Thoughts circle our mind every day like a hamster on a wheel, turning faster each time we commit to following them. One negative thought turns into two, two turns into three and the cycle keeps going. Soon enough, our internal voice is unable to be silenced and we end up anxious, stressed, depressed or suffering with other types of mental health issues. Meditation assists with this cycle and this guide will discuss 6 types of meditation to calm.
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How Can Meditation Help
Meditation is the practice of viewing thoughts without attaching labels such as good or bad, the thoughts simply exist without effect. Pushing our thoughts away and denying their content is a perfect way to keep them firmly in our mind. Much like a song that plays over and over in our head, the more we resist and try to stop a thought, the more irresistible the thought becomes.
Meditation helps us to accept ourselves, our thoughts and who we are. It lowers your stress levels, increases our leisure satisfaction. Mediation is a great tool to help with depression, anxiety, PTSD and dissociation. The best thing about mediation is that it is a tool that enhances everyone’s life as the practice increases self compassion and the positive view we have on ourselves and the world.
Meditation isn’t about sitting quietly while the world moves on. It isn’t about having an “ah ha” moment, epiphany or life changing realization. It’s about training yourself to maintain calm and be present in who you truly are, which includes all the good and all the not so good of being you.
Each of the meditation techniques we will explore in this post have one key skill: focus.
So, what meditation style will work for you? Well, that is dependent on your style and who you are, one style may suit you better than another. Let’s look at some different types of mediation so you can explore how each style feels to you and will help you achieve your goals and which style you may want to explore more.
1. Mindfulness Meditation
Easily the most popular and useful in everyday life, mindfulness meditation in its simplest form focuses on gaining attention to acts that we simply ‘go through the motions’ of doing. A type of body scan meditation while we are washing our hands, eating lunch or chatting with family, when these acts become routine it is easy to find our minds distracted by what is happening inside.
This type of meditation is one that can be easily built into your daily life by getting in touch with our senses and noticing how we are thinking and feeling. Many people choose to set time aside to practice, sitting quietly with awareness and allowing thoughts to wander in and out like trains at a station. This is a flexible style of meditation without many ‘rules’ or boundaries.
Mindfulness Meditation is often used as an intervention for anxiety and depression. Research has found that meditating habitually has a helpful effect on recovery. Continued use of mindfulness meditation has proven effects in long and short term situations, with improved mood and reduced fatigue after just four days in some instances. It was also shown to help with memory problems such as, self control and planning.
For those who are just beginning their journey into meditation or those looking for a less time consuming approach, this route is easily adaptable and effective.
2. Focused Meditation
Focused meditation provides a focal point for individuals to keep in mind. For beginners who may struggle with the concept of letting thoughts flow and not attaching to them, this is a great starting position into the world of meditation.
The focal point can be as simple as an object or as controlled as a sensation. This focus allows us to move awareness from the negative self talk inside our mind and to instead pay attention to the point we have chosen.
Following the patterns of our breath, we allow our attention to base itself only on this point and let other distractions flow through us. It is important to remember that this is a skill that must be strengthened over time so the more its practiced the better. Starting with shorter lengths of time and building up to longer time periods is normal and don’t feel frustrated if your mind wanders away from the target. Meditation is there to help decrease stress levels, not the other way round!
Attention and emotional regulation are affected by anxiety disorders, depressed minds and dissociation. Depressed minds are unintentionally numbed, anxious minds are racing with unfocused energy and dissociation mean not being present in current surroundings.
Through focus meditation and concentrating on remaining present with an object or sensation you can help reduce the unfocused energy associated with anxiety, help the depressed mind un-numb and reduce dissociation to be present in the here and now.
3. Movement Meditation
This one is for those of us who want to move a little while meditating. Unlike the other methods, movement meditation is quite literal in that it requires some extra moves. Similar to yoga, this style is the merging of breath and movement during focused meditation.
When inhaling, the body expands to make room for this air. Arms raised overhead, your lungs are free to draw in as much fresh breath as possible. When exhaling, the body contracts to make up for the loss of space. Bringing arms back down to the feet, your body curls and fills spaces with its own self.
This style of meditation brings the focus back into consciousness and builds a strong self awareness. Just as with mindfulness meditation movement can be done whenever the time allows. There are no patterns or restrictions, just a hope that balance can be restored through a slow and simple flow.
