Almost exactly one month ago I started an experiment where I would do metta (AKA lovingkindness) meditation three days a week and see what would happen.
During the month I also read the book: “Love 2.0” (the one that is discussed in the article I link to in my original blog post). I also discovered the author’s “Happify” iPhone app (and website) and have gone through some of the tracks.
When I started the experiment I was at the tail end of a pretty bad depression and decided that lovingkindness meditation 3 days a week certainly couldn’t hurt! So how do I feel now, a month later? I can tell you that I feel much happier. I am not sure if it is the result of doing the meditation or simply my brain chemistry (maybe it’s both) but I feel much happier. I think that what is happening is I am making new neural pathways in my brain that are causing me to feel positive emotions rather than negative emotions. In my experience, due to my issues with depression, the first emotion to arise for me in a situation is negative. It took a long time to be able to take a step back and realize this was happening. When I was finally able to take a step back and understand what was happening it made me feel even more miserable about myself and I wondered if I would ever be able to have a different response.
So in the past month I feel like this practice has been a tool for me to rewire my brain. I am not saying I’m all sunshine and roses (my husband and verify this with you 😉 ) but I do notice that more positive feelings are bubbling up to the surface before the negative ones.
I am also feeling loved. This may sound weird to you, but feeling loved has been difficult for me. Mostly because I have had a hard time loving myself. But I am starting to feel like I am loved an appreciated, and that is a wonderful feeling.
In the book, Barbara Frederickson talks about love, physiologically, being an emotion that you feel in micro-moments. You have these moments with your partner the most, and with your family, and children if you have them. But you can also have these moments with anyone. Physiologically your body doesn’t really know the difference. So her idea is to cultivate this feeling of love toward all beings, not just the most important people in your life. She proposes that the more micro-moments of love you experience, the happier you will be. So as I’ve been practicing metta meditation I have also been trying to have those moments with others. As I experience them I feel like the best way to describe them is as moments of kindness. Indeed, being kinder throughout the day has made me feel happier.
When I was going through my depression I decided that I needed a break from Facebook. I do this a lot when I am depressed. I feel like Facebook takes a lot out of me and when I am in that state I need to limit myself to the bare minimum of things that I can do – and sometimes Facebook isn’t one of those things. Instead of completely cutting myself off I limited my time there. I only checked in a couple of times a day. I found this to be a good happy medium for me. I could still keep up with my friends but I was missing a lot of the drama and other things that bug me about the website. While I was on my semi break, and while I was reading Love 2.0, I realized some things about social media that is helping me understand my weird feelings toward Facebook. Frederickson, in her studies, suggests that this physiological feeling of love can only happen face to face because there is something that takes place in the physical realm for this to take place. I am not sure if I agree with this, and I feel like anyone who has cultivated online friendships would understand my disagreement. I certainly have felt connection with my distant friends. However, I am wondering if this physiological connection has something to do with my feeling like I need to take a break from social media when I am in a depressed state. I am wondering if I am just not able to fully get what I need from the online world and because I am not “filling the void” so to speak, it becomes this circle of depression and unfulfillment. I guess sometimes I need real hugs.
Just some thoughts. Thanks for indulging me. 🙂 And if you have read this far – wow. Thank you! ❤ 🙂