While meditation has often been associated with Eastern religions, different styles of meditation are practiced in most of the major religions and philosophical practices. In modern times, non-religious meditation has become more popular as the scientific evidence of its benefits keeps building up. Here are some facts about meditation that will have you looking for inner peace.
Meditation can change your brain
Many studies have proven that meditation can reduce anxiety and stress, and can even help with depression. Meditation and relaxation techniques have been shown to decrease cognitive decline. Meditation has been seen to increase people’s overall feelings of well-being, making them feel happier and calmer in everyday life.
Meditation has very real health benefits
Other potential outcomes include benefiting the central nervous system, the immune system, improving lower back pain, and promoting relaxation. Having lowered levels of stress and anxiety can help your body to deal with illnesses, and can even help lower blood pressure.
Meditation doesn’t have to be done on the floor
While many people visualise the cross-legged lotus position when thinking about meditation, the truth is that meditation can be done anywhere that you are relaxed and comfortable. Sitting on a chair or a bed is perfectly fine, but try to avoid somewhere you are likely to fall asleep. Some people even prefer to meditate while moving – either slow, gentle movements such as yoga or tai chi, or even while doing repetitive movements like housework.
Meditation has different techniques
Meditation comes in many varieties. The type of meditation used has been shown to have a different effect on different people, meaning that if one method is not working, it might be helpful to try another kind. Some basic suggestions are:
- Focusing on an object – focus your attention on an object, noticing how it looks and sounds, the colours and shapes, any patterns you can see. Try not to actively think or analyse, just peacefully observe.
- Emptying the mind – letting the mind clear and not letting any specific thoughts enter.
- Using a mantra – repeat a word or phrase over and over, in time with your breath, to focus your attention.
- Mindfulness – focusing on the neutral observation of inner experiences like thoughts, memories, feelings or sensations.
- Breathing – focus your attention on your breath coming in and out of your nostrils while you relax.
Meditation can be taught
While many meditation practices can be self-taught, some people benefit from lessons and prefer to be in a community. The benefits of meditation come from regular practice, so having a class can help you make meditation a habit.
If you are having serious problems with anxiety, stress or depression, make sure you discuss it with your GP before starting any new program.