Mindfulness and loving kindness meditations (LKMs) have been linked to greater individual wellbeing, compassion, and lower stress and physiological stress reactions, even demonstrating abilities to buffer the impact of stress. However, the mechanisms underlying those benefits and the critical components of meditation interventions are not well understood. This study examines a brief, online program designed to enhance lives and promote compassionate interconnectedness by having individuals practice brief (4-min) LKMs each morning for 2 weeks. The study will explore a wide range of possible mechanisms underlying the unique benefits of LKMs (14 dimensions of mindfulness, physiological stress reactivity, emotional granularity) as well as the stress-buffering roles that mindfulness and LKMs might play in the daily lives of individuals – particularly during a pandemic. A sample of 300 participants will be randomly assigned to complete two weeks of either LKMs or concentration meditations each morning and diaries each evening assessing: daily mindfulness, stress (including COVID-19 related stress), individual wellbeing, and compassionate interconnectedness (to others, neighbors, communities, and polarized groups). In addition to highlighting the roles of meditation and mindfulness during a pandemic, validating low-cost, readily available interventions could increase accessibility to contemplative practices worldwide, even under lockdown conditions.

Shin-Young Kim

University of Rochester