Can we ever do without thinking? In this ever-changing world filled with endless possibilities, our minds are constantly moving, worrying about meeting deadlines, evaluating our own performance or that of others, or dwelling on interactions from the past – the answer is NO, we can’t do without thinking, it’s only natural. This is why tending to our mental health is as important as taking care of our physical health.
A simple technique that can be used to tend to our mental health is meditation. Meditation practices can be a great way to help find balance as we navigate life’s obstacles. Although meditation can be useful in numerous ways, its main objective is to shift the focus of the mind away from the frenzied thoughts of everyday living.
What Is Meditation?
In terms of practice, meditation has come a very long way, especially from age-old religions. Meditative practices exist in virtually all religious traditions including Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam.
Meditating for spiritual expansion and fulfilment, without a religious basis, is becoming very common.
Meditation can now be regarded as the practice of clearing the mind in ways that promote a sense of calm and heightened awareness. It can be viewed as the practice that helps calm your mind and develop the ability to stay in the present moment.
According to hundreds of studies, the stress management effects of meditation practice have most commonly been construed as a function of physical relaxation, but it can be argued that meditation effects are better conceptualized as a function of the cognitive-attentional process that are engaged.
Types of Meditation
Meditation has evolved out of numerous approaches to life, religions, philosophies and situations, which means there are many different techniques to choose from. The three main categories include:
- Concentrative Technique
This technique involves active concentration. Examples of this type of meditation include focusing your attention on an object (such as the ringing of a bell, chanting, touching beads or gazing at an image), consciously noticing the movement of air in and out of your nostrils, or saying a repeated calming word, thought, or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts.
The goal of this technique is to concentrate and try to ignore the other thoughts that pops into your head by freely letting them go, and not allowing the mind to get caught up in them.
- Meditative Movement
This form of meditation involves only movement. It is a term for forms of exercise that are done in conjunction with meditative attention to body sensations.
Becoming emotional during vigorous movement is a healthy way to move through and clear emotions. Of course, if this technique brings up powerful emotions that affect you throughout the day, working things through with a professional is far better than hoping that you can just shake the discomfort away.
Examples of this type of meditation is doing activities like yoga, tai chi, walking, and dancing to still your mind by coordinating your breath and body with gentle movement
- Expressive Meditation
Expressive meditation involves creating an outlet for your creative side, which neuroscientists believe lies in the right cerebral hemisphere.
Examples are journaling, drawing or basically having a hobby of some sort of activity in which you engage on a daily basis and that makes you lose track of time.
These forms of meditation have been used for centuries in different cultures and religious traditions. Experimenting with them all is important so that you have enough experience to know which you like best and are more suited to. You can choose to practice each for a week, journal your progress and at the end of the three weeks pick one to go forward with.
Benefits of Meditation
Research studies have shown promising results about the impact of meditation on our overall health, from mental health disorders to chronic pain to skin ailments. Here are 7 health benefits that practicing meditation can help in managing or improving your health.
- reduce stress and anxiety
- reduces inflammation
- improves sleep
- improves our mental health
- increases our sense of well-being
- enhances creativity
- helps in dealing with pain
While meditation is the deliberate practice of training your mind to focus your awareness on the present, it also offers many health benefits, such as reduced stress and anxiety. Thanks to the different ways of meditating, such as concentrative technique, meditative movement and expressive meditation, it is easier to try various experiment to find what works for you, and make it a regular part of your healthy lifestyle.