some excellent online studies with their Positive Psychology school. Todays article introduced some recent research on how self-compassion practices can help teens de-stress:

How can teens foster emotional well-being during this often-turbulent time of life?

The study conducted in 2013 and published in the Journal of Adolescence, was conducted by Dr. Brian Galla of the University of Pittsburgh, and reported findings that mindfulness training can reduce stress and support health and well-being in teenagers.

In the study, 132 teens participated in a five-day mindfulness retreat designed to cultivate mindfulness, loving-kindness, and other positive mental and emotional capacities such as self-compassion and gratitude. You can read the report from GGSC here – but one of the practices the teens engaged in every afternoon was loving-kindness meditation which is a practice that helps create acceptance and unconditional love – starting from within.

“Which skills were most supportive of long-term well-being? The results showed that self-compassion was key, even more so than mindfulness. Teens who cultivated a greater sense of inner kindness and sympathy toward the difficulties in their life were the least stressed, least depressed, and most satisfied with their lives after the retreat.”

In recent weeks I have had a number of heartfelt discussions with parents and youth, on  how to best support teenagers who seem to be experiencing considerable challenges in modern life; overwhelmed with feelings of loss, loneliness and uncertainty, and with no tools to understand the self-criticism and negative language that they find within themselves and when engaging with others.

Again, I am heartened to see research continue to support the wisdom and tools that have come to us from the ancient practices of mindfulness and meditation.  I know when I am facing the darker side of myself and the world (that is often negatively biased in the media) .. and when I am unsure of what I might do, or say, or how I might find peace again .. that is when I sit with Metta (Loving Kindness) meditation.

There are times when we all need a little dose of loving kindness .. for ourselves and others

May you be happy
May you be peaceful and at ease
May you accept yourself just as you are
May you be free to live and love fully

Metta is a Pali word that translates as love, or more often loving kindness .. an unconditional wish of wellness for all, a openhearted offering of kindness and gentle awareness and embracing of suffering.

Based on the traditional Buddhist practice of mettā bhāvanā (“cultivation of mettā”) in this meditation we silently repeat some classic phrases, systematically offering loving-kindness first to ourselves, then to a loved one, a dear friend, a neutral person, someone we find a little difficult .. and then to the entire world.

We begin by offering metta to ourselves:

May I be happy
May I be peaceful … at ease
May I accept myself just as I am
May I be free to live and love fully…

We repeat this mantra for a few minutes and inwardly reflect on the words as they weave into our breath and our heart.

We then extend the same wish to others, spending a few minutes repeating and sharing the loving-kindness mantra with .. a loved one .. .. then, a dear friend .. a neutral person .. and finally someone we find a little difficult.

May you be happy
May you be peaceful and at ease
May you accept yourself just as you are
May you be free to live and love fully…

When silently reciting this mantra you may wish to bring to mind (and heart) the person that you wish to extend metta to. Imagine this person in a happy place, with a smile on their face, and recognize that everyone on this earth seeks happiness, connection and love; that we are all on the same journey.

Loving Kindness meditation has a profound ability to settle a suffering heart and also transform our relationships – not just with those in the world around us, but also with ourselves!

And please don’t worry if you don’t truly feel the hearts warmth extending out .. it is much more important that our intention is there to begin to open the circle of loving-kindness …. in this way ..

.. metta helps us shift our focus from getting love to creating it, and from fixing life to embracing it ..

*I will be sharing Loving-Kindness meditation at our upcoming Bliss Bomb Spring Retreat in Melbourne on Sunday 9 October .. CLICK HERE for more details