Meditation is a collection of techniques whose purpose is to achieve or improve the state of one’s focussed attention and awareness. It is a technique that helps you to achieve psychological well-being. For example, you can utilize guided meditation to reduce anxiety.
Meditation is practiced by many cultures around the world, and this has been the case for thousands of years. Most religions have sustained strong meditation practices. Some of the religions include Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism.
Meditation is often mistaken for religious practice. This is not true. Anyone can practice mediation even without any religious affiliation.
Types of Meditation
As we know by now, meditation is a general term that is used to collectively refer to the many different ways that human beings can use to achieve a relaxed state of mind and well-being.
It, therefore, follows that there are quite a number of different types of meditation.
Here are the most common types;
1. Guided meditation
The subject of this article is a type of meditation that involves forming mental images of places or circumstances that bring the feeling of relaxation. The idea is to use senses such as sights, smells, textures, and sounds among others. A meditation guide is advised for effective results.
2. Mindfulness meditation
Mindful meditation involves being mindful. It basically entails increasing your acceptance and awareness of the present moment plus all its circumstances in full.
The idea in mindfulness-based interventions is to try and widen conscious awareness by focussing on what you feel during the meditation sessions. A good example of an item you can focus on is the rhythm of your breath. You can also pay attention to such stuff as your emotions and thoughts, allowing them to flow without applying any judgment.
3. Mantra meditation
Mantra meditation entails choosing a calming word and repeating it several times in order to achieve a positive emotion. The purpose is to block bad thoughts or negative emotions by influencing your mind to focus on that word only.
You can also repeat a phrase or focus on a thought without shifting attention to different thoughts.
Many people confuse yoga with meditation. In fact, it is common to find people using the words yoga and meditation interchangeably, thinking they are all the same. What you need to know is that Yoga is a type of meditation.
In yoga, you perform a number of controlled exercises alongside specific postures. The purpose is to improve the body’s flexibility and introduce calmness to the mind. When done correctly, Yoga has the power to take your mind away from the busy schedules and pressures of the day, allowing your mind and body to relax enough so that you feel so fresh and ready to go on by the time you get back to your normal routine.
5. Transcendental Meditation
Transcendental Meditation is a simple meditation type that entails repeating a word or even a phrase of your own choice. This is closely related to mantra meditation with the difference being that in Transcendental Meditation, you do the repeating of the word or phrase in a particular way.
The aim is to achieve inner peace through a specific process and pattern that you train your mind to follow, without having to apply too much effort or attention.
6. Qi gong
Qi gong is a meditation type that combines a number of items including breathing exercises, relaxation, and physical movement. The aim is to restore some balance in the mind and keep it maintained in good condition.
Just as the name suggests, the origin of Qi gong (also known as CHEE-Gung ) is Chinese, and they use it as a form of medicine. It is highly viewed as a soft form of the famous Chinese martial arts because of the practice of performing a series of movements in slow motion while combining this movement with some deep breathing.
Features of a Successful Meditation Session
Of course, different types of meditation will require different elements to make it a success. But there are a couple of general factors that will go a long way to ensure that your meditation will always be a success, regardless of which type of meditation you want to practice.
Here are some of the most common elements that will determine the success of your meditation sessions:
1. Relaxed breathing
This requires a breathing sequence that is deep, relaxed, and even. The secret is to expand your lungs by using the diaphragm muscle. This improves your breathing rhythm by slowing it down so that you are able to take in more oxygen.
By doing so, you take away the need to use your neck, upper chest, and shoulder muscles during breathing, thus creating the perfect environment to achieve optimal breathing efficiency.
2. The setting
This refers to the setting of the environment or space where you will be practicing your meditation sessions. You need to choose a setting that is calm and silent to allow you maximum comfort and avoid disruptions. So please switch off things like your cellphone, radio or television. You will never experience the beauty of meditation if you are going to carry out your sessions amidst all manner of distractions such as phones ringing or your radio blasting music all over the house. It will never work this way, especially for beginners.
