The ABC’s of Meditation
If you find yourself feeling stressed, tense or anxious; consider trying meditation. Spending even a few moments in meditation can help restore your calm inner
peace. The best part is anyone can practice meditation. It’s simple and doesn’t cost anything, nor does it require any type of equipment. You can also practice meditation anywhere, whether you’ve been out on a walk, at work, or at home. The more you practice mindfulness and meditation, the easier it will be to add this to your everyday life.
What is meditation?
Meditation is a mind/body practice in which your attention is focused on being mindful of the present, your breath and your mind becoming aware, reducing stress and anxiety. It comes in many forms and can be practiced anywhere, as long as you can be aware of your body and surroundings. Different types of meditation include mindfulness practices, breathing-based meditation, mantra, nature-based visualization and spiritual meditation. Meditation can be practiced alone, in a group or with a therapist. Meditation has been a technique used for thousands of years, though it has roots in Buddhism, mindfulness is open to be practiced for people of all backgrounds and beliefs. Meditation involves practices to sharpen focus and attention, connect to the body and breath, acceptance of difficult emotions and even alter consciousness; producing a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind.
Benefits of meditation
Meditation can improve your quality of life thanks to its many psychological and physical benefits. Mindfulness can help you stat centered and keep inner peace. And these benefits don’t end when your meditation session ends. It can help carry you more calmly throughout your day. Meditation may help you manage symptoms of certain medical conditions. Here are a few scientific benefits of meditation:
- Anxiety- Meditation can help with the effects of anxiety such as overwhelming feelings of worry, fear and tension, by slowing down racing thoughts and regulating breathing which calms the nervous system. Physical symptoms of anxiety can include dizziness, sweating or rapid heart rate caused by overthinking. Studies have shown people with anxiety who regularly practiced meditation over the course of three years saw positive, long-term impacts on their mental health.
- Stress- Meditation has shown to improve mental health, specially withstress. When put into a difficult moment, our bodies create cortisol the steroid hormone responsible for regulating stress and our natural fight-or- flight response among other functions. Chronic stress can cause elevated levels of cortisol, which can lead to other negative effects on your health including cardiovascular, immune system and gut health. Mindfulness, which focuses on calming the mind and regulating emotion, can help to reduce the chronic stress in the body and lower the risk of its side effects.
- Depression- Meditation can also help reduce the symptoms of depression through emotional regulation and mindfulness. Studies have shown individuals on a yoga/meditation retreat found significant improvements in depression as well as enhanced wellbeing.
- Sharpens memory- Apart from enhancing your happiness and improving overall wellbeing, meditation also helps your memory stay sharp and your concentration remain steady. With mindfulness meditation, you train yourself in remaining aware of the present moment.
- Immune system health- Meditation has also been found to be effective behavioral treatment for many conditions associated with a weakened immune system. Consistent meditation has been shown to reduce the body’s stress response, resulting in less inflammation and decreased risk of conditions such as chronic pain, heart disease and fatigue.
Types of meditation
Meditation is an umbrella term for the many ways you can practice achieving a relaxed state of being. Not all meditation styles are right for everyone. These practices require different skills and mindsets. In order to find the right practice for you, you should feel comfortable and encouraged.
- Spiritual meditation- Spiritual meditation is used in nearly all religions and spiritual traditions. Many of the meditation techniques listed in thisarticle could be considered spiritual meditation. Spiritual mindfulness focuses on developing a deeper understanding of spiritual/religious meaning and connection with a higher power. This practice is beneficial for those who seek spiritual growth.
- Mindfulness meditation- Mindfulness meditation originates from Buddhist teachings and is the most popular and researched form of meditation in the West. In mindfulness meditation, you pay attention to your thoughts as they pass through your mind. You don’t judge the thoughts or become involved with them. You only observe and take notes of any patterns. This practice combines concentration with awareness. You may find it helpful to focus on an object or your breath while you observe any bodily sensations, feelings or thoughts. This type of meditation is good for people who don’t have a teacher to guide them, can be easily practiced alone.
- Mantra meditation- Mantra meditation is practiced in many teachings including Hindu and Buddhist traditions. This type of meditation uses a repetitive sound to clear the mind. It can be a phrase, word or sound; one of the most common being “om”. Your mantra can be spoken loudly or quietly. After chanting the mantra for some time, you’ll be more alert and in tune with your environment. This allows you to experience deeper levels of awareness. This is a good practice for people who don’t like silence, find it easier to focus on a word than on their breath and enjoy repetition.
- Focused meditation- Focused meditation involves concentration using any of the five senses. Examples include: counting your breaths, listening to a gong, and staring at a candle flame. This practice may seem simple but it can be difficult for beginners to hold their focus for longer than a few minutes. Focused meditation is ideal for anyone who wants to sharpen their focus and attention.
- Movement meditation- Although some people might think of yoga when hearing of movement meditation, this practice includes: Tai Chi, walking, Qi Gong and other gentle forms of movement. This is an active form of meditation where the movement guides you into a deeper connection with your body and the present moment. Movement meditation is good for people who find peace in action and want to develop body awareness.
Don’t let the thought of meditating the “right” way stress you out. If you choose to, you can attend meditation groups, practice alone or you may find apps or YouTube videos helpful. You can create your meditation routine however it suits your lifestyle. For example, you could start and end each day with an hour of meditation. Experiment, and you’ll likely find out what types of meditation work best for you and what you enjoy doing. What matters is that meditation helps yoy reduce your stress and feel overall better!