Meditation is good for the soul. For centuries, it has played a role in some religious practices. A meditation session can be short and practiced daily for a few minutes, or it can be done weekly in a longer session that can last several hours. Whichever type of meditation is practiced, the end goal is the same: Relieve stress and reach mental and physical wellness.
People who meditate on a regular basis say they feel a spiritual bond. More and more doctors are prescribing meditation to their patients. According to research from the American Heart Association, published in the journal Hypertension, this self-induced quieting of the brain can lower blood pressure.
There are several types of meditation that require you to be in a different mindset. One is not better than the other. Let’s take a look at a few styles to see which one is right for you.
Setting an intention is the first step to a mindful meditation practice. You can write this intention down in a journal when you wake up in the morning and repeat it to yourself throughout the day when you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Revisit your intention at the end of the day and reflect on the outcomes. Journaling is a great way to do this. You can start by focusing on all of the positive things that happened and write down what you are thankful for.
Many people take time on Thanksgiving Day to verbalize or think about what they are thankful for. But, what about the other 364 days of the year? Being present in the moment every day can help you be more mindful.
Practicing yoga is an open-eyed moving meditation. When you are practicing a yoga series, you are focusing on your breath and connecting it with your asanas (postures). When you concentrate on your breath, you become aware of how you are breathing through a tough posture. If it’s labored, you know you need to slow down. This helps quiet your mind.
If yoga isn’t your thing, walk. Whether you walk as part of your exercise routine or just take 15 minutes of your day for a relaxing stroll, listening to the sounds around you and feeling the warm sun or the cool wind on your skin can encourage you to stay in the moment and connect with your environment.
Maybe you have shied away from meditation because you can’t seem to quiet your mind. You’ve tried sitting in a comfortable position and closing your eyes, but all you can focus on is your grocery list, your dentist appointment or paying the bills. You are anything but zen.
Mantra, a Sanskrit word that literally means “mind release,” is a repeated word or phrase that can help you stay aware and not drift off. When you chant a word or phrase over and over again, it feels melodic, which naturally attracts your focus. Think about the word om (pronounced “ohhhhmmm”). Say it long, quick, soft or loud. Feel the sound vibrations. It can be relaxing and help you release any blocked energy and calm your mind.
How to Get Started
Those new to meditation may be intimidated by the prospect of jumping right in. If you’re stressed by the idea, guided meditation may be a good place to start.
The hallmark of guided meditation is, well, a guide. It’s not so much a type of meditation as a method for getting it done. Although you can find live guided meditation events and written scripts to prompt your focus, a guided meditation most often takes the shape of a recorded voice gently steering you through a visualization exercise. The guide’s calm voice, which is sometimes accompanied by soothing music or sound effects, is intended to relax you while keeping you focused on the meditation exercise and appropriately paced—a great way for newbies to practice until they’re comfortable.
The best way to reap the benefits of meditation is to practice the one that feels comfortable to you and the one you’re likely to do regularly. Stressing about trying to get calm defeats the purpose. Your experience should leave you feeling happy and positive, not irritated or like you just wasted your time. Take your time to find a mindful meditation practice that easily fits into your life and imparts a lasting sense of contentment.