Metta meditation is a type of Buddhist meditation. In Pali — a language that’s closely related to Sanskrit and spoken in northern India — “metta” means positive energy and kindness toward others.

The practice is also known as loving-kindness meditation.

The goal of metta meditation is to cultivate kindness for all beings, including yourself and:

  • family
  • friends
  • neighbors
  • acquaintances
  • difficult people in your life
  • animals

The main technique of metta meditation involves reciting positive phrases toward yourself and these beings.

Like other types of meditation, the practice is beneficial for mental, emotional, and physical health. It’s especially useful for reducing negative emotions toward yourself and other people.

Metta meditation is a traditional Buddhist practice. It’s been used for thousands of years.

Different traditions approach the practice in different ways. However, all forms of metta meditation share the common goal of developing unconditional positive emotions toward all beings.

This includes feelings of:

To cultivate these emotions, you silently recite phrases toward yourself and others. These phrases are meant to express kind intentions.

Some examples of metta meditation phrases include:

  • “May I be safe, peaceful, and free of suffering.”
  • “May I be happy. May I be healthy.”
  • “May you be strong and confident.”

It’s important to repeat each phrase with mindfulness. This helps you focus on the phrase and the associated emotions.

A regular metta meditation practice can be beneficial for both your mind and body. Let’s look at some of these benefits more closely.

1. Promotes self-compassion

Since metta meditation involves reciting kind phrases toward yourself, it can foster a sense of self-compassion.

The idea is that you must love yourself before you can love other people.

Self-compassion can also reduce negative emotions toward yourself, including:

These benefits were observed in a small 2014 study. Participants who practiced metta meditation became less critical toward themselves than those who didn’t use this practice.

Another 2013 study found that routine metta meditation had the ability to increase self-compassion and mindfulness in people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These effects helped decrease PTSD symptoms.

2. Decreases stress and anxiety

According to research from 2013, mindfulness meditation can significantly reduce anxiety symptoms.

Additionally, clinical evidence has shown that mindfulness meditation, when practiced regularly, can also reduce the inflammation response that’s caused by stress.

Metta meditation can take this even further, according to meditation practitioners. As you develop self-compassion, you perceive yourself in a more positive light. This promotes emotions like love and gratitude.

These emotions can increase your level of life satisfaction, thus reducing stress and anxiety.

3. Reduces physical pain

There’s some evidence that metta meditation can decrease some types of physical pain.

In an older 2005 study, the practice decreased persistent lower back pain.

A 2014 study found a similar effect in people with frequent migraine attacks. The researchers in both studies attributed the lower pain levels to the stress-relieving effect of metta meditation. Emotional stress, after all, can worsen physical pain.

Negative emotions can also reduce your tolerance for pain. Positive emotions, like those cultivated through metta meditation, have the opposite effect.

4. Improves longevity

Telomeres are DNA structures at the ends of each chromosome. They work to protect genetic information.

As we get older, our telomeres naturally shorten. Chronic stress can speed up this process, causing faster biological aging.

Stress-relieving activities, like metta meditation, can ease this effect. A small 2013 study found that metta meditation is associated with longer telomere length. The researchers speculated that the practice could help improve longevity.

5. Enhances social connections

Metta meditation can also nurture stronger social relationships.

After you recite kind phrases toward yourself, you extend that kindness to other people. This allows you to display compassion and empathy toward them.

It also encourages you to think about others and to recognize how they make you feel.

Plus, as you develop self-love, you may be less likely to view yourself negatively. This makes it easier to hold space for others, which can cultivate more positive connections.

You don’t need any special equipment or gear to get started with metta meditation.

Another bonus is that you can do it anywhere you like — in a quiet corner of your home, outdoors in a yard, or even at your desk. Try to choose a spot where you’re least likely to be distracted, then follow these steps:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose and continue breathing deeply.
  2. Focus on your breathing. Imagine your breath traveling through your body. Focus on your heart.
  3. Choose a kind, positive phrase. Silently recite the phrase, directing it toward yourself. You can say, “May I be happy. May I be safe. May I find peace.”
  4. Slowly repeat the phrase. Acknowledge its meaning and how it makes you feel. If you get distracted, avoid judging yourself. Just return to the phrase and keep repeating it.
  5. Now, think about your friends and family. You can think about a specific person or a group of people. Recite the phrase toward them, “May you be happy. May you be safe. May you find peace.” Again, recognize the meaning and how you feel.
  6. Continue reciting the phrase toward others, including neighbors, acquaintances, and difficult individuals. Recognize your emotions, even if they’re negative. Repeat the phrase until you experience compassionate feelings.

Some people use visual imagery while reciting each phrase. For example, you can imagine light emitting from your heart or the person you’re thinking of.

You can also change the phrase throughout the practice.

If you’re new to meditation, it may seem intimidating. Your first few sessions might also feel unproductive. Keep in mind, however, that it takes time to achieve the intended effects.

Consider these beginner tips:

  • Be patient. Don’t expect instant results. Meditation is a practice that’s meant to evolve.
  • Let go of perfection. Your mind will likely drift, so don’t worry about getting distracted. Just acknowledge that this is normal. Try to focus on the present moment instead of the potential results.
  • Avoid judging yourself. When you get distracted, avoid criticizing yourself. Recognize the distraction and gently return to the practice.
  • Experiment. Meditation can be done in any location or pose, and at whatever time works best for you. Try meditating in different places and poses and at different times of the day to find what works best for you.

During metta meditation, you recite positive phrases toward yourself and other people. The practice aims to foster a mental state of kindness, love, and compassion.

When done regularly, metta meditation can help minimize negative emotions toward yourself and others. Like other forms of mindfulness meditation, it can also reduce stress and physical pain.

If you’d like to try metta meditation, be patient and open to the experience. Practicing a few minutes each day may help make a difference over time.