When it comes to bold health, it might surprise you to know that roughly 40 percent of all Americans meditate at least weekly. In fact, meditation has now tied with yoga practices as the most common form of alternative healthcare. In 2017, the meditation market generated $1.2 billion worldwide. And by 2022, this figure is expected to increase to $2 billion. Due to the health benefits of meditation, many are turning to this new practice in the pursuit of wellness. But despite this, most individuals are unaware of the variety of types of meditation from which they may choose.
The Anxiety Economy – Driving the Meditation Craze
It’s no secret that we live in times of high stress and stimulation overload. Information bombardment demands increasing levels of our attention. And the amount of time we have to meet these demands is limited. As a result, a common disorder such as depression, anxiety, stress, and insomnia plague many. Though traditional medical treatments exist for these conditions, they are often ineffective. And because of this, many seek the health benefits of meditation to help them attain a better quality of life.
Overall, research on meditation is somewhat scant. A major problem in pursuing such research has been a confusion of terms. Often, meditation, mindfulness and mindful are used interchangeably. However, each of these terms is different. Likewise, more than a dozen different types of meditation exist, and research assessing each style is lacking. Thus, more information about the health benefits of meditation that each style offers is needed. But once this is better defined, individuals will start choosing specific types of meditation to address specific wellness issues.
Exploring the Many Types of Meditation
While many different types of meditation exist in the world today, each can be placed into one of three categories. Some types of meditation serve to improve abilities in focused attention while others promote open monitoring. And yet other types of meditation offer a means for self-transcendence. Each of these styles offers important health benefits of meditation that vary from one to another. And increasingly, studies are beginning to show precisely why these health benefits of meditation occur.
- Focused Attention Types of Meditation – These types of meditation encourage individuals to focus on a single object to enhance attention. This may be one’s breath, a mantra, a body part, or a stationary object. Through repeated practice, the ability to avoid distractions and enhance focus evolves. Notably, the health benefits of meditation that this style offers include reductions in depression and anxiety while improving sleep. In addition, brain imaging studies show focused attention meditation increases the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This is an area where the ability to focus one’s attention develops. Many types of meditation are included in this category including Zen, Samatha, Chakra, and Kundalini meditations.
- Open-Monitoring Types of Meditation – In contrast to focused attention types of meditation, this style encourages simple perceptual observations without attachment or judgment. During these sessions, individuals observe internal stimuli, such as feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Or they monitor external stimuli, such as sounds, smells, and colors. In each instance, the observation is not judged, and individuals simply accept the experience without reacting. The health benefits of meditation associated with open monitoring include reductions in stress and anxiety as well as enhanced emotional control. And indeed, brain imaging studies who open-monitoring meditation reduces the amygdala, which is responsible for emotional reactivity. Mindfulness, Vipassana, and some Taoist practices are examples of these types of meditation.
- Self-Transcendent Types of Meditation – Lastly, self-transcendent types of meditation encourage individuals to go deeper into themselves. Usually, through the use of mantras, meditation practices take on a quiet, steady, and introverted approach. The health benefits of meditation linked to these styles are numerous. In addition to being used for PTSD, it has also been effective in reducing high blood pressure. Also, self-transcendent types of meditation promote creativity and imagination. This coincides with brain imaging results that show enhanced connections among cells in the prefrontal cortex. Raja Yoga, Dzogchen, and other types of meditation fit into this category.
Meditation Practices – Following in Yoga’s Footsteps
Two decades ago, yoga practices were relatively new to Western societies. Today, a number of yoga styles are practiced based on individual needs. Based on future predictions, the same will happen with meditation practices in the coming years. Increasingly, people will become aware of the different types of meditation. And as the health benefits of meditation are revealed by type, the diversity of offerings will explode. While this is exciting, it doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t pursue meditation currently. Numerous health benefits of meditation have been demonstrated. And all types of meditation offer some wellness advantages. This explains why so many people have already jumped on the meditation bandwagon.