Meditation provides amazing benefits for your mental, emotional, and physical health. And with a study from 2015 showing that 16.1 million Americans reporting experiencing major depression during the previous year, we clearly are in great need for alternative and supplemental methods for treating depression.
Studies have shown the efficacy of meditation for helping alleviate many conditions, most strongly those including depression, chronic pain, anxiety and high blood pressure. One neuroscientist showed how the changes in brain activity experienced by those who have learned to meditate remain steady even when they aren’t meditating! (Source, Source)
If you think about the number of diseases, especially autoimmune, that are worsened by stress, it makes sense that a stress-relieving activity like meditation could be hugely beneficial.
Not only can meditation help alleviate medical conditions, but it can also increase the brain’s ability to process information and may slow, stall, or even reverse changes in the brain due to aging. (Source)
Even with all these benefits, meditation can seem intimidating if you’ve never tried it! If you have been wanting to test out meditation, but don’t know where to begin, you might want to start with guided meditation.
I don’t want fear to keep anyone from trying something that may improve their life! So here is a quick rundown of how it works and what you need to get started.
Guided meditation is a type of meditation where you listen to someone’s voice instructing you throughout the entire process. While you can definitely do this at home, one plus is that you can also do most guided meditations from anywhere and start with as little as five minutes each day. Here are some benefits to choosing this method.
Guided meditation, whether on the go or at home, can instantly transform your mind and thought process. It helps to clear your mind of worries and negative thoughts, and replace them with images that bring you into an entirely new place. This alone causes relaxation that is wonderful for anxiety and self-care in general.
The reason you might want to try this on the go is because you won’t have to worry about home distractions. When you try to do any form of meditating at home, there tends to be a lot of noise and excitement around you that can snap you out of it. From barking dogs to demanding kids or just a loud TV in the other room, it makes it really hard to focus.
Guided meditation is also perfect for anyone who is stressed by meditation. Meditation isn’t as easy as sitting still with your eyes closed. It takes time and steady practice to train your mind, just as if you were training a muscle at the gym. With guided meditation, you’re allowing the person you’re listening to do some of the work for you. It does take practice to get used to it, but when you are using a guided meditation, you just imagine what the person on the recording is telling you.
Guided visualization is a type of meditation where you don’t just clear your mind, but you enter a different place that is guided by your own imagination or an actual recorded voice that is encouraging your mind to go to a certain place. This can be just as therapeutic for you as other traditional forms of meditation.
Guided visualization or imagery is not something you can master immediately, though for some people it is actually easier than other forms of meditation. However, if you are having trouble really getting into that visualization you are hoping for, listening to a recorded meditation session that actually guides you through the imagery can help tremendously. Get into a comfortable place, close your eyes, and listen to the voice to imagine what they are describing.
You can find recordings in many places, both free and paid. If you want something free, either look online in places like YouTube, or go to your local library.
Once you get used to guided visualizations, you can start doing them on your own, imagining anything and everything you want. You will be able to choose whatever relaxes you and helps you to clear your mind the best. This not only differs based on your personal preference, but also in different environments. Try heading to different places like the beach or park or hiking trail and see what visions come to you.
The more you practice, the easier this type of meditation is going to be. Keep at it every day and soon you will be able to do the meditation exercise with ease.
When you are ready to get into different types of meditation, you can try the following:
Loving-kindness meditation, also known as metta meditation, is used to create peace within a person. It does this by transmuting the natural urge to avoid or dislike things into loving and cherishing energy. When you try to find the power to love something that is uncomfortable, you can grow an attitude of appreciation.
This can be done by repeating a love message that is directed towards a person or a thing that has negatively affected you. As you continue to think of the things that bother you, simply place your message of love over the object of focus. This can help release anger, frustration, resentment, interpersonal conflict and alleviate many aspects of PTSD.
This type of meditation teaches you to be more aware by having you find any part of you that might have a lot of tension. Once the tension is found, then you focus on it until it releases. This can help people who suffer from anxiety, and has some effectiveness for chronic pain. This method relies heavily on visualization so that you can mentally interact with the areas that are holding tension. It’s also helpful in falling asleep if you struggle with insomnia.
Sometimes it can be easy to attribute negative feelings toward certain environments and situations. In many of these cases, it is helpful to use mindfulness as meditation. This attempts to get you to absorb the sights and sounds of the world around you without making any kind of judgment on what you are experiencing. You stay focused on the current moment instead of worrying about the past or future. This type of meditation can reduce fixation on negative emotions, improve focus, improve memory, lessen impulsive, emotional reactions and improve relationship satisfaction. (Source)
Another great form of meditation is breath awareness, which is exactly what it sounds like. You simply focus on your breathing. This can be very helpful towards reducing stress and anxiety. In this technique, you will focus only on your breathing for a period of time, releasing any other thoughts that might come through your mind.
This is typically referring to a type of meditation found in Buddhism. Zen is generally taught by those who have studied the positions and breathing found in the Buddhist practices. It takes a bit more practice to utilize, but can be rewarding for many people. It fosters peace by attaining a comfortable position where you observe the thoughts and feelings that come up without judgement. (Source)
Tell me, have you tried meditating before? How did it go? If you found it to be difficult, I hope this gives you a safe space to start again.