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A Kindness Practice For Families

Objectives: CaringBridge (CB) is an online health community for people undergoing challenging health journeys. Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) is a systemized mind-body approach developed to increase loving acceptance and has previously been reported to increase resilience in the face of adversity. Materials and Methods: Results of a randomized controlled trial of immediate compared with deferred 21-day LKM intervention in an online community are reported. The deferred group received LKM intervention after a waiting period of 3 weeks. Inclusion criteria were >18 years old, ability to understand English, willingness to participate in a mind-body practice, and use of CB for a cancer journey. Change in perceived stress, self-compassion, social connectedness and assurance, and compassionate love scales from baseline to 21 days was assessed. Results: Of the 979 participants included in the study, 649 (66%) provided 3-week follow-up data and 330 (49%) self-reported engaging in the LKM practice 5 or more days/week. Participants in the immediate LKM group reported medium effect size improvement in stress (0.4), self-compassion (0.5), and social connectedness (0.4) compared with the deferred LKM group. Changes in perceived stress and self-compassion were larger in magnitude and increased with more frequent engagement in LKM. Conclusions: The immediate LKM group showed improvements in stress, self-compassion, and social connectedness compared with the deferred control group. Differential study retention rates by treatment arm and self-reported engagement in LKM subject the results to selection bias. Future research of similar interventions within online health communities might pay greater attention to promoting intervention adherence and engaging a more diverse economic and racial/ethnic population. (NCT05002842).

A Kindness Practice for Families


Maintaining these routines and rituals even during times of transition like divorce can lower levels of conflict and help children adjust to change, protecting them from the proposed risks of nontraditional families.

Be sure to check out our Growth Mindset Conversation Cards to help build family connections. This beautifully illustrated deck of cards offers 52 interesting questions to help kids and grown-ups share thoughtful discussions about growth mindset, kindness, resilience, gratitude, and more.

The point of practicing self-care is to help let off some steam, so while it is important to follow your plan in times of need, try practicing self-care daily. Showing kindness to ourselves is skill that we sometimes forget to use, so this month practice caring for yourself. At the end of the day, you are the only person who can do the things you do and that is something worth celebrating!

Why do we need to practice shifting out of our threat/defense system and into our care system to have healthy, well-connected relationships? The thing is, what we practice grows stronger. As we continue to default to the threat/defense system, our defensive strategies grow stronger and our capacity to be caring and connect, to feel safe and soothed, is further neglected.

In traditional loving-kindness practice, this is done by picturing a sequence of people (benefactor, self, loved-one, neutral person and difficult person) and offering each person wishes designed to increase their happiness and decrease their suffering. In the Compassion for Couples program we use this basic framework to increase our capacity to be in the care system and show up with kindness whether we are happy with our partner in this moment or unhappy in this moment.

It is helpful to start with some kind phrases ready. In the Compassion for Couples program, we spend some time creating customized loving-kindness phrases. If you have those, please feel free to use them. If not, you can work with standard phrases such as:

When we practice offering kindness to our loved ones it strengthens our intention to treat them well, and it strengthens our capacity to show up with kindness rather than defensive strategies. With enough practice, responding with kindness becomes the new habit.

This typology groups commonly practiced forms of meditation and meditation-based clinical interventions into subcategories of each of the three families. Please note that while many practices contain elements of all three families, categorizations in this framework are based on the primary mechanisms of individual practices. Given the complexity of each practice listed here, we present this system as an initial step in the long process of studying the diversity of meditation practices. See supplementary materials for descriptions of individual practices and relevant citations.

Focused attention (FA) practices involve a narrowing of attentional scope and the cultivation of one-pointed concentration on a single object [11,48]. The presence of meta-awareness distinguishes the attentional stability achieved through this form of meditation from other forms of absorption, such as the stable attentiveness that occurs when one is engaged in an engrossing conversation or playing an interesting game. Open monitoring (OM) practices similarly involve the cultivation of meta-awareness, but they do not involve selecting a specific object to orient one's attention. Rather, attentional scope is expanded to incorporate the flow of perceptions, thoughts, emotional content, and/or subjective awareness. OM meditation can be further divided into object-oriented open monitoring, which involves directing one's attention to whatever thoughts, percepts, and sensations enter the field of awareness, and awareness-oriented open monitoring, referring to the sustained recognition of the knowing quality of awareness itself. Both forms of open monitoring meditation are similar in many ways to practices discussed below in the context of the deconstructive family. What distinguishes them from deconstructive forms of meditation is that their primary objective is the stabilization of meta-awareness in relation to a particular attentional configuration. As we will see below, in the deconstructive family a similar configuration of attention may be employed, but for different purposes (such as the cultivation of insight into the nature of sensory experience, for example).

The cultivation of virtuous qualities is a common pursuit in many contemplative and philosophical traditions [27,79,103]. The constructive family of meditation is one important method that allows for this cultivation. While practices in this family necessitate the presence of meta-awareness, and also serve to strengthen and sustain meta-awareness, the approach taken in this family is markedly different from practices in the attentional family, insofar as this style of practice involves actively changing cognitive and affective content, as opposed to simply observing or noting the presence of thoughts, emotions, and perceptions.

Though there are many different styles of constructive meditation, we have identified three important subgroups, which we refer to as the relationship orientation, values orientation, and perception orientation. The relationship orientation emphasizes nurturing harmonious relationships with others. In Buddhist meditation, this style of practice often involves the extension of kindness and compassion first to specific individuals, and eventually to all beings [104]. This subgroup of meditation may impact specific psychological factors, by decreasing in-group bias, for example [105], and thereby enhance important dimensions of well-being such as positive relationships and meaning in life [2].

Practices in the values orientation subgroup involve the integration of ethical frameworks or values into one's ongoing perspective. One common practice in this subgroup is the contemplation of one's own mortality, which is found in Buddhist practice as well as in Greco-Roman philosophy. In Platonic philosophy, for example, contemplations of death functioned to bring the individual into contact with a sense of self that transcends the boundaries and needs of the physical body [27], while in Buddhism contemplating the fragility and fleeting nature of life is often intended to re-orient the mind toward what is truly meaningful in life [106].

Though deconstructive meditations are used to inquire into many facets of conscious experience, the nature of the self is a topic of inquiry in a broad range of contemplative and philosophical practices. To give two important examples, examining the self is linked to the highest good in ancient Greek philosophy [27] and as the key to undoing the cycle of suffering in Buddhism [78]. In Buddhist meditation, the primary target of many self-inquiry practices is cognitive reification, the implicit belief that thoughts, emotions, and perceptions are accurate depictions of reality [124]. Deconstructive practices in this tradition are especially concerned with the view that the self is enduring and unitary, since a reified sense of self is believed to be the primary cause of suffering and states of discontent [78]. Buddhist deconstructive practices, therefore, often involve exploring the experience of subjectivity by inquiring into the various components that comprise the self, for example [125], or by examining the relationship between the self as agent or observer and the objects it interacts with [126].

Likewise, imagine how different classrooms, offices, organizations, and homes around the world might be if more adults stopped to consider how they might demonstrate more empathy and kindness in their regular interactions.

Children (and adults) are more likely to be engaged and involved in something they helped create or develop (Dirks, Cummings, & Pierce, 1996). With this concept in mind, brainstorming ideas on how to be kind as a class should instill a sense of ownership in kids that helps them feel excited about practicing kindness.


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