Important to note that experienced meditation practitioners can manage to perform meditation sessions in loud settings including even in the streets. This is because when you are highly experienced, you are able to block your mind from all the distractions and apply your mental capacity to the session. This is very difficult to achieve though, so you are still advised to stick to quiet environments if you realize you are never able to concentrate in distractive settings.
Maintain positive feelings and an open attitude throughout the meditation practice session. Let your mind go through thoughts of the moment, without you having to judge them. This is the moment to keep off anxious feelings because as you might know, feelings of anxiety have the potential to bring all manner of negative effects to the well-being of your mental health.
A 30-minute meditation or even a duration as short as a 20-minute meditation can make a big difference if you maintain the right attitude.
4. Your body position
While you can practice meditation in any position whether standing, seated, or even on your bed, the one thing you must ensure is comfort.
Choose a position that you can feel is comfortable in order to get the most benefits out of meditation. Remember the reason you are meditating is so that you can free up your mind and relax. Obviously, there is no way you are going to achieve this if you are not comfortable because then it means you will not be able to concentrate on the exercise of meditation. Always aim for good posture.
5. Focused attention
Focus is everything in mediation. Remember you have the keys to your mind, so it’s your utmost goal to ensure you attain the maximum possible level of attention. Attention control is always critical for the human mind.
A focused-attention meditation will help you to take your mind away from the worries, fears, and disturbances that bring stress to your everyday life. There are a number of ways you can use to achieve a high degree of focussed attention. These include paying attention to objects within the mind or even focusing on activity within your body such as your heartbeat.
Benefits of Meditation
Meditation carries numerous health benefits including emotional benefits, so many that it will never be possible to enumerate and discuss them exhaustively. The benefits of meditation can go a long way to improve your life and keep off many complications. Here are a couple of the main benefits of meditation.
1. Anxiety control
Meditation is highly famed as one of the best natural techniques to deal with a blow to anxiety. It is concerning that many people suffer anxiety, yet not many people know that they can control anxiety through simple meditation.
Studies upon studies have proven beyond any reasonable doubt that meditation has the power to considerably cut down on anxiety in patients, social anxiety disorder, and anxiety symptoms. As you might already know, feelings of anxiety are not good for your health, and in fact, high levels of anxiety can interfere with your productivity besides decreasing your quality of life.
Mindful practice meditation, in particular, has been found to reduce feelings of anxiety among persons suffering from a generalized anxiety disorder.
2. Reduces stress
Stress is one of those challenges that we can never do away with 100%. Our lives are such that we are constantly encountering different situations that trigger stress levels. While it is impossible to cut stress out of your life, there are various techniques that you can always employ to reduce the levels of stress. One of these is meditation, which has been proven to be very effective in reducing stress.
In fact, the reason many people practice meditation is in order to reduce stress. In support of this claim, peer-reviewed studies have endorsed meditation as one of the most effective ways to reduce stress among human beings.
Stress in humans is normally caused by a stress hormone known as cortisol. High levels of cortisol lead to the production and release of cytokines, which are inflammatory chemicals that can have detrimental effects on the body. Excessive stress can lead to consequences including depressions including depressive relapse, poor sleep quality, high blood pressure, heart disease, panic disorder, abnormal breathing, difficult emotions or difficult feelings, bipolar disorder, chronic stress, heart palpitations, poor heart rate. Important to note that the effects of stress can also spread to include harmful effects on your physical health.
3. Improved attention span
Attention span is one of those items that are crucial in the forces of live as you through your daily life. The better the attention span, the more productive you become. We all live to be productive, for without productivity then life might not be meaningful. By productivity, we don’t just mean working in the strict sense of it. It covers all aspects of your life from the moment you wake up to the moment you get back to bed to rest. Anything you do in-between here can fall under productivity.
