Many people are ignorant of the powerful physical and health benefits of meditation. But we don’t blame them for their ignorance. Ours is a very complicated, fast-paced world, and sometimes it’s all we can do to keep up.
However, being constantly on the move can leave us feeling drained and can generally impact the quality of our lives negatively. Fortunately, meditation offers a reprieve, and with a little knowledge, you can harness the physical benefits of meditation as well as the health benefits of meditation.
Sometimes, we can get so occupied with the business of daily living that we forget to take a break. While racing to meet deadlines and advance our cause, we often forget to live in the present. The race to catch the golden fleece and ultimately get ahead in life charges a hefty premium, and our bodies and minds can be touched by its negative implications.
Think about it for a moment. Under severe, unrelenting pressure from work, family and a host of other cares, the first casualty is your peace of mind, and you’ll begin to feel like you’re losing touch with yourself.
When that happens, you’ll find yourself getting bitter and disillusioned, and stress begins to creep in. Since there’s a nexus between your mental health and physical health, it doesn’t take long before your body begins to act up.
At this point, even the most innocuous of ailments can lay you low. It’s a vicious cycle, and it happens to the best of us.
We understand that sometimes your schedule can leave you stressed out and without enough time to recharge your batteries. That’s why we recommend meditation. Meditation offers a wide range of wonderful benefits, both physical and mental, and the best part is, it’s completely free and won’t take up much of your time, and is ridiculously simple.
What Is Meditation?
When you think about meditation, what comes to your mind? You probably imagine an Oriental monastery filled with silent robed monks sitting cross-legged in deep contemplation. If this is the picture your mind paints for you, you wouldn’t be far off the mark.
Meditation does indeed have religious backgrounds. Nowadays, however, meditation serves more practical purposes. It is recommended for people who want to find inner peace, reach a point of awareness and reconstruct consciousness.
Meditation is an ancient tradition that is done to foster a sense of relaxation and harmony in adherents.
In recent times, meditation has witnessed an exponential surge in popularity, due to the toll everyday living places on people. The practice of meditation is a cost-effective way of restoring equilibrium and balance, and letting go of stressful things.
It’s important to note that meditation would be more effective if it complements your personality. Not so many people know that there are actually six types of meditation, and what works for others may not necessarily work for you. How do you find the one that works perfectly for you? Your best bet would be to experiment with everything until you find the one that suits you best. When you do find it, you’ll definitely know. It’ll be the one you feel most comfortable practicing.
You can choose from any of these types of meditation:
Types Of Meditation
- Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness Meditation is one of the most popular meditation techniques because it is also one of the easiest. It has it’s roots in the Buddhist tradition, but its practice has extended beyond religious purposes. Jon Kabat Zinn is credited as the originator of mindfulness meditation.
This meditation technique requires you to simply examine the thoughts that flit through your mind, without judging or engaging them. All you’re required to do is observe and highlight patterns. Mindfulness requires concentration and is best done in places where the silence is absolute. Nevertheless, you can still practice mindfulness in crowded spaces, and even when you’re on the move. To help you get into the state where you’re acutely aware of all your feelings, thoughts and sensations, you could pick an object and focus on it. You can also focus on your breath.
- Movement Meditation
As the name implies, movement meditation requires motion, which makes it perfect for people who prefer to remain active. Movement Meditation is great because it can be done even while you carry out your daily activities. Examples of this type of meditation include Tai chi, martial arts and yoga.
To practice movement meditation, you’d have to be engaged in light motions such as walking and gardening. The idea is to let your mind wander and allow your movement to guide you. It involves making your mind, body and emotions aware of the experience while you walk. In addition to the numerous benefits attached to this form of meditation, you also get to exercise your body. Movement Meditation is best practiced in a big city.
- Mantra Meditation
Mantra Meditation is different from mindfulness meditation on a number of levels. Whereas mindfulness requires focus and quietude, mantra meditation encourages you to use a specific, repetitive sound to clear your mind. Mantra Meditation is ideal for people who don’t enjoy silence. The technique is also perfect for people who are naturally equipped to focus more on words than their breath.
The sound, phrase or word you choose (known as a mantra) can be spoken quietly or loudly. When you chant the mantra continuously for a while, you’ll become more in tune with your immediate surroundings and can undergo profound levels of awareness. Mantra Meditation can be found in several Hindu and Buddhist teachings.
- Spiritual Meditation
If you’re seeking to establish a closer connection to God or whatever you believe in, you should give spiritual meditation a try. Spiritual Meditation is popular in oriental religions such as Daoism and Hinduism and shares certain similarities with certain aspects of the Christian faith. Whenever you engage in prayer as an adherent of any religion, you’re in fact participating in spiritual meditation.
This type of meditation can be carried out at home or in religious centers. As it requires silent reflections, silence is one of its major ingredients. Other items used to set the scene are essential oils such as sage, myrrh, frankincense, etc.
