Swept up in the daily cyclone of bad news? When you feel like hiding, soften your soul with this meditation instead.

Do you ever wake up, check the news on your phone, and just want to crawl back into bed and pull the sheets over your head? Or worse, break down crying over the sorry state of the world?

If this sounds familiar, you are probably an empath.

Empaths are people who lack the filters other people use to protect themselves from excessive stimulation, Dr. Judith Orloff suggests in her book “The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People.” As a result, they are like emotional sponges, absorbing feelings and energies — positive and negative.

Like many people, I struggle with feelings of sorrow and helplessness when I read about violence, tragedy, pain and suffering in the world. As I write this, I’m upset thinking about the July 4 mass shooting in Highland Park, but that’s just one example. By the time you read this, there will certainly be more things to be upset about, with the insanity of gun violence in this country, Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, and countless tragic events and circumstances.

The more you think about it, the more unbearable it becomes. What’s a sensitive, caring, empathetic person to do?

Turn Off the News and Build a Garden” — Sometimes you just have to, especially when all the hurt and sadness in the world is affecting your mental health. It’s not about becoming desensitized, but purposefully shifting your awareness to things that are enduring, like nature, and the people you can love in your own small orbit and beyond.

Practicing Loving Kindness Meditation is a way to soften and heal our hearts and compassionately consider others. This includes those who are close to us, and people in distress wherever they may be.

Loving Kindness is an English translation of the Pali word mettā. Pali was the language in the time of the Buddha, 2,500 years ago. Mettā means love, friendliness, benevolence, and goodwill.

Loving Kindness Meditation involves saying simple mantras to soothe, comfort, and calm your mind and heart. This is helpful when we feel overwhelmed, stressed, or helpless in the face of bad news.

Loving kindness phrases might include:

May I be loved.
May I be healthy.
May I be safe.
May I be happy.

Practice these phrases or create your own. Then expand your meditation outward to others who are in your heart or on your mind:

I am loved.
You are loved.

May I be safe.
May you be safe.

May I be healthy.
May you be healthy.

May I be happy.
May you be happy.

You can do this while sitting in quiet meditation, but also while stuck in traffic, standing in line at the grocery store, taking a walk outside, or anytime you find it useful.

Think about what you most need to hear to help you feel better when you are in a stressful or frightening situation, considering universal core human needs such as safety, stability, love, connection, trust, and peace.

Write down phrases that fill you with comfort and gratitude when you hear them, then practice focusing your attention on these phrases. Loving Kindness mantras are a key part of the “Act” tools in your SNAP mindfulness toolbox!

Be Kind to Humankind Week is an annual worldwide celebration of kindness recently observed from August 25 to August 31 — a time for us to reflect on what we can do to make this world a better place. What better place to begin than through Loving Kindness mediation?

Practicing Loving Kindness is a way of being of service, an important element for mental health and well-being. Being of service is part of eudaemonia, a form of joy Aristotle described as “doing and living well.” This form of joy lasts longer and is deeper and more fulfilling than hedonic (pleasure-chasing) joy.

We can soften and heal our hearts, learn to treat ourselves and others more gently and compassionately, and become less reactive and more present. May you find joy and peace through this simple practice.

Please share your thoughts. . .