Our minds can be a revolving door of self-doubt, negativity, even depression. But meditating on thoughts of love and acceptance is proven to increase happiness and wellbeing, with benefits that multiply over time.
How can you get your mind back on the sunny side? Try loving-kindness meditation, a practice that develops appreciation of self and of others. A 2008 Stanford study showed that just seven minutes of loving-kindness meditation increased feelings of social connection and positivity toward others.
And a study of the same year in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that regular loving-kindness meditation led to an upward trend of positive emotions that resulted in a host of other benefits, including increased life satisfaction and decreased illness symptoms.
“Loving-kindness is compassionate awareness that opens our attention and makes it more inclusive. Spending time paying careful attention to our thoughts, feelings and actions, positive and negative, and understanding them opens our hearts to loving ourselves genuinely for who we are, with all our imperfections. And that’s the gateway to loving others,” says Sharon Salzberg, meditation teacher and author of "Real Happiness, the Power of Meditation."
How to start: Sit quietly and focus on your breath. Begin to generate feelings of kindness and acceptance toward yourself. Acknowledge, feel and release any negative thought that enters your mind. Start with a five-minute practice and increase to 20-minute sessions.
As you develop your practice, broaden the projection of kind thoughts from yourself, to others. If the positive thoughts and feelings are slow to come, start with a guided loving-kindness meditation (find several at sharonsalzberg.com) that will allow you to let your mind follow the affirmations of others.
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