- Focused Meditation
Focused Meditation is targeted at people who seek renewed focus in their lives. Due to the fact that it requires intense concentration, it can be pretty exacting in practice. If you’re having a hard time maintaining your focus while practicing this type of meditation, don’t worry unduly. Simply bring your mind back whenever it wanders.
To practice focused meditation, you’d have to make use of any of your five senses to achieve concentration. The trigger may be either internal or external.
- Transcendental Meditation
Transcendental Meditation is of particular interest to scientists, due to its immense potentials. According to research, Transcendental Meditation can help cure a number of medical conditions, including trait anxiety. This meditation type can help calm your nervous system and also help you locate peace within yourself. Perhaps, this is what makes it the most popular type of meditation.
Transcendental Meditation has its roots in the Vedic tradition. It encourages the removal of distracting thoughts with the aim of achieving awareness. It also makes use of a mantra.
How To Practice Meditation
A lot of people miss out on the point and immense benefits of meditation by overthinking and end up heaping unnecessary pressure on themselves. Such people are on a misguided quest to find the perfect way to meditate because they hold the mistaken belief that meditation requires some special maneuvers.
Get this, there are no special procedures involved in Meditation. Most times, all you need to do is sit still and breathe. You can even stand up or walk if you want to, and if you feel you’d prefer to. You may not like lying down, though, as effective meditation requires posturing that allows you to breathe properly. Besides, you wouldn’t want to fall asleep. Some meditation types do not even require a teacher; you can do them entirely by yourself.
The thing to remember is that there’s no one-size-fits-all rule with meditation. We are all different, and so are our preferences and needs. Therefore, you’d have to engage in a bit of trial and error to locate the meditation technique that is most suited to you. Here are some general guidelines that can help improve your meditation sessions:
- Breathe well. It’s important to be in control of your breath in order to experience an effective meditation.
- Adopt proper positions. You can sit in the lotus position, stand or walk. Any position that is comfortable, allows you to breathe well and does not put pressure on your muscles is fine. You shouldn’t lie down, though.
- Wear comfortable clothes. Clothes that are restricting can distract you. This doesn’t mean that you should stock up long, flowing robes though!
- Relax your body. You can achieve proper relaxation by taking deep breaths and holding them for a few seconds before releasing them. Doing this can help your body relax before you meditate.
- Pick a quiet place. It’s important to avoid distractions while meditating, so it’s advisable that you pick a comfortable, quiet place where you can practice meditation. Nevertheless, meditation can also be done in noisy areas. All you need to do is to shut out or ignore the background noise.
- Quieten Your Mind. Don’t let resurfacing memories or random thoughts distract you. The best way to do this is to focus your mind on a particular object. Your breath is highly recommended here.
Top 10 Benefits Of Meditation
Meditation offers a wide variety of awesome, scientifically proven benefits. Engaging in meditation can help you sleep better, lose weight and grant you access to a host of other physical benefits of meditation. You can also enjoy a wide range of health benefits of meditation. Meditation can alter hardwired responses in your brain, which can, in turn, help you live a fuller, more fulfilled life, avoid dangerous medical complications, approach stressful situations more rationally and generally become a better person. Below are ten wonderful benefits of meditation:
- Meditation Relieves Stress
Perhaps the major reason why people indulge in meditation is to reduce or completely eradicate stress. Stress comes with excess baggage that can induce a load of debilitating illnesses in people, including depression, increased blood pressure, fatigue and other disorders. Fortunately, several scientific studies have established the power of meditation (particularly mindfulness) to counteract the effects of stress and greatly reduce the cortisol levels caused by it. One such study carried out over three months by the University of California confirms that mindfulness meditation is directly responsible for reduced cortisol levels in individuals. Mindfulness can effectively neutralize the inflammation caused by stress.
In addition to this, meditation can help you react to stress-inducing situations with more clarity and calm. It can help you alter responses conditioned by your ego, making you less susceptible to panic and helping you make better decisions. Scientific evidence lends credence to this fact.
- It Can Help You Combat Addictions
Several scientific studies conclude that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), and mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP) play leading roles towards helping people who are grappling with one addiction or another break the chains. Research also reveals that meditation can help improve your will power, which can go a long way towards helping you curb your craving for unwholesome food and other addictive behaviors.
Since most people smoke when they are under stress, transcendental meditation can help them cope with and get rid of stress, negating the need to reach for a packet of cigarettes. This is supported by a study which reveals that 50% of smokers quit after practicing transcendental meditation for two years.
There’s good news for alcohol addicts too. Research conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison establishes the fact that meditation can help alcoholics drop the habit since it effectively combats those issues that drove them to alcohol in the first place.
- Meditation Can Increase Intelligence
Again, several studies have shown over the years that meditation can exponentially improve academic performance. Academic excellence is a culmination of several factors, one of them being concentration. You may be aware that some of the poorest performing students are those who struggle with concentration, especially young children. Meditation can help improve concentration, which will translate into better performance in school.
