Meditation is a practice that enables individuals to reduce mental “clutter” and achieve a state of tranquillity and relaxation. There is an ever-increasing body of research supporting the idea that it can help relieve a multitude of physical and mental illnesses, from stress and depression to high blood pressure and irritable bowel syndrome.
Unlike most medical interventions that focus on the body and most psychological interventions that focus on the mind, meditation is a process that utilises – and benefits – both the body and the mind. As we go about our daily lives, our brains are constantly receiving feedback from our bodies and using that feedback to maintain a state of balance. If that communication is off, we fall out of balance and our physical or mental health suffers. By meditating, we can strengthen the link between the body and the brain – in essence, we can learn to “listen” to our bodies better – and that can reap all kinds of benefits.
The Benefits Of Meditation
Many people believe meditation is simply for relaxation, but it can do so much more than that. Some of the ways in which meditation can help your physical and mental health include the following:
Several studies have shown that people who engage in mindfulness meditation can experience long-term reductions in their levels of chronic pain, as well as improvements in the functional limitations associated with the pain.
Meditation reduces blood pressure, though research has yet to determine whether this is a direct result of the meditation itself, or if it is a collateral benefit resulting from reductions in psychological distress.
A study conducted in 2011 found that participants who practised mindfulness meditation for eight weeks experienced a reduction in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms.
The benefits to mental health are well-documented. Several studies show that meditation improves the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Meditation is increasingly used in addiction treatment programs because of its success in reducing cravings and helping with relapse prevention.
Meditation can lead to improvements in quality of life for almost everyone, by reducing stress and fatigue. It is being used more than before in end-of-life care settings, for patients and their loved ones.
Meditation may help relieve the symptoms of menopause and perimenopause, such as joint pain, hot flashes, stress, and sleep disturbances.
Regular meditation can improve the functioning of the immune system, leading to people getting sick less frequently and recovering more quickly.
Is Meditation For Everyone?
Meditation is one of the most inclusive practices: almost everyone can benefit from it, and there are very few barriers to participation. Here are a few reasons why it is worthwhile to give it a try:
It can be done for free! While there are some paid meditation groups facilitated by people with a lot of experience, there are many meditation exercises that are available online. Once you find a meditation method that works for you, you can meditate by yourself without any financial cost.
It is safe for everyone. Many medical and psychological interventions do not work for everyone, and can in fact cause harm if done incorrectly. The worst that can happen with meditation is that you won’t notice a difference, and even that problem can be overcome with a bit of practice.
You can meditate anywhere. There is no need for special equipment or a specific environment. All you need is a place where you can be undisturbed for 10-15 minutes.
Anyone can meditate. You don’t need special skills, your state of health and fitness is irrelevant, and you don’t need to take classes first. If you are a beginner, you can get started with some simple meditation exercises.
What Is The Right Way To Meditate?
Like many things in life, meditation works best when it is done in a way that resonates with the individual. There are many forms of meditation, and the one you use will depend on your unique needs and circumstances. The different kinds of meditation include:
Mindfulness meditation: you acknowledge the thoughts in your mind without judgement. You take note of them, sit with them for a moment, and then let them go on their way.
Focused meditation: you use one of the five senses as a point of focus. For example, you could listen to a song or focus visually on an object like a flame or a flower. If you experience intrusive thoughts, you refocus on your object of choice.
Mantra meditation: you clear your mind by repeating the same sound, word, or phrase over and over. This is a good method for people who thrive on repetition, or who are not comfortable with silence.
Spiritual meditation: this is based on finding a deeper connection with the spirituality or religion that you follow. It includes Christian contemplative prayer, Jewish kabbalistic practices, and moon gazing.
Movement meditation: you nurture the connection between mind and body through movement such as walking or hiking, tai chi, or qi gong.
Transcendental meditation: this is a specific form of meditation that uses a series of mantras to induce a deep state of calmness. It is taught by certified transcendental meditation practitioners.
Visualisation meditation: you visualise settings and images that induce a sense of peace. It involves creating detailed visualisations of places or situations that evoke all of your senses as fully as possible.
Progressive relaxation: you generate awareness of your body by tightening and relaxing one muscle group at a time. This is a good method for releasing mental and physical tension.
Loving-kindness meditation: you open up your mind to receive love and positivity from others and send the same back to all living beings. This method can be effective for those who find it difficult to let go of anger and resentment.
Seven Steps To A Successful Meditation
The more you meditate, the more in tune with your body you will become. You will learn what feels comfortable for you, which forms of meditation resonate with you the most, and how to set yourself up for a positive meditation experience.
Here are seven basic steps you can follow regardless of your experience level with meditation.
Step 1 – choose your environment
Find a place to sit or lie down, whether it’s the floor, a comfortable chair, a sofa, or a bed. If you are trying movement meditation, decide what form of movement you are using and find a place to engage in that movement. For all forms of meditation, you need to be comfortable, and you need to be sure that you will not be disturbed.
Step 2 – choose your time limit
This may vary from day to day. Sometimes, you may only have five or ten minutes available. Other times, you might want to commit to 15 minutes or more. If you are trying meditation for the first time, a shorter time may be easier for you.
Step 3 – be aware of your body
Whether you are sitting or lying down, or engaging in motion such as tai chi or qi gong, take stock of how your body is positioned and how it feels.
Step 4 – choose your focus
Depending on which form of meditation you are following, pay attention to a sensory focal point like a light or a sound, the muscles of your body, or an image you are visualising. Pay attention to the rhythm of your breathing, and how your lungs expand and contract as you inhale and exhale.
Step 5 – be aware of distractions
Your mind may wander without you even realising it. When you notice that this has happened, return your attention to the element you are focusing on.
Step 6 – acknowledge and accept distractions
Try not to get frustrated when your mind wanders. This happens to everyone: it’s a natural part of being human. Acknowledge distracting thoughts, sit with them for a moment, and then let them go.
Step 7 – gently transition back to your day
Don’t rush your meditation process, but don’t force it to continue either. When the time is right, allow yourself to gradually regain awareness of the sights and sounds around you. Take stock of how you feel physically and emotionally. Give yourself a moment, then go about the rest of your day in peace.
The Somatofulness Approach
The Somatofulness approach is dedicated to helping people access the life energy flowing within them. By developing a deep connection with your body – for example, by practising meditation – you can achieve better physical and mental health, and live the life you truly want. Through a series of workshops and programs, we will give you opportunities for learning and growth. Contact us today to embark on the wonderful journey of self-discovery.