Optimizing your Mental Health and Relationships with Loving-kindness Meditation

Benefits of the loving-kindness meditation

Some of the key ingredients for a great relationship are being present, being positive, and connecting with the other person. The loving-kindness meditation can help you achieve all 3! This meditation is a mindfulness practice that directs you to focus on other people and send warmth and goodwill their way, which can cultivate positive emotions within your relationships. Dedicated practice of this meditation can help you strengthen interpersonal connections. 

Not only does loving-kindness meditation increase positive interactions with others, studies show it can reduce mental health symptoms and  help alleviate social anxiety, relationship conflict, anger, long-term caregiver fatigue, and interpersonal stress. This meditation technique has also shown to reduce PTSD symptoms among military veterans.

How does loving-kindness meditation work?

The loving-kindness meditation creates positive results in two ways:

  • It prompts you to be observational and nonjudgmental. This can help you understand: 
    • Your negative feelings for others or yourself without feeding into them. 
    • How you’d like to move forward constructively to work through the problem. 
  • It prompts you to intentionally imagine others and yourself in compassionate, empathetic, and warm ways. Over time, you’ll adapt and your behavior will mirror your thoughts.

Use HPRC’s guided meditation

or start your practice with these step-by-step instructions that can help your relationship with yourself and others flourish!

The meditation:

  • Sit comfortably, yet upright and alert. Allow your body to feel loose and at ease. Feel free to close your eyes. 
    • Relax and think about your intention for this practice and why you’re doing this loving-kindness meditation today. Sit with  your intention for a few moments.
  • Start by using your breath as the focus of your attention for this practice. Breathe naturally to anchor your attention in the present moment. 
  • Focus on your breath moving in and out of your nostrils or your belly expanding as you inhale and contracting as you exhale. It may be helpful to follow your breath by thinking “In” as you inhale and “Out” as you exhale. 
    • If your attention wanders and you get distracted, allow your thoughts to pass like clouds, without any judgment. Simply observe the thoughts as they come and slowly redirect your attention back to your breath. 
  • Now, shift your attention to someone important to you and to whom you’d like to send good feelings and thoughts. This can be someone close to you or a person who’s always accepted and appreciated you.. If you have difficulty thinking of someone, imagine a person who loves you unconditionally—embrace these feelings of love and appreciation. 
  • Silently repeat the following phrases with them in mind for a few minutes: 
    • May you be healthy. 
    • May you be happy. 
    • May you feel loved. 
    • May you find peace. 
  • The order or exact phrases used don’t matter. Say what resonates with you and uplifts those in your mind. 
    • If your mind wanders, allow your thoughts to pass and slowly redirect your attention to the phrases or person in mind and repeat the phrases.
  • Next, direct your attention to someone you feel neutral about, with whom you’ve no real connection. This might be a neighbor or a cashier you see often, but it should be someone you don’t know well. Keep them in your mind and repeat the phrases to them: 
    • May you be healthy. 
    • May you be happy. 
    • May you feel loved. 
    • May you find peace. 
  • Next, think about someone you struggle to feel good about. This can be someone from the present or your past. This practice isn’t about forgiving them or rehashing the situation, it’s simply to send them good wishes. Repeat the phrases: 
    • May you be healthy. 
    • May you be happy. 
    • May you feel loved. 
    • May you find peace. 
  • After silently saying these phrases to yourself, take a moment to relish how good it feels to send out positive energy to others. As you’re chanting the phrases, focus on sending out your good wishes, not just repeating the phrases. 
  • Now, shift your attention to yourself and send yourself the positive, loving energy you’ve created for others. Silently repeat the following phrases for a few minutes:  
    • May I be healthy. 
    • May I be happy. 
    • May I feel loved. 
    • May I find peace. 
  • Now, consider a beautiful place in nature. It can be somewhere you love to go, a place you want to visit, or the first place that comes to mind that makes you happy! Repeat these phrases to yourself: 
    • I’m thankful for the happiness I feel here. 
    • I’m thankful for the peace this place brings. 
    • I send this place peace and happiness so others who come here can feel joy, too.
  • Lastly, expand your kindness outwards. Zoom out and think of your community, town, state, country, and more. Send well wishes until you reach human beings everywhere. Spend a few minutes visualizing your kindness spreading across the globe and repeat these phrases: 
    • I’m sending the Earth peace. 
    • I’m sending the Earth happiness. 
    • May this positive energy carry on. 
  • Once you feel you’ve spread your well wishes to everyone, return to your breath for a few moments. With your next breath, take in a deep breath full of the energy from all the love and kindness. Pause for a moment to relish in it. Exhale and breathe outwards the love and positivity to those you thought of during practice. 
    • Repeat this last inhale-and-exhale, love-and-positivity process one more time. 
  • Slowly bring movement back to your body. First, wiggle your fingers and toes, be slow and intentional as you end your practice. 
    • As you open your eyes, keep the positive, loving, and kind energy with you during the rest of your day or night. 
    • Remember, you can always return to this meditation when you need it!

Check out these other HPRC resources for more information on mindfulness and relationship optimization!


A mindfulness meditation primer

Practice mindfulness through everyday activities

Mindfulness for the military

Mindfulness meditation can change your brain and optimize performance

Relationship Optimization

The importance of positive emotions for performance optimization, mental health, and strong relationships

Optimize your “relationship” performance

Strengthen your relationships with validation

Build your social fitness: Relationship optimization for Total Force Fitness

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Hofmann, S. G., Grossman, P., & Hinton, D. E. (2011). Loving-kindness and compassion meditation: Potential for psychological interventions. Clinical Psychology Review, 31(7), 1126–1132. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2011.07.003

Paulson, S., Davidson, R. J., Jha, A. P., & Kabat‐Zinn, J. (2013). Becoming conscious: The science of mindfulness. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1303(1), 87–104. doi:10.1111/nyas.12203

Zanesco, A. P., Denkova, E., Rogers, S. L., MacNulty, W. K., & Jha, A. P. (2019). Mindfulness training as cognitive training in high-demand cohorts: An initial study in elite military Service Members Meditation (pp. 323–354).

Zeng, X., Chiu, C. P. K., Wang, R., Oei, T. P. S., & Leung, F. Y. K. (2015). The effect of loving-kindness meditation on positive emotions: A meta-analytic review. Frontiers in Psychology, 6. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01693