Actively cultivating compassion engenders positive feelings. The ancient Buddhist practice of “loving-kindness meditation,” also known as metta, consists of a technique where a person directs compassion and wishes for well-being to real or imagined people and as a result experiences positive feelings and kindness toward him- or herself and others.
In a small study conducted at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, researchers recruited 93 subjects and used either a brief, 7-minute loving-kindness meditation or a neutral-imagery exercise to determine whether participants could arouse positive feelings toward strangers. Participants in the loving-kindness exercise experienced a more positive mood, a more positive disposition toward others and greater self-acceptance than those in the neutral-imagery group. The researchers recommended further study to understand the mechanisms behind the mood changes and whether or not they could be replicated on larger scales.
The study appeared in Emotion (2008; 8 ; 720–24).