Nowadays, there’s been a concerted drive towards introducing meditation in schools. Meditation can have a profound influence on young minds and help engender a new generation of capable, well-adjusted adults. A school in San Francisco has already adopted this approach, and the results have been frankly amazing. Beyond this, meditation can also help adults react to situations better and make better intuitive decisions.
- Meditation Reduces Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases
Meditation can help you maintain and regulate blood pressure, and by extension prevent cardiovascular diseases. This fact has been confirmed by a study carried out over a period of five years by the American Heart Association. The study reveals that people who meditate regularly are 48% less likely than normal to get cardiovascular diseases such as a heart and stroke.
Further, some forms of meditation can also provide you with good exercise, which on its own is able to insulate you against crippling health conditions. For instance, walking or movement meditation helps you stay active while meditating and walking is a great form of exercise. Movement meditation, if done consistently, offers you the benefits of both meditation and exercise. It can help you burn off considerable amounts of calories that would have put immense pressure on your organs. Movement meditation will also leave you feeling good, happy, healthy and at peace with yourself and the world.
- Meditation Increases Productivity
Meditation can improve your health, stability, efficiency, contentment and social skills, which will go a long way towards boosting your productivity in your place of work. Research carried out on the subject reveals that workers who practiced meditation over the duration of the study (which lasted three months) displayed a marked improvement on their levels of productivity and general work performance.
The improved concentration that meditation fosters can also have a direct impact on your productivity levels. Another study revealed that meditation helps workers stay focused on tasks for much longer and helps them recall details of such tasks more accurately, several days after its completion. Further, meditation can lead to improved cognitive abilities and help you cope better with stress, which can ensure that you deliver consistently excellent results. A study carried out by the University of Washington reveals that workers who meditate are more energetic and better able to multitask.
- Meditation Improves Relationships
Many people suffer from social insecurity caused by anxiety and other chemical imbalances in the brain. The good news is, meditation can help combat these issues and help you reclaim your life. If you’ve suffered the painful termination of promising relationships or you find it really difficult to meet new people, maintain social contact or even engage people in conversation for these reasons, mindfulness and transcendental meditation can help you overcome these issues. Meditation can help you construct an awareness of self, which will lead to improved self-esteem. With self-esteem comes increased confidence to live your best life without being hamstrung by what people’s opinion of you might be.
One study used Locke’s Marital Adjustment protocol to gauge a group of women’s enjoyment of their marriage. The result showed that those who practiced meditation were more satisfied with their marriage than those who did not.
- Meditation Can Reduce Anxiety And Fear
Social anxiety and other manifestations of anxiety can be very incapacitating. It can prevent you from seizing opportunities, living your best life and maintaining good relationships. Fortunately, meditation can essentially rewire your brain. To be precise, meditation can affect two parts of your brain: the anterior cingulate cortex which is in charge of thinking and emotions, and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which regulates worrying.
A study carried out on over 2,400 participants in 2017 revealed that different meditation strategies such as yoga, mindfulness and transcendental meditation can help combat anxiety. Another study carried out by the Johns Hopkins University proves that mindfulness meditation can greatly alleviate a number of issues including fear and anxiety.
- Meditation Can Help Fight Depression
Depression is one of the leading causes of deaths all over the world. A combination of several chemical, physical, social and maybe economic factors can combine to leave an individual depressed and gradually erode the hardwired self-preservation instinct present in everyone, leading such an individual to eventual suicide. Statistics backed by scientific research prove that meditation can lead to a decrease in depression. Meditation can foster a better self-image and help you maintain a more positive attitude to life. A study carried out by Johns Hopkins University reveal that meditation can have as much effect on depression as antidepressants.
During high-stress situations, inflammatory chemicals known as cytokines are released. These chemicals can subsequently lead to depression. Meditation can neutralize these chemicals, a number of studies have revealed.
- Meditation Increases Attention Span
According to several studies, people who practice mindfulness meditation for even short periods are more likely to maintain their focus for longer, which can make them more effective workers. ADHD is suffered by kids as well as adults, but even without a diagnosis of this ailment, several people still struggle to focus their attention on tasks for sustained periods. However, as a recent study found, mindfulness and transcendental meditation can lead to substantive improvements in attention levels of people. This can be put down to the fact that meditation encourages focus and attention.
- Meditation Can Help You Manage Pain
Several studies reveal that people who meditate regularly have a higher pain threshold than people who don’t. In other words, people who meditate are less likely to complain of chronic or recurring pain, even at advanced ages. Another study reveals that meditation can even help you reduce and cope with pain.
The implications are varied and immense. If you’re trying to lose weight, meditation can supply you with the stamina needed to perform more grueling workouts. For athletes, apart from helping you go harder in training, increased pain threshold can help you push your body quite a bit more, which is usually the difference between good and great.
Even though the several physical and health benefits of meditation makes it look like a miraculous fix-all, it isn’t. Nevertheless, meditation offers a whole host of advantages that can certainly improve the quality of your life.