Meditation has been practiced since 5000 - 3500 BCE according to an article written by Elaine Mead. This early practice of meditation can be traced back to India and its' Hindu and Vedic practices (Mead, 2020). The practice of meditation is certainly not a new concept, but the research done on meditation has provided new insights on an old practice for those in Western cultures.
Some of the types of meditation include mindfulness meditation, loving-kindness meditation, guided meditation, and yoga. Mindfulness meditation includes letting thoughts go through the mind without any judgment of what the thought is. Loving-kindness meditation fosters empathy (Leppma, 2016), while guided meditation uses the voice of a person to help guide the meditation. On the other hand, yoga is the act of using meditative poses. The app Headspace describes 16 different types of meditation in more detail at their website https://www.headspace.com/meditation/techniques.
Some of the benefits that meditation can provide are decreased anxiety and an increase in elevated mood and self-compassion (Leppma, 2016). It allows the person who meditates regularly to be more present (Heeter & Allbritton, 2015). Meditation improves concentration and focus (Halsband, Mueller, Hinterberger & Strickerner, 2009). According to Passmore (2018), meditation provides positive well-being and enjoy better health. In yet another article, the authors wrote that meditation has a "subjective experiences of calmness, peacefulness, a slowing or cessation of thoughts and increased perceptual clarity” (Perich, Manicavasagar, Mitchell, Ball, 2013). Certain types of meditation, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MSBR) meditation can even help with chronic pain (la Cour & Petersen, 2015).
With all the benefits of meditation it is no wonder that it has become so mainstream. Despite all of its benefits and the extensive use in mental wellness practices, there is still confusion about meditation being something that is affiliated with a religion. Much of the meditation that is used in the West has been modified in various ways to accommodate the needs of Western culture and its fast pace environment. Many meditative practices on various apps such as Headspace, Insight Timer, Mindshift, Mindfulness, and many others start from only one minute. Though there are people that associate meditation as a spiritual experience, meditation in the counseling arena is also called mindfulness and the practice is very similar with the purpose of helping to calm the person in need of help and allow them to accept and understand their thought process.
Stress can cause a lot of problems for an individual. According to the article “Life Event, Stress and Illness” up to 75% of doctor’s visits in the US are stress-related https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3341916/#:~:text=The%20morbidity%20and%20mortality%20due,of%20the%20liver%20and%20suicide.. Because meditation has a myriad of benefits and only small amounts are needed per day to make significant changes (according to various apps that include 1-minute meditations), many people may be realizing that this speed meditation is a calming and de-stressing experience that only takes up a few minutes a day. These de-stressing activities can be done in between meetings, after sitting down to do work for long periods of time, or even on a bathroom break (it is not suggested that this ever be done while operating any kind of heavy machinery, this includes your car).
Meditation is a simple act that involves very little energy, thought, or action. If you are just starting you may want to begin with a guided meditation. Find one that you like, with a voice that you find soothing and follow their instructive guidance. There is no wrong way to meditate and it becomes easier with practice. Benefits are believed to come with consistent meditation. The brain is a muscle and needs consistent exercise to rearrange maladaptive thought patterns and create new pathways. The more you do it, the more consistent the results.
Halsband, U., Mueller, S., Hinterberger, T., & Strickerner, S. (2009). Plasticity changes in the brain in hypnosis and meditation. Contemporary Hypnosis, 26(4), 194-215.
Heeter, C. & Allbritton, M. (2015). Being there: implications of neuroscience and meditation for self-presence in virtual worlds. Journal of Virtual Worlds Research, 8, 1-8.
la Cour, P., & Petersen, M. (2015). Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Chronic Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Pain Medicine, 16(4), 641–652.
Leppma, M. (2012). Loving-kindness mediation and counseling. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 34(3), 197-204.
Mead, E. (2020). The History and Origin of Meditation. Positive Psychology. https://positivepsychology.com/history-of-meditation/
Passmore, J. (2018). Mindfulness in coaching: Being the observer. Coaching Psychologist, 2, 105-108.
Perich,T., Manicavasagar, V., Mitchell, P. B., Ball, J. R. (2013). The association between meditation practice and treatment outcome in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for bipolar disorder. Behavior Research and Therapy, 51, 338-343.