How Loving-Kindness Meditation Makes You a Better Human

Is the brain hardwired to learn to love better? Daniel Goleman explores how loving-kindness practices impact both early and advanced meditators.

If you’re familiar to meditation, then you’ve probably tried a basic loving-kindness practice. It involves bringing to mind someone you love, and wishing that they are safe, well, and happy—either out loud or to yourself. The practice continues by extending these well wishes outward to those around you: maybe a more neutral party, or even a difficult person in your life.

Turns out, repeating these phrases doesn’t just get us to wrap our brains around good intentions that might go out the window during a busy week. Daniel Goleman, author of Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence and co-author of Altered Traits, says this type of meditation can impact our mind and our outlook “right from the get go.”

Goleman explains:

We find, for example, that people who do this meditation who’ve just started doing it actually are kinder, they’re more likely to help someone in need, they’re more generous and they’re happier. It turns out that the brain areas that help us or that make us want to help someone that we care about also connect with the circuitry for feeling good. So it feels good to be kind and all of that shows up very early in just a few hours really of total practice of loving-kindness or compassion meditation.

Goleman says loving-kindness practices strengthen empathic concern: our ability to care about another person and want to help them.