According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), meditation is “a mind and body practice used for increasing calmness and physical relaxation, improving psychological balance, coping with illness and enhancing overall health and well-being.” It focuses on the interactions among the brain, mind, body and behavior.
What does meditation do for you?
Meditation has a wide range of benefits backed up by scientific evidence. According to the NCCIH, ” it may reduce blood pressure as well as symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and flare-ups in people who have had ulcerative colitis. It may [also] ease symptoms of anxiety and depression and may help people with insomnia.”
According to a study by Sara Lazar, an associate researcher in the psychiatry department at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, the “initial results suggest that meditation may be associated with structural changes in areas of the brain that are important for sensory, cognitive and emotional processing. The data further suggest that meditation may impact age-related declines in cortical structure.” Because of this, she encourages meditation. “Mindfulness is just like exercise. It’s a form of mental exercise, really. And just as exercise increases health, helps us handle stress better and promotes longevity, meditation purports to confer some of those same benefits.But, just like exercise, it can’t cure everything. So the idea is, it’s useful as an adjunct therapy. It’s not a standalone.”
Because of this, she encourages meditation. “Mindfulness is just like exercise. It’s a form of mental exercise, really. And just as exercise increases health, helps us handle stress better and promotes longevity, meditation purports to confer some of those same benefits. But, just like exercise, it can’t cure everything. So the idea is, it’s useful as an adjunct therapy. It’s not a standalone,” said Lazar, according to an interview with the Washington Post.
Because of all the positive effects meditation provides, it is a good practice to engage in. But, where do you begin? There are countless forms of meditation out there. All these forms fall into one of four categories, according to the Institute of Noetic Sciences.
The goal of this is to concentrate your attention on one thing. This could be your breath, a sound or an object.
The goal of this is to be aware of whatever is happening around you. You want to be present with whatever arises.
This is the combination of Concentrative Meditation and Open Awareness. The goal is to concentrate on one thing but to also be aware of your surroundings.
This type of meditation has someone to guide you whether that be through a recording or in-person.
According to NCCIH, most forms of meditation have these four elements:
- quiet location with as few distractions as possible
- a specific, comfortable posture
- a focus of attention
- an open attitude
Meditation on the go
Personally, I am a busy person. I am always on the move and rarely have a large amount of free time. To meet my meditation needs, I use the free mobile application “Smiling Mind”. There are other meditation applications out there like “Buddhify” and “Calm”. What I like about “Smiling Mind”, though, is that anyone can use it. It has meditation programs designed for children, teenagers and adults. It also has programs designed for the workplace, sports and school. These programs range from one minute to forty-five minutes in length, perfect for any occasion.
How do you meditate?