Meditation can be a healthy activity with an assortment of physical and mental benefits. But, there are many different types of meditation which focus on different parts of the body. Some styles of meditation may be better suited for different health goals. Learn about some basic meditation techniques and which one might be good for you.
Meditation For Beginners: A Brief Rundown
In general, meditation involves noticing when your mind begins to wander, then returning your attention to the present moment. Most often, you manage this mindfulness by focusing on one of your body’s most basic and consistent functions – breathing.1
Breathing techniques may seem simple, but they can prove tricky even for the most experienced meditators. Fortunately, there are many different meditation strategies presented below to help you find a mindfulness approach that works for you.
Potential Benefits Of Meditation
You could almost describe meditation as exercise for the mind. By flexing your focus and bringing attention to the present moment, you perform much-needed maintenance for many emotional mental functions. The positive effects of meditation can include:
- Reduced stress
- Increased attention
- Deeper sleep
- Greater compassion2
In addition to all the mental health perks, meditation can also have tremendous potential physical health benefits, too. A current study shows that it can help support healthy blood pressure levels and support good digestive function.3
Finding The Right Meditation Style For You
You can find some of the many different forms of meditations below. These simple techniques all have a distinct style and rhythm, which means you can adopt a technique based on your needs and desires.
Keep in mind, there is no right or wrong meditation. Each type of meditation can provide you with mental performance perks. Also, you don’t need to choose just one. The more variety you include, the better your relaxation results will likely be.
This is a great place to start for anyone new to meditation. Mindfulness meditation forms the core principle for many of the meditation strategies described below. Understanding this basic practice will help you progress to more advanced styles of meditation. In essence, mindfulness meditation is all about paying attention to the present moment by following these simple steps.
- Sit comfortably in a chair with your eyes gently focused. Relax any part of the body that feels tense.
- As you relax, you’ll notice your mind start to wander. When this happens, pause, and let go of the thoughts.
- Return your awareness to your breath, making an effort to be present for each inhale and exhalation.
- Remove judgment from your thoughts. It’s normal for the mind to think and roam. Your goal is to return that attention to your breathing.
- Try to sustain your mindfulness for a few minutes, and return to it throughout the day for continued practice.4
Not all meditation has to happen in a relaxed sitting position. You can achieve a very effective level of mindfulness through bodily movement, like walking. This is great, because you don’t need to set aside any specific time to meditate. Instead, use moments when you go from point A to point B to get in touch with your inner-self.
Turn your next walk into a meditative journey with the following practice:
- As you walk, start by counting your steps to 10, then starting over.
- Pay attention to the rise and fall of your feet as you count. Then, take note of your legs and your other body parts.
- Move your attention to sounds, and then shift your attention to smells and sights.
- Maintain this awareness of the world as you walk, then return to the sensations you feel while walking.5
Progressive relaxation is particularly well suited for anyone who experiences a lot of tension or anxiety. This form of meditation can draw your attention to areas of the body that are tight, but that you might not notice or think of as tense. When you recognize this tension, you can then work to release these muscles to increase your overall sense of relaxation.6
- Start out in a quiet area, seated in a comfortable position. Do a body scan to find a tense part of the body, like the hands or shoulders.
- Clench that extremity, and notice the sensations you feel when that body part is tight.
- After a second or two, exhale, and relax the muscles. Focus on what the muscles feel like when released and relaxed.
- Repeat a few times for each area, then move on to a different part of the body.7
If a highly-focused meditation is more your speed, then candle-gazing meditation might be for you. As the name suggests, this technique requires focused attention on a lit candle for a set period of time. This practice can help focus your attention and relax your mind.
- Light a candle in a quiet, dim space. Seat yourself comfortably with minimal distractions.
- Breathe in deeply several times with your eyes closed. Slowly open your eyes, and settle your attention on the lit candle.
- Hold your eyes open without blinking as long as you can. Take in the image of the candle with each breath.
- Relax your brow and face muscles as you continue to focus. Let other thoughts pass through, keeping your attention on the flame.
- Continue for as long as you find the time and energy.8
Feeling a little anxious or maybe not as positive as you’d like to be? Loving-kindness meditation might be just what the guru ordered. Taking the time to remind yourself through verbal affirmation that you (and the people around you) deserve happiness can do wonders for your mood. To start:
- Take a moment to recall all the things that you have done out of your own self-goodness.
- Then, silently recite these enduring phrases to yourself:
- May I live in safety.
- May I have happiness.
- May I have physical well-being.
- May I live with ease.
- Repeat the phrases until they follow a nice and pleasing rhythm.
- Maintain this pattern, and when your mind wanders, gently return it to your affirmations.
- Slowly let go of the phrases, and move forward with a renewed sense of self.9
Different Types Of Meditation For Everyone
As you can see, there are many different techniques and styles of meditation. Each type of meditation can offer you unique potential health benefits. For example, you can try progressive relaxation meditation to help ease physical tension. Or, turn your focus inward with loving-kindness meditation to relax your mind.
The various styles of meditation above all have individual differences, but the goal is always the same: to help support your total well-being. So, there is no wrong type of meditation. The hope is that you try them all and continue to practice one on a regular basis for continued peace of mind.