Meditation is a mind and body practice used by cultures all over the world for “increasing calmness and physical relaxation, improving psychological balance, coping with illness, and enhancing overall health and well-being,” explains the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
It has been a very much important part of the human activity, with the evidence of meditation that seen in Indus Valley wall art dating from approximately 7,000 years ago, reports Psychology Today.
Meditation is practiced not just in Buddhism but also its well-practiced in Christianity (e.g., monastic life and praying the rosary), Judaism (Kabala) and Islam (Tafakkur and Sufism), explains Psychology Today.
In a lot of ways, the history of mediation and of the human propensity to contemplate the life and the universe is what unites people across cultures. Meditation is but a very humble reminder that we (and our religions, faiths and beliefs) are not all too different from one another.
In the recent years, scientists have turned their attention toward the health benefits of meditation. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, meditation may reduce blood pressure, fight symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, relieve anxiety and depression and treat insomnia. It is no wonder that our ancestors naturally have turned to meditation.
Pioneer of integrative medicine Deepak Chopra cites a host of studies that suggest meditating boosts the immune system and prevents illness. Chopra recommends meditating once in the morning and once in the evening to stave off illness. It is not only important but very important to remember that the meditation is only effective if it is practiced regularly and over time. It is not a one-time solution but rather a lifestyle choice.
Also, when you meditate, you may clear away the information overload that has been building up every day and in turn contributes a lot to your stress.
The emotional benefits of meditation can include:
- Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
- Building skills to manage your stress
- Increasing self-awareness
- Focusing on the present
- Reducing negative emotions
- Increasing imagination and creativity
- Increasing patience and tolerance
Meditation might also be very useful if you have a medical condition, especially one that may be worsened a lot by stress.
While an increasing body of scientific research that supports the health benefits of meditation, some researchers believe it is not yet possible to draw conclusions about the possible benefits of meditation.
With that in mind, some research suggests that meditation may help people manage symptoms of conditions such as:
- Chronic pain
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Sleep problems
- Tension headaches
Be sure to talk to your health care provider about the pros and cons of using meditation if you have any of these conditions or other health problems. In some cases, meditation can worsen the symptoms associated with certain mental and physical health conditions.
Meditation is not a replacement for the traditional medical treatment. But it may be a useful addition to your other treatment.
Types of meditation
Meditation is an umbrella term for the many ways to a relaxed state of being. There are also many types of meditation and relaxation techniques that have meditation components. All does have the same goal of achieving your inner peace.
Ways to meditate can include:
- Guided meditation. Sometimes called guided imagery or visualization, with this method of meditation you form mental images of places or situations you find relaxing.
You will try to use as many senses as possible, such as smells, sights, sounds and textures. You may be led through this process by a guide or teacher.
- Mantra meditation. In this type of meditation, you will have to silently repeat a calming word, thought or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts.
- Mindfulness meditation. This type of meditation is based on being a mindful, or having an increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment.
In mindfulness meditation, you will broaden your conscious awareness. You will have to focus on what you experience during meditation, such as the flow of your breath. You can observe your thoughts and emotions, but let them pass without judgment.
- Qi gong. This practice is generally combines meditation, relaxation, physical movement and breathing exercises that will restore and maintain balance. Qi gong (CHEE-gung) is part of traditional Chinese medicine.
- Tai chi. This is a form of a much gentle Chinese martial arts. In tai chi (TIE-CHEE), you will perform a self-paced series of postures or movements in a slow, graceful manner while you practice deep breathing.
- Transcendental Meditation®. Transcendental Meditation is a very simple, natural technique. In Transcendental Meditation, you will silently repeat a personally assigned mantra, such as a word, sound or phrase, in a very specific way.
This form of meditation may allow your body to settle into a state of a profound rest and relaxation and your mind to achieve a state of inner peace, without needing to use a much concentration or effort.
- Yoga. You will perform a series of postures and controlled of breathing exercises to promote a more flexible body and a calm mind. As you move through the poses that require balance and concentration, you are encouraged to focus less on your busy day and more on the moment.
Bringing awareness to our body is also a great method to quiet the chatter in the mind and anchor us in presence, it can also help us stay physically healthy. Consciously choosing to bring more awareness to your physical self will build a better connection with your body and help you tune in with what it truly needs, whether that’s more sleep, healthier food or less time at the computer
If you are new to meditation and it is your first time, you may want to try a guided meditation. The guided visual meditation videos below are specifically designed to boost your body’s natural defenses. So be kind to your body and yourself. Set aside an hour, and find a quiet place and begin your journey to health and wellness.
If an hour seems like a long time for you, even a five-minute meditation break can do wonders to you and yourself. Pop on some headphones and give it a try right where you are.