Did you know that you can go from stressed and feeling anxious to calm in under a minute? Meditation doesn’t have to take up long periods of your day. Don’t let your busy schedule or lack of time deter you from reaping the benefits of a regular meditation practice.
Some of the earliest records of meditation may be attributed to the Hindu Vedas of India, but China’s Confucianism and Taoism are also known to have practiced since the 6th century BCE. Nepal and India may also be cited, as their Hinduism, Jainism, and early Buddhism also practice some form of meditation. Today, many experts and scientific studies have analyzed the various meditation benefits, and certain types of meditation have even become mainstream.
The Benefits of Meditation
Meditation helps improve a person’s overall well-being. Here are just a few scientific studies that prove its many benefits.
- Experts from the Society for Integrative Oncology recommend mind-body therapies like meditation to help relieve anxiety, fatigue, stress, and general mood or sleep disturbances.
- The American Heart Association has a literature review that revealed evidence supporting the use of Transcendental Meditation for lowering blood pressure in addition to standard medical treatments.
- A 2010 review of the scientific literature suggests meditation-based programs including yoga and tai chi help reduce common menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, stress, muscle, and joint pain, and sleep and mood disturbances.
- Another 2013 review of scientific literature found how meditation and mindfulness training improved the quality of life and relieved pain for patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- While there are no conclusive studies or enough evidence to support these ideas, there have been a number of studies trying to identify and prove how meditation can help people who want to quit smoking, as well as help people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- A small study by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health observed how meditation-based programs can work as therapy for people with insomnia.
- There are also supporting studies to see how meditation helps alleviate chronic pain in teens, stress reduction for people with multiple sclerosis, and relief from headaches and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
It Just Takes 60 Seconds
There is a misconception that meditation takes a long time to do and that there is a need for a guru or expert. However, short sessions can carry some of the same meditation benefits as that of longer sessions. All you need is 60 seconds:
Mindfulness: Complete a task mindfully, such as 60 seconds of focus while washing a dish. Instead of rushing through the task, slow down while moving on to the next one. Practicing this helps reduce stress, depression, anxiety, and chronic pain.
Breathing: Focus on your breath for 60 seconds, as this helps reduce tension and even lower the heart rate.
Counting: Close your eyes and count slowly (either say it in your head or out loud). Doing this for 60 seconds with your eyes closed can help you concentrate on your breath, which can help calm you down.
Mantra Repetition: Repeat a word or phrase that comforts you. It empowers the brain, slows your heart rate, and increases your calmness. This practice is perfect for when you are trying to fall asleep.
How to Prepare and Succeed
Having a rewarding practice is easy. There is a misconception that you can only meditate in a calming/quiet environment, but as you become more comfortable in your practice you’ll find that you can meditate just about anywhere. It can be on the subway, during your Uber trip, in the supermarket checkout line, waiting for your coffee, etc.
Start with just 60 seconds, and when possible, try to increase the amount of time to something that works best with your schedule like 5 or 10 minutes a day.
- Find a quiet place (when you become more advanced in your practice you can meditate just about anywhere).
- Get comfortable.
- Close your eyes and focus on your breath.
- If you find it difficult to clear your mind, try using a mantra like “om” or one you make up on your own. A word or simple phrase can help keep your thoughts from drifting.
- Be open to the process and patient if you are just starting out. If your mind wanders, just take a deep breath, re-focus, and try again.
Types of Meditation
Meditation is a blanket term to describe a state of relaxation with the goal of accomplishing inner peace. There are many well-known techniques including:
Zazen or self-guided meditation: Literally translated as “seated meditation.” This Zen Buddhist technique clears negative energy while focusing on positive thinking.
Guided meditation: Often called “guided imagery,” this is visualization, wherein you form mental images of anything you find relaxing.
Mantra meditation: As mentioned above, silently repeat a word or phrase.
Tai chi (TIE-CHEE): A form of gentle Chinese martial arts; a self-paced series of movements and postures that combine with deep breathing.
Qigong (CHEE-gung): Another part of traditional Chinese medicine, this is a combination of meditation, breathing, relaxation, and physical movement. Qigong helps restore “qi” or “chi” (balance).
Transcendental Meditation®: Silently repeating a personally-assigned mantra in a very specific way.
Body Scan: A powerful form of meditation, this method goes through the entire body, from the foot, up the legs, onto the torso, throughout the arms and hands, and up the head.
Walking meditation: As opposed to traditional meditation done while sitting down and with eyes closed, walking meditation involves concentration on slow and small steps and with eyes open. It’s a way to develop awareness, connectedness, and calmness.
Yoga: Although not typically thought of as meditation, yoga is a series of controlled breathing and postures that not only promote flexibility in the body, but also calmness in the mind.
Heart Rhythm Meditation (HRM): This form of downward meditation focuses on the heart and emphasizes breathing.
Kundalini: This is a form of upward meditation focused on energy, rooted in Hindu and Buddhist teachings.
Each form has a different purpose, find the one that’s right for you.