Breathing Space London

mindfulness for health

Kindness Behaviour Training

What is Kindness Behaviour Training?

Kindness behaviour training (KBT) draws on ancient teachings and practices of Buddhism and on modern psychological approaches such as acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), compassion focused therapy and positive psychology. Two of the most fundamental practices in Buddhism are the development of mindfulness and the cultivation of kindness (also known as metta bhavana). Both mindfulness and kindness have been practised by millions of people for over two and half millennia to create states of well-being, emotional resilience and inner freedom. In MBCT (meditation for depression) and MBRP (meditation for addiction) the main focus is on developing mindfulness. The quality of mindfulness or awareness that we are trying to develop in these courses is a kindly one. One study has suggested that being able to cultivate a kindly quality of awareness is key to success in mindfulness-based approaches to well-being. This course therefore aims to complement the mindfulness courses with a focus on cultivating kindness, although it also includes a basic foundation in mindfulness.

What is meant by kindness?

Kindness is an attitude of care and concern for the well-being of both ourselves and other people. It is important that it is both. Being ‘kind’ to others but not to ourselves or being ‘kind’ to ourselves but not to others is not real kindness (although either may be a starting point for cultivating kindness in a fuller sense). Kindness includes sympathy or concern for our own and others well-being, plus a willingness to act on that concern. Thus kindness includes both feeling with or understanding, and action based on that understanding. This means that real kindness in neither weak nor stupid. To be truly kind means to understand what is going on and have the courage to act on that understanding.

What do research studies tell us about kindness?

Evolutionary psychology suggests that there are 3 main emotion systems in the brain. The first is to do with threat and self protection, and includes emotions such as fear, anxiety and anger. This system is necessary for survival – for example noticing a car coming towards you as you are about to cross the road and avoiding it. However it can also get over-stimulated or over-used and can lead to chronic anger problems, anxiety disorders and paranoia. Rumination in depression is also an example of the threat system being over-used. The second system is to do with rewards, such as the pleasure we experience from eating or sex. In contemporary life with the emphasis on materialism this too can get out of balance leading to unhelpful craving and unsatisfactoriness. The third system is to do with caring and contentment. Kindness is one of the main qualities associated with this system. We all have this system, and therefore the potential for kindness, however our upbringing or other life experiences may mean that it is under-developed or over-shadowed by habitual use of the other two systems. Neuroscientific studies have shown that practising kindness meditation can lead to beneficial brain changes that may help to re-balance these three systems.

Who is this course for?

This course is to help promote well-being in those who have suffered from depression or addiction or other emotional disorders such as stress and anxiety. It is not suitable for someone who is currently depressed or still engaging in addictive behaviour especially those using intoxicating substances. This is simply because it is very hard to sit and meditate if you are significantly depressed or if you are affected by mind-altering substances (including alcohol). No previous experience of meditation is required.

The course is also suitable for those who have completed the MBCT (meditation for depression) and MBRP (meditation for addiction) courses and wish to enhance and refresh the skills they have learned on those courses.

What will happen on the course?

The course will begin with an introduction to mindfulness as a grounding for the kindness practices. The course will then go on to teach ways of cultivating kindness in our lives. Meditation forms the bedrock. The course will teach different approaches to cultivating kindness through meditation. Kindness meditation can be approached through using the breath and body, thoughts, our emotions or the imagination. We will explore what kindness is and what it is not, including common misconceptions of kindness.

While cultivating mental states of kindness through meditation is an essential foundation, it is also important to be able to translate that into how we live our lives. The other main strand of KBT is exploring how we act on kindness; what are the implications of kindness for our daily lives. This is the behaviour aspect of KBT. Areas that will be covered include generosity, kindness in speech and how we act in our relationships.

 The course will be led by Dr Paramabandhu Groves, who is a consultant psychiatrist and clinical director of Breathing Space.