Everything you need to know about meditation
When we sit to meditate, we look after ourselves in many ways that might not seem obvious. There are numerous and various benefits, as well as supported by science. For example, so many people start meditating to reduce anxiety, manage stress, and gain peace of mind—thousands of studies documenting mindfulness meditation benefits impact physical, mental and emotional health.
Continue reading on to find out more about the many benefits.
Meditation has been used for thousands of years. Meditation was originally meant to help deepen understanding of life's sacred and mystical forces. These days, meditation is used for relaxation and stress reduction. Meditation is considered a type of complementary mind-body medicine. Meditation produces a deep positive state of relaxation and a tranquil mind. Whilst meditating, you focus and eliminate the stream of distorted thoughts that may be clogging your mind and causing stress. This process may result in increased physical and emotional well-being.
The benefits of meditation
Meditation gives you a feeling of calm, peace and balance that can greatly benefit your emotional well-being and overall health. You may also use it to relax and manage stress by refocusing your attention on something calming. Meditation can help you learn to stay centred and obtain inner peace. These benefits do not end when your meditation session ends. For example, meditation helps carry you more calmly through your day. In addition, meditation can help manage symptoms of some medical conditions.
Emotional and physical well-being
Meditation removes the information overload that builds up daily and adds to your stress. Most people are familiar with the positive side effects of meditation associated with mental health: increased clarity, awareness and compassion. Improved focus is another benefit associated with meditation. In addition, researchers from John Hopkins University found meditation programs assist in easing psychological symptoms of anxiety, depression, and pain related to stress. With the profound physical benefits of meditation, it's important to understand how chronic stress causes havoc on the physical body. Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, causing a rush of stress hormones called epinephrine and cortisol in the bloodstream, which negatively affect the body. Too much epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, increases the risk of strokes and heart attacks; high cortisol levels can increase blood sugar levels, restrict the immune system, and constrict blood vessels. Eventually, chronic spikes in stress hormones can increase the heart rate, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, disrupting energy levels, immunity and sleep.
When the body and mind are relaxed, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, causing the body to pause and release stress hormones. Many people who meditate often have learned to condition their bodies to relax on demand. As a result, according to research, they can more effectively manage stress. For example, according to research from the University of California, Davis, people who use generalized meditation programs have lower cortisol levels. Why is stress reduction so important? First, it lowers blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen consumption, resulting in higher energy levels, better immunity, and sleep. Plus, stress reduction is key for diminishing the physical symptoms of many health conditions.
Take inflammation, for example, linked to stroke, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other serious diseases. According to a Harvard study, meditation can dampen the genes involved in the inflammatory response and promote the genes associated with DNA stability.
Some physical and emotional benefits of meditation include the following:
- Building skills to manage your stress
- Improving sleep quality
- Increasing self-awareness
- Focusing on the present
- Reducing negative emotions
- Increasing imagination and creativity
- Lowering resting heart rate
- Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
- Increasing patience and tolerance
- Lowering resting blood pressure
Meditation & illness
Meditation may also be useful if you have medical conditions, especially conditions worsened by stress.
People manage symptoms of conditions such as:
- Chronic pain
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Sleep problems
- Tension headaches
Types of meditation
Meditation is a term for the many ways to achieve a relaxed state of being. Many types of meditation and relaxation techniques obtain meditation components. These all share the same goal of achieving inner peace & bliss.
Ways to meditate include:
- Guided meditation. Also called guided imagery or visualization, this forms places or mental images of situations you find relaxing. Try using as many senses as possible, such as sounds, sights, smells and textures. You are guided through this process by a teacher.
- Mantra meditation. You silently repeat a calming word, phrase or thought to stop distracting thoughts.
- Mindfulness meditation. Based on being mindful or increasing awareness and acceptance of being within the present moment in the now.
- Mindfulness meditation allows you to broaden your conscious awareness. You are focusing on something such as the flow of your breath. Observe your thoughts and emotions. But let them pass without judgment.
- Qi gong. This practice combines relaxation, meditation, physical movement, and breathing exercises to maintain balance.
- Tai chi. A gentle Chinese martial arts training. You perform a self-paced series of movements or postures in a slow, graceful manner while practising deep breathing techniques.