A technique like focused-attention meditation will catapult your attention span levels to great lengths, helping you to increase aspects such as endurance and strength. Some tasks and activities in life require serious attention and this kind of meditation will get your mind accustomed hence improving your attention levels. Some studies have established that if you listen to a meditation audio every day, your attention span will gradually improve and help you to better accomplish your tasks with excellent accuracy.
Other studies have found that people who meditated regularly produced better results in tasks that require high attention levels for example visual activities. They performed way better than those who don’t practice any form of meditation. Even on more good news, some studies have established that meditation can also reverse brain patterns that may have caused poor attention among other effects such as worrying and wandering of the mind.
Guided Meditation To Reduce Anxiety
When it comes to dealing with anxiety, the mind plays the most important role. Guided meditation to reduce anxiety is essentially a mental approach to not only reduce anxiety but sustain a mind that is free of anxiety. While it is not possible to control what is happening around you, or the external circumstances if you like, you can control how your mind reacts to those circumstances. Remember that anxiety is normally caused by simply how you respond to the surrounding environment.
Think about the moments you have been anxious and you will realize that you were most anxious when the surrounding environment had factors that trigger anxiety. For example, you can experience anxiety when you are about to speak in front of many people, when about to sit for exams, when about to meet a stranger, when waiting for diagnosis results in the hospital, etc.
The teachings of guided meditation
Guided meditation for anxiety teaches you to take control of the thoughts you allow to come to your mind. In guided meditation to reduce anxiety, your mind is trained to focus more on the present. It also helps you to handle and direct the direction of your thoughts, guiding them in a way that you retain the positive thoughts and emotions while discarding the negative ones.
You are trained to keep thinking and instead apply your mind to the present moment and all that is happening around you. So instead of worrying about how the exam questions will turn out, simply focus on getting ready for the exam. Instead of worrying, find a solution. Replace negatives with strong positives. Reducing anxiety has more to do with the mind than it does with external circumstances. Guided meditation for anxiety can play a huge role in providing mental relief. While you might never be able to fully control happenings around you, you can control how your feelings or reactions to occurrences.
A step-by-step guide to guided meditation to reduce anxiety
- Locate a comfortable spot, which could be the floor, cushion, or chair
- Open your eyes and take a couple of breaths (about 6 breaths are enough)
- Close your eyes gently
- Start taking note of physical bodily sensations around your body e.g your feet on the floor, back on the chair, etc
- Allow your attention to remain here for a moment
- Return your attention to breathing, taking note of the sensations of breathing. Don’t force anything here, just feel the rise and fall of breaths
- As this goes on, your mind might start to wander and fall into deep thoughts that could make you forget yourself and the meditation altogether. Always return the mind to the breaths whenever the mind starts to wander.
- Take note of any anxious thoughts or feelings that might try to take your mind away from breathing. Don’t follow these thoughts. Instead, return your mind back to breathing.
- Don’t try to judge the distractive thoughts, because judging will lead you into the thoughts
- Count the breaths to enhance the experience
- Start the count afresh every time you are distracted by thoughts of anxiety
- Do the counts for a couple of minutes (about 6 minutes)
- Now let the mind wander for about one minute by releasing focus from the breathing
- Return attention to the body sensations such as your feet on the floor and back on chair etc
- Now open your eyes gently and listen to your feelings
- The entire exercise can last 20-30 minutes
You have just done a full guide to meditation to reduce anxiety. Congratulations!
Anxiety is a common occurrence in life. In fact, there could be more people who struggle with anxiety compared to those who don’t. So, don’t feel alone and worried if you are struggling with anxiety. You are just one among billions that are also affected by anxiety. The good news is that anxiety can be managed by meditation as you have realized.
Guided meditation is most effective when performed with the help of an experienced instructor. Some instructors might opt to combine approaches such as exposure therapy, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, mindfulness training, and active control condition to achieve a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms. Always create time for meditation.
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