“Metta” is a Pali word that translates to something like “loving-kindness.” While mindfulness meditation gets all the media attention, metta meditation is a powerful practice that often goes overlooked. Mindfulness is touted for its ability to reduce stress, increase feelings of wellbeing, and improve relationships but metta does all that on overdrive. Metta is an incredibly simple practice. Essentially, you practice cultivating feelings of compassion and friendship for other people. Metta meditation can strengthen your recovery from addiction in the following ways.
Better mental health
Turbulent emotions are a challenge for pretty much everyone recovering from addiction. The early days of recovery are often characterized by irritability, physical discomfort, anxiety, depression, and emotional numbness. While some emotional challenges are inevitable, metta meditation has been shown to both decrease negative emotions and increase positive emotions. One meta-analysis of 25 studies on metta meditation found that the practice increased the prevalence of positive daily emotions and that participants maintained those benefits long-term. [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4630307/] Other studies have found that metta may be an effective practice for supporting the treatment of mood disorders. [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4468348/] Whether you have a diagnosed mental health issue or not, we could all use more positive emotions, especially if you’re recovering from addiction.
Metta isn’t just good for your own mood; it can strengthen your relationships as well. One influential study found that the positive emotions created by metta practice can translate into better relationships and a greater sense of connection and purpose. [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3156028/] This “broaden and build” theory suggests that positive emotions and greater social connection lead to a virtuous cycle of positive feelings. Strong relationships are a crucial part of a strong recovery and metta can be a great first step in overcoming feelings of isolation.
How to get started
Metta practice is really simple. Close your eyes and imagine someone you feel very close to, possibly a best friend or a relative you have mostly positive feelings for. Most metta practices actually suggest you start with yourself but since many people with substance use disorders feel a lot of shame, it may be better to put yourself at the end. Anyway, picture the person you care about deeply and notice the feelings of love, gratitude, and compassion that arise. Some people have to imagine a kitten or puppy for this first step, which is fine. Allow yourself to experience those feelings for a moment. Direct positive thoughts toward that person, something like, “May you be happy, may you be safe, may you be healthy, may you live peacefully.” The exact formulation doesn’t matter as long as it’s sincere.
Then, picture someone you like but maybe aren’t as close to, like a friend from work or school. While picturing that person, try to evoke the same feelings as before and direct your positive thoughts toward that person. Next, repeat the process with a neutral person, maybe someone you see around the neighborhood or the cashier at the grocery store. Then, think of someone challenging–not an enemy, necessarily, but perhaps someone you don’t get along with, and repeat the process of wishing that person well. Then, repeat the process for all people. If you haven’t already directed positive feelings toward yourself, do that now. Understand that you’re as deserving of love and kindness as anyone else on the planet. And that’s it. The whole thing doesn’t take more than 10 minutes a day and it can significantly improve your quality of life and your relationships.
Tree House Recovery of Portland, Oregon uses cutting-edge techniques in individualized programs to help men achieve freedom from addiction. Taking a holistic, sustainable approach to the inner and outer effects of addiction ensures you or your loved one will emerge with the confidence and skills to manage your addiction independently. No one is beyond help- our Admissions Counselors are available 24/7 at (503) 850-2474