By Annette Brooks
Humans have meditated to calm the mind, reduce stress, relax the body, and create greater inner harmony for thousands of years, with the earliest written records of meditation believed to come from the Hindu Vedas — ancient Sanskrit texts, around 1500 BCE. If you’re ready to quiet the ever-present dialogue inside your head and escape from life’s distractions for a while, give meditation a try and reap the benefits.
The physical and psychological impact of meditation includes improved focus and can boost your immune system. According to MayoClinic.com, it may be a useful addition to treatments for anxiety, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep problems, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, tension headaches, and chronic pain.
It’s easier than you think to begin meditating, but first, let’s address the hurdle of time. If you feel you can’t fit meditation into your schedule, you’ll be pleased to know that it only takes 20 minutes daily to reap the benefits. Plus, it’s convenient. You can meditate almost anywhere, but a quiet space with calming energy away from distractions, like your bedroom or study, is an excellent place to start. As you become comfortable meditating, you may prefer to practice it outside on a patio or deck on a nice day.
Beginners usually ease into meditation by setting aside five minutes of quality time and focusing attention on a specific object, an image, a mantra, or even deep, relaxed breathing. Wear comfortable clothing, maintain a good posture, and let stray thoughts pass through your mind without dwelling on them and without judgment.
Types of Meditation
Keep in mind that there’s no right or wrong way to meditate. Do what comes naturally and give yourself time to build your meditation skills. Once you feel you’re ready to move on from a basic foundation, check out different types of meditation and discover which one is right for you. They include, but are not limited to:
Transcendental Meditation – Founded by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, this practice is designed to quiet the mind and induce a deep state of calm and inner peace. It’s typically taught by certified TM practitioners and often involves using a mantra.
Mindfulness Meditation – According to HealthLine.com, this practice is the most popular and researched form of meditation in the West. Combining concentration with awareness, mindfulness meditation encourages being in the moment and handling thoughts by letting them pass without taking action or making judgments.
Progressive Relaxation – Also known as body scan meditation, progressive relaxation is a great way to unwind and release tension. During this practice, you may slightly tighten and relax one muscle group at a time throughout your body or use steps of focused relaxation, often starting with your feet and toes and slowly moving up to the top of your head.
Mantra Meditation – Many teachings, including Buddhism and Hinduism, encourage deeper levels of awareness through mantra meditation using a repetitive sound, phrase, or word, such as “Om.”
Visualization Meditation – Enhance feelings of focus and relaxation by visualizing positive images, figures, and scenes. Try using all five senses when with your visualization. For instance, a scene on the beach can include the smell of an ocean breeze, the sound of palm leaves rustling in the wind, the feel of warm sand on your feet, the taste of coconut fresh coconut, and the image of a sunset gently resting on the horizon.
There’s an App for That
You can find many excellent meditation apps, including free versions to try out. The long list includes:
Calm – Offers guided and unguided meditations and ambient soundscape options. This app also lets you personalize your experience and track your mood. Calm.com
Healthy Minds Program – This user-friendly, holistic meditation app centers on fundamental concepts such as awareness, connection, insight, and purpose with a focus on the science of well-being. HMInnovations.org
Insight Timer – This free app can help you sleep and relax, build healthy habits, and even share meditation sessions with friends. InsightTimer.com
Meditopia – This mental health companion app includes guided meditation for better sleep, relaxation, and personal mindfulness. Get started by completing your free emotional health assessment. Meditopia.com
Headspace – A multi-faceted meditation and mindfulness app, Headspace offers many well-organized meditations that gradually advance over multiple sessions. Choose from guided to less structured sessions. Headspace.com