How To Meditate To Enhance Wellbeing
Meditation is a complementary health practice—meaning it’s a self-care practice that has benefits when practiced in conjunction with your doctor’s recommendations. Meditation has multiple benefits for both your physical and mental health: It can reduce stress, lower anxiety, improve quality of sleep, and even help reduce chronic pain.
With 35 million Americans practicing (or at least trying) meditation, it’s definitely something to consider. We thought we’d break down some different types of meditation so you can decide which one you might want to incorporate into your daily life.
4 Meditation Styles
Guided Meditation: This is a great place to start! Listening to a guided meditation—on Mindful.org, Headspace.com or even YouTube—provides an accessible entry into the practice of meditation. Your guide may instruct you on paying attention to your breathing, the sounds in your environment and even how your body feels while sitting on your cushion or chair. A guided meditation journey may take you through a walk in nature or provide other imagery that helps you find a sense of peace and calm. Try it: https://www.mindful.org/a-mindfulness-practice-to-notice-the-mind-body-connection/
Focused Meditation: By focusing on a single thing—your breath, an object, or a mantra you repeat—you will quiet the mind as you narrow its focus. Focusing attention is an ideal tool for eliminating the multiple distractions that cause worry and stress.
Transcendental Meditation: For this specific type of focused meditation, a teacher or guru will assign you a specific mantra, word or phrase to repeat and focus on to achieve a state of profound calm and relaxation. It’s simple to learn and effortless to practice—which is recommended for 20 minutes twice each day. To learn more: Introduction to Transcendental Meditation by Bob Roth.
Moving meditation: Mindful movements in a planned method, including tai chi, yoga or qigong, offer mental relaxation by combining gentle physical motion and breathing exercises to restore balance. Because these practices require concentration as the body moves, they encourage focus on the present moment, which eliminates worrisome or stressful thoughts as the mind focuses on the task at hand.
Set Yourself Up for Meditation Success
If your typical days don’t lend themselves to sitting in silence for 15 or 20 minutes, it’s crucial to schedule meditation sessions and set yourself up for success with the ideal scenario.
- Schedule it. Block time out on your calendar or set up a cell phone alert—even set your alarm clock 15 minutes early in the mornings so you can make the time to meditate.
- Minimize distractions. By choosing a time with the fewest distractions—upon awakening, at lunch, or after the kids go to bed—you’ll encourage success. While proponents of morning meditation say it’s a great way to set their intention for the day, those who prefer to meditate at the end of the workday find it’s a great way to transition from work to relaxation. Try different times to discover what works best for you.
- Physical location. Find a quiet place—a spare bedroom, a closet, the bathtub—and leave your cellphone in another room. It’s up to you whether you practice sitting upright in a chair, on a cushion or lying down, but the object of a meditation practice is to maintain attention rather than to fall asleep, so don’t get so comfy that you drift off.
- A word on pets. Animals are oddly attracted to relaxed people, and can be an obstacle to achieving your set time goal for meditation practice. Best to leave your dog or cat in another room and close the door on your space to give yourself the most optimal conditions.
- Just do it. There’s never a perfect meditation session. Sometimes the phone rings, sometimes the kids interrupt, sometimes the cat jumps in your lap. But commit to doing it anyway. Put the phone on silent for 15 minutes and get kids and pets involved with another activity. If thoughts interfere with your focus and you can’t dispel them, continue your session for the set amount of time anyway. It’s always better to meditate with distractions than not to meditate at all. You’re building a good habit that benefits your mind and body—and that needs to take priority for just a small window of time each day.
How Long Until You Reap the Benefits?
Everybody—and every body—is different in terms of how long it will take until you enjoy the benefits of meditation. The goal is to build a continual, ongoing practice, so the journey is yours to take.
Emotionally, people who meditate regularly report both short-term and long-term, benefits including greater happiness, inner peace, better sleep, feeling calmer and more relaxed, and improved communication which results in more satisfying relationships.
Physically, a regular meditation practice is scientifically proven to reduce blood pressure, improve sleep and lower the stress hormone cortisol, which plays a role in many stress-related diseases and can even contribute to overeating and an increased risk for obesity.
The myriad benefits of meditation are a strong reason to start your practice. You may experience benefits immediately in the form of lower stress, increased ability to concentrate and fewer worries. As you build your practice length each day, these benefits will only increase. So, while we can’t tell you exactly how long it may take for you to reap the benefits, we can tell you that the sooner you start meditating, the sooner the benefits will be yours to enjoy!
A guided meditation for resting in awareness by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
A free meditation for beginners on Headspace.com.
Free 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program by Dave Potter.