- Transcendental meditation. It is a simple natural technique. In this form, you silently repeat a personally assigned mantra, a word, sound or phrase in a specific way continuously.
- This form of meditation lets your body enter into a state of deep rest and your mind achieve inner peace without needing to concentrate or make an effort.
- Yoga. Perform a variety of postures and controlled breathing exercises to create a flexible body and a calm mind. As you transition through poses that require concentration and balance, focus less on your manic day and more on the present moment.
Elements of meditation
Different types of meditation include different features to assist you in meditating. This varies depending on whose guidance you follow or who's teaching a class. Some of the most common meditation features include the following:
- Focused attention. Focusing your attention is one of the most important elements of meditation.
- Focusing your attention helps free your mind from distractions that cause stress and worry. You can focus on specific images, objects, a mantra, or your breathing.
- Relaxed breathing. It involves deep, paced breathing using the diaphragm to expand your lungs. The purpose is to slow your breathing, increase oxygen, and reduce the use of neck, shoulder, and upper chest muscles while breathing to increase breathing more efficiently.
- A quiet setting. If you're a beginner, practising meditation may be easier in a quiet spot with few distractions, including no television, computers, radios or phones.
- As you become more skilled at meditation, you can do it anywhere, especially in high-stress situations where you benefit the most, such as traffic jams, a stressful work meeting or a long line at the supermarket store.
- A comfortable position. You can practice meditation whether sitting, lying down, walking, or in other positions or activities. Try to be comfortable to get the most out of your meditation. Aim to keep a good posture throughout.
- Open attitude. Let thoughts pass through your mind without any judgment.
Everyday ways to practice
Don't let the idea of meditating the "right" way build stress. If you choose to, you can attend meditation centres or group classes led by an instructor. You can also practice meditation on your own. Or you may find apps to use which is growing in the marketplace.
You can make meditation as informal or formal as you choose. However, it suits your lifestyle and situation. Some people build meditation into their daily routines. For example, you may start and end each day with an hour of meditation. But all you need is a few minutes of quality time.
Below are some ways you can practice meditation on your by yourself.
- Scan your body. Focus on different parts of your body. Be aware of your body's various sensations: tension, pain, warmth or relaxation.
- Combine body scanning with different breathing exercises and imagine breathing heat or relaxation in and out of different body parts.
- Breathe deeply. This technique is great for beginners because breathing is a natural function.
- Concentrate on listening and feeling as you inhale and exhale through your nostrils. Focus all your attention on your breathing.
- Breathe slowly and deeply. When your attention wanders, gently focus on your breathing.
- Repeat a mantra. You can create your mantra, whether it's religious or secular. Religious mantras include the Prayer of Jesus in Christianity, God in Judaism the holy name, or the OM mantra of Hinduism and Buddhism.
- Walk and meditate. Combining meditation with a walk is an efficient and healthy technique to relax.
- When you use this method, slow your walking pace so you can focus on each movement of your legs or feet. Focus on something other than a particular destination. Concentrate on your legs and feet, your muscles whilst repeating action words in your mind such as "moving", "lifting," and "placing" as you lift and move your feet and leg forward and place your foot on the ground. Focus on the sounds, sights and smells around you.
- Engage in prayer. Prayer is the best-known and most widely practised example of meditation. Written and spoken prayers are found in most faiths.
- You may pray using your own meaningful words or read prayers written by others. Talk with your rabbi, priest, or other spiritual leaders about possible resources that may interest you.
- Read and reflect. Many benefit from reading sacred texts or poems and taking a few moments to reflect quietly on their meaning.
- You can listen to sacred music, spoken words, or any music you find inspiring and relaxing. You can write your reflections in a private journal and discuss them with a friend or spiritual teacher.
- Focus on your love and kindness. You think of others with the intent of love, compassion and kindness. This helps increase how connected you feel to others.
Building your meditation skills
Refrain from judging your meditation skills, which may only increase your stress. Meditation takes practice. Remember that it's common for your mind to wander and drift during meditation, no matter how long you've been practising meditation. So if you're meditating intending to calm your mind, but your attention wanders, slowly return to the object, movement or sensation you're focusing on. Experiment, and find out what types of meditation work best and what you enjoy doing. Then, adapt meditation to your needs.
Have a blessed day