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Mindfulness-based meditation interventions have become increasingly popular in contemporary psychology. Other closely related meditation practices include loving-kindness meditation (LKM) and compassion meditation (CM), exercises oriented toward enhancing unconditional, positive emotional states of kindness and compassion. This article provides a review of the background, the techniques, and the empirical contemporary literature of LKM and CM. The literature suggests that LKM and CM are associated with an increase in positive affect and a decrease in negative affect. Preliminary findings from neuroendocrine studies indicate that CM may reduce stress-induced subjective distress and immune response. Neuroimaging studies suggest that LKM and CM may enhance activation of brain areas that are involved in emotional processing and empathy. Finally, preliminary intervention studies support application of these strategies in clinical populations. It is concluded that, when combined with empirically supported treatments, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, LKM and CM may provide potentially useful strategies for targeting a variety of different psychological problems that involve interpersonal processes, such as depression, social anxiety, marital conflict, anger, and coping with the strains of long-term caregiving. Highlights ► We review the literature on loving-kindness and compassion meditation. ► Neuroendocrine studies suggest that compassion meditation reduces subjective distress and immune response to stress. ► Neuroimaging studies suggest that both meditation practices enhance activation of emotion centers of the brain. ► Preliminary intervention studies support the application of these strategies in clinical populations. ► We conclude that these techniques are effective for treating social anxiety, marital conflict, anger, and strains of long-term caregiving.
Objective: Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a structured group program that employs mindfulness meditation to alleviate suffering associated with physical, psychosomatic and psychiatric disorders. The program, nonreligious and nonesoteric, is based upon a systematic procedure to develop enhanced awareness of moment-to-moment experience of perceptible mental processes. The approach assumes that greater awareness will provide more veridical perception, reduce negative affect and improve vitality and coping. In the last two decades, a number of research reports appeared that seem to support many of these claims. We performed a comprehensive review and meta-analysis of published and unpublished studies of health-related studies related to MBSR. Methods: Sixty-four empirical studies were found, but only 20 reports met criteria of acceptable quality or relevance to be included in the meta-analysis. Reports were excluded due to (I) insufficient information about interventions, (2) poor quantitative health evaluation, (3) inadequate statistical analysis, (4) mindfulness not being the central component of intervention, or (5) the setting of intervention or sample composition deviating too widely from the health-related MBSR program. Acceptable studies covered a wide spectrum of clinical populations (e.g., pain, cancer, heart disease, depression, and anxiety), as well as stressed nonclinical groups. Both controlled and observational investigations were included. Standardized measures of physical and mental well-being constituted the dependent variables of the analysis. Results: Overall, both controlled and uncontrolled studies showed similar effect sizes of approximately 0.5 (P <.0001) with homogeneity of distribution. Conclusion: Although derived from a relatively small number of studies, these results suggest that MBSR may help a broad range of individuals to cope with their clinical and nonclinical problems.