The popularity of meditation is increasing in recent years. But why do people meditate? Some people meditate because they want to overcome psychological or emotional problems: meditation as a means for self-regulation. Other people meditate to achieve a better understanding of life, enlarge their consciousness, and gain wisdom: meditation as a means to (positive) transformations in consciousness. These two aims often cannot be clearly separated, and most practitioners of meditation probably pursue both to a certain extent. But how does meditation actually work and what are the health benefits of meditation?
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years and was originally meant to help deepen understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life. These days, meditation is commonly used for relaxation and stress reduction. So, meditation can be described as a habitual process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. You can use it to increase awareness of yourself and your surroundings. Now, let's look at the most common meditation techniques, to get a better understanding of meditation.
Two major styles of meditation:
Focused-attention meditation: This style concentrates attention on a single object, thought, sound, or visualization. It emphasizes ridding your mind of distractions. Meditation may focus on breathing, a mantra, or calming sound.
Open-monitoring meditation: This style encourages broadened awareness of all aspects of your environment, train of thought, and sense of self. It may include becoming aware of suppressed thoughts, feelings, or impulses.
Figure 1 Meditation Tips for Beginners (Source: https://www.top10homeremedies.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/meditate-for-beginners-n.gif, Retrieved on 31.08.2021)
But, before someone should start a meditation, many elements must be considered first (see Figure 1): A quiet setting. If you're a beginner, practicing meditation may be easier if you're in a quiet spot with few distractions, including no television, radios, or cellphones. Also, try to use a comfortable position for you. You can practice meditation whether you're sitting, lying down, walking, or in other positions or activities. Just try to be comfortable so that you can get the most out of your meditation. Aim to keep good posture during meditation. Furthermore, have an open attitude. Let thoughts pass through your mind without judgment. And at least, you don´t have to meditate every day if it is not possible. Don´t stress yourself! But, have in your mind that the health benefits and the use of meditation only make sense when you implement it regularly in your daily life. So, what can I achieve when I meditate regularly?
Health Benefits of Meditation:
Stress reduction is one of the most common reasons people try meditation
Meditation can reduce stress levels, which translates to less anxiety.
Some forms of meditation can lead to improved self-image and a more positive outlook on life.
Focused-attention meditation is like weight lifting for your attention span. It helps increase the strength and endurance of your attention.
Additionally, it can help relax your body, releasing tension and placing you in a peaceful state in which you’re more likely to fall asleep.
And more ... (see in Figure 2)
Figure 2 Benefits of Meditation (Source: http://cdn.artofliving.org/sites/www.artofliving.org/files/wysiwyg_imageupload/Meditation_1.jpg, Retrieved on 31.08.2021)
But the specific effects of meditation are not fully clear, and even less so are the mechanisms that yield the effects. But, meditation is something everyone can do to improve their mental and emotional health. You can do it anywhere, without special equipment or memberships. So if you currently don´t use it, try it out. There are so many different instructions on YouTube and the internet you can read through or visit. On Thursday, you will get a meditation playlist from me on Spotify which you can use during meditation. So, check it out when you are interested in this topic and you want to try it out!
Eberth, J., & Sedlmeier, P. (2012). The effects of mindfulness meditation: a meta-analysis. Mindfulness, 3(3), 174-189.
Mayo Clinic Staff (April 22, 2020). Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress. Retrieved on 31.08.2021; from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858?p=1
Thrope M. & Link R. (October 27, 2020). 12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation. Retrieved on 31.08.2021; from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-benefits-of-meditation