Loving-kindness meditation, also known as metta meditation, focuses on cultivating feelings of love, kindness, and compassion towards oneself and others. While it is commonly practiced by adults, recent research has shown that loving-kindness meditation can also have significant benefits for children’s social and emotional development.

Historical and Philosophical Context for the Loving-Kindness Meditation

The Metta Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years in Southeast Asia, particularly in countries such as Myanmar, Thailand, and Sri Lanka. Metta is a word in Pali, a language originating in northern India that is the classical and liturgical language of Theravāda Buddhism. 

In the United States, the Loving-Kindness Meditation gained popularity in the mid-20th century as a result of increased interest in Eastern philosophy and mindfulness practices. In the 1950s and 60s, several prominent American teachers of Buddhism, such as Jack Kornfield and Sharon Salzberg, began to incorporate Metta Meditation into their teachings and brought it to wider audiences.

Another study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology found that loving-kindness meditation was useful in therapy for reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety in individuals with generalized anxiety disorder [2]. Similarly, a study published in the Journal of Health Psychology found that practicing loving-kindness meditation led to significant reductions in negative emotions such as anger, tension, and fatigue [3]. According to Emma Seppälä Ph.D, “[i]n a landmark study, Barbara Frederickson and her colleagues ( Fredrickson, Cohn, Coffey, Pek, & Finkel, 2008) found that practicing seven weeks of Loving-Kindness Meditation increased love, joy, contentment, gratitude, pride, hope, interest, amusement, and awe. These positive emotions then produced increases in a wide range of personal resources (e.g., increased mindfulness, purpose in life, social support, decreased illness symptoms), which, in turn, predicted increased life satisfaction and reduced depressive symptoms.[4]

In addition to its impact on mental health, loving-kindness meditation has also been shown to have a positive effect on social behavior. Research has found that this practice can enhance empathy and reduce aggressive behavior.[5,6] A study published in the journal Emotion found that participants who practiced loving-kindness meditation were more likely to help someone in need than those in a control group.[7] The benefits of loving-kindness meditation are not limited to adults, as research has also demonstrated its effectiveness in children. A study published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology found that a loving-kindness meditation intervention led to significant increases in prosocial behavior among children.[8] These findings suggest that this practice can have a positive impact on both individuals and communities.

Loving-Kindness Meditation in Kids Yoga Classes

Metta Meditation has become very popular in yoga classes, including those for children, because it is such an accessible technique.  We should note that while there is overlap between the philosophical principles of Buddhism and classical Yoga, they are not interchangeable. And while kindness is a key principle of both, we should honor that the origins of this practice is distinctly Buddhist. To introduce loving-kindness meditation to children, start by guiding them through a relaxation exercise to calm their minds and bodies. Then, use the following script to lead them through the meditation:

  • We are going to say the same four phrases to cultivate loving-kindness four times. Each time, we will focus on directing those feelings and intentions slightly differently. 
  • First, we will wish ourselves safety, health, happiness, peace and ease. Then we will direct those feelings toward someone we love, then toward someone we don’t know or with whom we feel conflict, and finally toward the whole world or universe.
  • Begin by sitting comfortably with your eyes closed, taking a deep breath in, and slowly exhaling.
  • Picture yourself a moment of happiness, maybe with your favorite people or doing your favorite activity. Remember the joy of that moment and feel it now. Say to yourself: “May I be safe. May I be healthy. May I be happy. May I be peaceful and at ease.”
  • Now, visualize someone you care about deeply, someone who makes you happy just thinking about them. It could be a family member, friend, or pet. Picture them in your mind’s eye and feel the warmth and love you have for them. Say to them: “May you be safe. May you be healthy. May you be happy. May you be peaceful and at ease.”
  • Next, picture someone you don’t know well or someone you may have had a difficult time with in the past. Remember that this person, like everyone else, has their own challenges and difficulties in life. Picture them in your mind and say the same phrases to them: “May you be safe. May you be healthy. May you be happy. May you be peaceful and at ease.”
  • Finally, imagine the world and everyone – people, animals, insects, even plants – and direct your feelings of loving-kindness Finally, direct the metta towards everyone universally: May all beings everywhere be safe. May all beings everywhere be healthy. May all beings everywhere be happy. May all beings everywhere be peaceful and at ease.”
  • Take a deep breath in and slowly exhale. When you are ready, slowly open your eyes.

Encourage children to practice loving-kindness meditation regularly, even for just a few minutes each day. Over time, they may begin to notice positive changes in their mood, behavior, and social interactions. As children learn to cultivate feelings of love, kindness, and compassion towards themselves and others, they can improve their relationships, reduce negative emotions, and increase their overall well-being. 


  1. Fredrickson, B. L., Cohn, M. A., Coffey, K. A., Pek, J., & Finkel, S. M. (2008). Open hearts build lives: positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(5), 1045-1062. doi: 10.1037/a0013262
  2. Hofmann, S. G., Grossman, P., & Hinton, D. E. (2011). Loving-kindness and compassion meditation: Potential for psychological interventions. Clinical Psychology Review, 31(7), 1126-1132. 
  3. Luberto, C. M., Shinday, N., Song, R., Philpotts, L. L., & Park, E. R. (2018). Loving-kindness meditation effects on well-being and altruism: A mixed-methods online study. Journal of Health Psychology, 23(12), 1530-1540. 
  4. Fredrickson BL, Cohn MA, Coffey KA, Pek J, Finkel SM. Open hearts build lives: positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2008 Nov;95(5):1045-1062. doi: 10.1037/a0013262. PMID: 18954193; PMCID: PMC3156028.
  5. Hutcherson, C. A., Seppala, E. M., & Gross, J. J. (2008). Loving-kindness meditation increases social connectedness. Emotion, 8(5), 720-724. 
  6. Weng, H. Y., Fox, A. S., Shackman, A. J., Stodola, D. E., Caldwell, J. Z. K., Olson, M. C., Rogers, G. M., & Davidson, R. J. (2013). Compassion training alters altruism and neural responses to suffering. Psychological Science, 24(7), 1171-1180. 
  7. Leiberg, S., Klimecki, O., & Singer, T. (2011). Short-term compassion training increases prosocial behavior in a newly developed prosocial game. PLoS ONE, 6(3), e17798. 
  8. Layous, K., Nelson, S. K., Oberle, E., Schonert-Reichl, K. A., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2012). Kindness counts: Prompting prosocial behavior in preadolescents boosts peer acceptance and well-being. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 33(5), 211-218.

About the Author

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Jennifer Mueller has been teaching yoga for children and families in Washington DC since 2008. Jen is a Yoga Alliance® Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RTY 200), a Registered Children’s Yoga Teacher (RCTY) , and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).

Jen teaches Breathing Space Baby Yoga & Play classes, Tot, Toddler and Little Families Yogaafterschool yoga, infant massage, and directs day-off and summer camps . . . in addition to offering lactation support and doing bunch of behind the scenes stuff to keep it all running.

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