History, Types, Benefits, and How-To
Meditation is the practice of training the mind to focus, relax and be aware. It’s a technique that has been used for thousands of years to allow the mind to deeply concentrate in the present moment and block out all distractions in the mind. They say meditation is to the mind what physical exercise is to the body. Meditation is an art in itself. In today’s world of constant go-go-go, the stress of everyday life and technology, and the little things that get to us daily, meditation can be good for the mind, body, and soul if practiced regularly.
Meditation quite possibly dates back as far as humanity itself. The earliest written records of meditation go back to India around 1500 B.C. to Vedantism which was a philosophy known for spiritual enlightenment and Taoist China in the 3rd and 6th Century B.C. It’s unclear exactly when and where it originated or by who, but few people are known to have made a big impact when it comes to spreading knowledge on the teachings and techniques of meditation. These include the Buddha (India), Lao Tze (China), Confucius, and Dosho (Japan).
5 Most Common Types of Meditation
1. Mindfulness Meditation - This is the process of allowing your thoughts to wander as it drifts throughout your mind but without judging or reacting to those thoughts. It allows you to become more aware of the present and over time your body can develop a sense of inner peace.
2. Yoga Meditation - Yoda dates back centuries and is the practice of specific poses and postures and controlled breathing that is meant to help the body with flexibility and to calm the mind and soul. There are many different varieties and styles of yoga, but they all require both concentration and balance.
3. Chakra Meditation - Chakra meditation involves the 7 Chakras of the body: The Root, The Sacral, The Solar Plexus, The Heart, The throat, The Third Eye, and The Crown. Chakra meaning “wheel” in Sanskrit refers to the 7 areas of the body along the spine from the bottom sacrum to the top of the crown. They are considered to be the centers of energy of the body and the meditation techniques include lighting incense and visualizing colors associated with each chakra or even crystals. The key is to bring balance to the energy wheels for each.
4. Transcendental Meditation - This type of meditation is used for reaching a state of relaxation or rest. It typically is done daily and requires a mantra of either a phrase, word, or sound.
5. Guided Meditation - Guided meditation is typically led by someone that will help you to visualize a situation that invokes relaxation. Sounds and smells are often used to promote a relaxing experience.
10 Biggest Benefits of Meditation
Since meditation is becoming more widely practiced due to its scientific evidence to benefit your body. People use meditation for a variety of things. Here are 10 of the biggest health benefits based on science.
1. Stress and Anxiety Reduction - Research has shown that meditation, often mindfulness meditation, has been shown to not only decrease stress but improve symptoms related to stress such as poor sleep, IBS, PTSD, and even fibromyalgia. Increased stress causes increased cortisol levels and meditation has been known to reduce the inflammation response to stress. Yoga has been shown to improve stress and anxiety as well due to physical activity and meditative practice.
2. Improves Emotional Health - Certain types of meditation have been shown to promote better emotional health and even improve depression. Studies have shown that those who have meditation therapies while experiencing depression are less likely to think negative thoughts when they view negative images. Also, the inflammatory chemicals produced by stress, cytokines, can affect mood negatively as well which meditation has been proven to decrease.
3. Increases Self-Awareness - Countless studies have shown that certain types of meditation have shown to promote a better understanding of oneself by gaining awareness of your own thought patterns. The practice of tai-chi has been known to improve self-efficacy. People often experience fewer feelings of loneliness, impulse control, and even more advanced creative problem-solving skills.
4. Improves Memory - Multiple types of meditation are known for helping the mind focus and improve attention, mental alertness, and quickness. They have also shown meditation can help improve the memory of some dementia patients. It helps with concentration and allows us to be more aware of the moment and in turn improves our memory.
5. May Help Fight Addictions - Many people find meditation to be a tool that often helps with drug addiction management. Some find it can curb cravings and can encourage a sense of abstinence from such addictions, it can redirect the impulses and attention, and improve the stress and anxiety that can lead to such abuses.
6. Improves Sleep - Insomnia is a vast problem in today’s society. Mindful meditation is said to aid those who not only experience insomnia at night but fatigue during the day. Being able to relax your mind relieves some of the exhaustion in our daily lives. The ability to control or redirect rampant thoughts at night has been shown to improve sleeplessness.
7. Lowers Blood Pressure - Hypertension is another problem that affects many in our society. Some have found that when paired with a healthy lifestyle, meditation can also help lower blood pressure. Some believe that meditation can in turn help relax the flight or fight response as well as the nerve signals that work with the heart’s function and blood vessels.
8. Increased Attention Span - Several studies have shown that those who practice meditative techniques can indeed improve their attention and accuracy in some tasks. It’s said that meditating just 13 minutes a day can increase your attention span and memory and may even help in reversing patterns in the brain that cause worry and wandering thoughts.
9. Pain Control - Countless studies have shown that meditation improves the quality of life by providing those with a more positive state of mind. Pain is often measured by the degree of perception. Perception is associated with the state of mind. Many with depression and chronic pain find decreased symptoms when they practice mindful meditation regularly.
10. Can Promote Kindness - Certain types of meditation, in particular Metta, has been shown amongst college-age students that can provoke positive feelings and kind thoughts for oneself. In turn, one study found that practicing Metta 3 times a week can improve social interactions, improve emotions, and an improved understanding of others’ emotions as well. Kindness can be contagious.
Beginners Guide To Meditation - The How-To
Now for the part, we’ve all been waiting for. How to get started and begin your journey of meditation. Many find it daunting to get started with meditation, but it really shouldn’t be. In fact, meditation alone is supposed to provide you some relief from that daunting feeling in life. So, where do we begin?
Step 1: Find A Setting
First, you will need to find a location and/ or setting to begin your practice. Beginners often find it more comforting to start off in a class with a professionally led instructor. While that is an option, in our economy you may find it more affordable to simply start at home. Many find it helpful to read books or articles, online videos, or even instructional podcasts to guide them through practice. However, you choose to start, simply begin in a quiet place free of distraction. Be sure to turn off all background noise like TVs, cell phones, and other electronics and find a comfortable place to sit, whether it be a chair, pillow, or blanket. Music and white noise sound like the ocean or rain can be helpful as well.
Step 2: Set Your Intentions
Personally, one of the most important things I believe with going into meditation is setting your intentions. Whatever it is that you want, whatever your goals may be, setting your intentions prior to meditating can allow you to focus your energy and attention on that goal. You can write them down or simply think them. Be sure your intentions are stated in positive forms. Be open to the possibilities that can arise from meditating on these intentions.
Step 3: Meditate
Close your eyes and simply breath. Make no effort to control your breath, just allow it to happen naturally. Fell your body, focus your attention on your breathing and the way your body moves with each breath. Be aware of your body and let your mind and body be in the present moment.
Step 4: Establish A Routine
Finally, it’s a good thing to establish a routine. Be sure to be consistent in your practices if you wish to see physical results in your daily life, self, and the world around you. Start slow and work your way up to longer sessions regularly as you see fit.
In our world today, we often find it hard to have time for ourselves. Meditation can be entirely free with no out-of-pocket cost other than your time. Time that can, in turn, elevate your overall mood and improve your well-being and lifestyle. Meditation is not something to rush, it is a process. A process about taking time for yourself to find the peace and relaxation we all deserve.
About the author
I believe strongly in enjoying the little things in life. Reading and writing are both a passion of mine, something that ignites fire in the soul. A good piece of literature with some poetic writing is what I live for each evening.