Movement mediation is easily done while in nature. Nature is able to help one cope with thoughts and feelings, anxiety, depression and dissociation. Many find peace through spending time in the great outdoors, whether it be sea, sand or trees. With the rise of urbanization throughout the globe it is noted that nature remains a valuable resource when it comes to increasing life quality and well being. Being at one in nature can reduces stress, improve memory and attention.
Movement mediation and being in nature whether on the beach or in a lounge chair in your yard, hiking in the mountains or tending to a garden has a positive impact that helps reduce anxiety, stress, post traumatic stress and dissociation. Using the natural flow of wind or water with this meditation can prove to have additional benefits.
4. Transcendental Meditation
This is a relatively newer style of meditation in comparison with those we have mentioned previously.
It was founded in the 50’s and is taught by qualified practitioners. If you would like to try this method it is recommended that you attend a training course which will guide you through the multiple steps.
A silent mantra is repeated and users are asked to focus on the repetition of this mantra in order to enter a state of peaceful alertness. Teachers of transcendental meditation state this is the most effortless and pure meditation style, requiring just two twenty minute practices a day. Mantras used with this approach are kept secret and given by the practitioner to the student in private. Each mantra is relative to the individuals’ state and goals, one reason why they are kept close to the chest of the owner.
Studies focusing on the different outcomes of transcendental meditation and post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and generalized stress found that transcendental meditation resulted in a significant improvement of symptoms.
5. Guided Meditation
This is a great starting point for those dipping their toe into meditation.
Guided tapes can be found in various outlets; online websites or phone apps and can be centred around a mantra or mental image. This is a broad area covering meditations about everything from positive energy, stress and anxiety reduction to insomnia relief.
Others might find it more beneficial to attend a course where they are mentored in guided meditation in person. This style is hugely accessible as you can take it at any pace, it is possible to do without paying and often doesn’t require more than a quiet space and your smart phone.
6. Spiritual Meditation
Spiritual meditation relies on the belief that all human life is connected to something more than just the physical being. Similar to religion, the focal point of this meditation is the belief that we are all connected to a higher presence.
There is a need to take into account all of the negative emotions we hold within ourselves; trauma, grudges or disappointments. This doesn’t necessarily apply to others, but could relate to what we believe about ourselves.
By accepting ourselves as we are in the moment, all of our lived experiences included, it is vital to move forward and forgive in order to grow. Through acceptance and release, we begin to understand that we are limitless and that any challenges thrown our way no longer define us from this moment forward. There is a comfort in the knowledge that our connection to something more than what we can physically experience has our best interests in mind.
What Do I Need To Get Started?
Hopefully it’s clear throughout this guide that there really isn’t a big checklist for what you need to begin your meditation journey. Unless you have organized outside help to get you going, simply find yourself a quiet, peaceful area that you will have guaranteed uninterrupted time.
Take it slow by setting aside five minutes and work your way up to twenty minutes or more. Commit to practicing a style of six to eight weeks to see how it fits for you noting the changes from day one to the current day. Keep the old saying in your head, ‘slow and steady wins the race’. By starting with just five minutes there is less pressure to commit to a certain style if it is not working for you.
It can become frustrating if the meditation is not going the way you believe it’s ‘supposed’ to, even if there are no set rules. This is a skill that needs to be built and strengthened over time, there is no rush and all that is required of you is to make a start. As with most things in life, consistency is key.
Each approach reviewed offers benefits to improve our quality of life in dealing with our thoughts and feelings. What may work for one person may not work for you and that is not a reflection on your ability but rather on your individuality, personal traits and preferences.
Meditation is trial and error, taking the steps out of your comfort zone to try new styles in order to find what works best for you to improve your life is the most important aspect. Meditation is a positive activity to improve your quality of life.
One of the most important things that needs to be addressed before or during these explorations is how we see ourselves. It is easy for us to become overwhelmed with thoughts of failure or inability when we are in a state of mind that is quick to shoot ourselves down.
Meditation is an opportunity that helps come to terms with the experiences that we have gone through to manifest new and helpful ideas for ourselves. It is a great practice to soothe our souls and help to heal the stress, anxiety, depression, and negativity in our life.
There are many positive outcomes for including meditation in your daily routine. It is a low commitment act with the potential of high rewards, there really is nothing to lose by giving it a go.