Love is a Vital Nutrient

Rebecca-Twins

Not only is love wonderful to both give and receive, but it also improves physical health. That’s part of why we have been using Love-Kindness Meditation (LKM) in our workshops. We follow that up with response art, such as the drawing above done at a recent Smith Center workshop on Mandalas for Meditation, Peace and Healing.

Although we had heard of Love Kindness Meditation before, we did not realize it is a Buddhist tradition spanning over 2500 years. Recently, emotion scientist Barbara Fredrickson taught people this loving-kindness practice and discovered that regularly experiencing moments of care and connection—either towards oneself, a loved one, a pet, even strangers!–can create upward spirals of good feelings, increased social connections and improved mental and physical wellbeing.

Gioia’s own research into positive emotions showed that two people were making art together involved moments of empathy and connection empathy through the language of images.

Other research by Bethany Kok and colleagues shows that we can see the effects of a loving heart through cardiac vagal tone, which regulates heart rate as part of our parasympathetic nervous system. It appears that when we feel loving and connected to others, our body responds by increasing the vagal tone, which positively influences physical health.

Kok says, “Recurrent momentary experiences of positive emotions appear to serve as nutrients for the human body, increasing feelings of social belonging and giving a needed boost to parasympathetic health, which in turn opens people up to more and more rewarding positive emotional and social experiences. Over time, this self-sustaining upward spiral of growth appears to improve physical health.” Click here to access the full article.

You can listen to audio recorded Barbara Fredrickson’s Love Kindness Mediation and another variation from UCLA here.

Have a healthy, happy, and loving February!
Love, Gioia and Rebecca

LKM Art Directive: Bring your attention to the area of your heart. See if you can feel your breath and your heart together as if you could breathe into the heart, and out… then, bring to mind someone in your life who you absolutely love, who the second that you think about them you get happy, it could be someone in your family, a close friend, it might be a child, it might be a pet. Focus on sending them loving thoughts. Take a few more breaths and stay connected with the feeling.

Now shift into making artwork, a drawing, painting, or collage, to express this feeling in visual form, illustrating those feeling of love, peace, and healing for others to see. There is no one right or wrong way to do this, and whatever artistic choices you make are just fine. Share what Love Kindness look like to you on our Facebook Page.

For more information on Barbara Fredrickson’s research, click here.