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Metta Meditation Improves Vagus Nerve Function

GlowGlow Veteran
There have been many studies over the last couple of years on the potential health benefits of metta practice. Here is an article on the latest one: http://healthland.time.com/2013/05/09/why-kindness-can-make-us-happier-healthier/
More of the meditators than those on the waiting list showed an overall increase in positive emotions, like joy, interest, amusement, serenity and hope after completing the class. And these emotional and psychological changes were correlated with a greater sense of connectedness to others — as well as to an improvement in vagal function as seen in heart-rate variability, particularly for those whose vagal tone was already high at the start of the study.

“The biggest news is that we’re able to change something physical about people’s health by increasing their daily diet of positive emotion, and that helps us get at a long-standing mystery of how our emotional and social experience affects our physical health,” says Fredrickson.

Simply meditating, however, didn’t always result in a more toned vagus nerve. The change only occurred in meditators who became happier and felt more socially connected; for those who meditated just as much but didn’t report feeling any closer to others, there was no change in the tone of the vagal nerve. “We find that the active ingredients are two psychological variables: positive emotion and the feeling of positive social connection,” she says. “If the practice of lovingkindness didn’t budge those, it didn’t change vagal tone.”
There is also a traditional litany of the benefits of metta in the Pali canon, which is interesting, even if you don't believe some of the claims, lol:
"Monks, eleven advantages are to be expected from the release (deliverance) of heart by familiarizing oneself with thoughts of loving-kindness (metta), by the cultivation of loving-kindness, by constantly increasing these thoughts, by regarding loving-kindness as a vehicle (of expression), and also as something to be treasured, by living in conformity with these thoughts, by putting these ideas into practice, and by establishing them. What are the eleven?

1. "He sleeps in comfort. 2. He awakes in comfort. 3. He sees no evil dreams. 4. He is dear to human beings. 5. He is dear to non-human beings. 6. Devas (gods) protect him. 7. Fire, poison, and sword cannot touch him. 8. His mind can concentrate quickly. 9. His countenance is serene. 10. He dies without being confused in mind. 11. If he fails to attain arahantship (the highest sanctity) here and now, he will be reborn in the brahma-world.
Source: Mettanisamsa Sutta


  • VastmindVastmind Memphis, TN Veteran
    Good article and post!
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited May 2013
    Please send Metta to music, raven and those in pain.

    May all find joy from the flames of their pain.
  • GlowGlow Veteran
    One thing that interested me was the description of how the participants were taught to do metta: they recalled their problems first and then used that as leverage to generate compassion/kindness. I've done this spontaneously during metta sittings and it's really helped establish a sense of connection between my pain and others. It's also similar to tonglen, which helps to de-personalize suffering.
  • footiamfootiam Veteran
    Mmmm... What's in this for me?
  • Thanks for sharing that!
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