Types and Benefits of Meditation
Meditation and mindfulness have become more mainstream in recent years, moving out of yoga studios and into our homes as more people come to recognize the many benefits a regular meditation practice can have on their mind and body.
While the terms are often used interchangeably, meditation is usually practiced for a certain amount of time and often alone or in a quiet group setting, while mindfulness is the concept of simply being aware and paying attention to things, feelings, and thoughts, and can be done anywhere and with anyone by paying attention to the present moment.
There are many types of meditation, so if you’ve tried meditation before and didn’t feel it was right for you, consider trying another type that may be a better fit. Here are 5 popular types of meditation:
- Mindfulness Meditation — with this technique, you pay attention to your thoughts as they come in and out of your mind. All you do is observe them driving past your awareness, without judging them or following them down a specific train of thought. Simply take note and be aware of any patterns. Some people find it helpful to focus on their breathing as a way to stay connected to the body and not get too involved with any thoughts.
- Movement Meditation — this type of meditation is often associated with yoga, but you can use any kind of movement here, including walking, dancing, simple arm movements, or anything that feels good on the body. The key is to be mindful of your body while you move — notice how your muscles feel, how your spine moves, the feel of the ground beneath your feet, how your heart beats, the air against your skin, or anything that calms your mind and brings your attention to your body rather than your mind. This is especially good for people who have trouble sitting quietly in stillness.
- Focused Meditation — use this type of meditation for stress relief, or if you prefer to focus on an object or one of the senses rather than trying to clear the mind without a specific tool. You can focus on one of the five senses, such as listening to chimes, staring at an object (candle flames make a great, calming focal point), or touching something, like handling a soft object or counting beads on a necklace. Take deep breaths and focus on your chosen token in order to relax.
- Mantra Meditation — as the name implies, this is where you repeat a sound or phrase, which for some people is easier to focus on than their breath. This is good for people who find calm in repetition and don’t connect with sitting in silence. As for the mantra, it can be anything from a sound like “Om” to words that matter to you. Try this — think about what’s important to you and what you’d like to call into your life. Then, think about what feelings they inspire in you, and use the feeling as a mantra rather than the object. For example, if having more money would make you feel “secure”, then use “security” instead of “wealth.” Or maybe being in good health will give you more freedom to do things you love — so then try using freedom as your mantra. Pick 1 to 3 emotion words and repeat them either out loud or in your mind, and let the positive feelings take over.
- Body Scan — this helps connect the mind to the body. Imagine a light slowly moving down your body, from the crown of the head to the tip of the toes. Notice any aches or sensations and breathe into them. By the time you get to your toenails, you may find yourself very calm and relaxed! The goal with this type of meditation is to become used to sensory experiences within the body, which can then make you more aware of things, and be more present, in your everyday life.
While the benefits of meditation are numerous, here are 10 reasons to start a meditation practice today:
- Facilitates better sleep
- Helps you learn to take a pause before reacting
- Teaches you how to stay in the present moment
- Releases brain chemicals that promote happiness
- Lowers blood pressure
- Relaxes body aches
- Increases self-awareness
- Improves focus and attention span
- Promotes kindness and gratitude
- Reduces stress and anxiety
Whatever type of meditation you choose, remember that it’s called “a practice” for a reason — you have to stick with it and make it a habit in order for it to become a useful tool. The key is to not give up even though it can be challenging at first — just like you wouldn’t stop after one lesson if you were trying to learn dance, a sport, or to play an instrument, you need to practice in order to train the brain to reap the many benefits of meditation. If one technique doesn’t feel right, simply pick another and try again on a different day. Be patient with yourself, and before you know it, you may be a meditation devotee!