What is meditation? What does it feel like?
Meditation is an effective exercise to unburden overstrained minds of persistent anxious thoughts and improve mental health. Apart from soothing nerves and tidying up thoughts, regular meditation rewires brains for happiness, has a mood-boosting effect, enhances stress-resisting capacity, strengthens character, and improves concentration, memory, and intelligence. Meditation does this by developing a strong critical ability to observe things soberly and impartially.
The concept of meditation combines various methods to help achieve a state of deep concentration, physical relaxation, and the absence of any emotional manifestations.
The most prominent methods of immersion in this state are:
- concentration on rhythm of breathing;
- repetition of verbal formulas;
- concentration on a material object;
- concentration on physical sensations.
What are the benefits of meditation?
Meditation has proven to have a positive effect on both mental and physical health. Take a look at the array of benefits this exercise provides:
Meditation helps improve a feeling of calmness. During research, participants were looking at photographs aimed at receiving positive, negative, and neutral emotional reactions. After a course, the activity in the emotional brain center was reduced. This suggests that meditation allows one to maintain emotional control, even when not meditating.
It develops compassion.
In 50 % of individuals who meditate, they have an increased ability to feel other people’s pain and thus create a greater sense of compassion for those around them.
In one of the studies by David Desteno, participants were in a waiting area with three actors. One of the actors walked around on crutches and acted in pain while the other actors sat next to the participants and ignored the actor on crutches. By these actors not doing anything to help the third actor it sent most of the participants an unconscious signal to do the same and not interfere (5). However, with those that regularly meditated, they were much more likely to ignore this and help the disabled individual. As a result, the study showed that meditation makes people ready to act virtuously – to help those who suffer, even in the face of a social norm of inaction.
It changes the structure of the brain.
Meditation is a powerful technique that can change the structure of the brain in 8 weeks. American scientist, Britta Helzel, scanned the brain of 16 people before and after a course of meditation.
What she found was that gray matter in the brain was increased after meditation.
It alleviates chronic pain.
One of the benefits of meditation is the reduction of pain after regular practice.
Joshua Grant confirmed a decrease in the sensitivity to pain among meditators. This happens due to the ability of meditators to thicken the frontal lobe and increase ability for individuals to handle pain.
It accelerates learning and memorization.
For beginners, meditation lasting 80 minutes can improve the functions of working memory, executive functioning, and visual-spatial processing. However, it can be difficult for someone who has never meditated before to sit and do it for 10 plus minutes straight. In this case, in the beginning, it is possible to start with whatever amount of time they need to meditate consistently: whether that be 2 minutes, 5 minutes, or 10 minutes, gradually increasing it to their goal time. Four days of meditation can also boost the ability to concentrate.
It develops creativity.
The practice of meditation can help with creative tasks. In one study, participants got a classic creative task: the maximum number of brick applications. Those participants who practiced meditation possessed more original ideas with this task then those that did not practice meditation.
- It increases concentration.
Meditation helps individuals to concentrate better while performing any activity.
It enhances our ability to multitask.
Meditation profits various aspects of cognition, and also improves work productivity. Meditators perform better at juggling different standard office tasks including answering calls, emails, arranging different events, etc, and get more done in less time.
It reduces anxiety.
Meditation is often recommended to reduce anxiety.A recent study found that 4-20 minute meditation sessions were enough to reduce anxiety by up to 39%.
Meditation kicks depression to the curb.
The main symptoms of depression include feeling low-spirited, guilt-ridden, helpless, irritated, and unmotivated. Meditation can alleviate the severity of these symptoms and help individuals learn how to focus on the present and not dwell on past mistakes or future possibilities.
How to meditate, where, and when?
There are different types of meditation techniques (3), and it is important to find the right type for you.. Here’s a step-by-step plan for beginners:
- Choose a comfortable distraction-free area.
- Put on comfortable clothes.
- Add a few touches like scented candles, a meditation cushion, and ear plugs to enhance your experience.
- Find a comfortable position.
- Close your eyes. Inhale and exhale through your nose. No biting your lips, grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw. Simply let yourself go.
- Focus on the process of breathing.
- If your mind wanders, simply pull yourself back and concentrate on inhalations and exhalations.
There are no strict rules when it comes to duration or location. The monks are confident that morning is the best time to practice. Everything around you is calm, you don’t feel frazzled or distracted and your mind is undisturbed. Morning meditation helps prepare your mind and body for any unexpected curveballs the day may have in store.
How to start?
At first, it can be very hard for someone to try to meditate on their own. Many people don’t even know how to start, so some good guided resources will help them learn proper meditation techniques. BetterMe: Meditation & Sleep App can help beginners find such meditations and techniques, and also make their practice smooth, easy and fun. Besides, it’s available for Android users as well. Check it out and bring yourself to a state of calm and wellness and balance your life using a combination of guided meditations and mindfulness techniques. Reduce your stress and anxiety, start sleeping better, and improve your concentration and more.
What are the types of meditation?
- The concentration of attention – focusing on one object throughout the entire meditation session.
The object can be breathing, mantra, or visualization. The ability to keep the flow of attention becomes stronger, and distraction occurs less often. Depth and stability of attention are developing at the same time (8). For instance: Buddhist meditation, “Metta” – a meditation of loving-kindness, “Kundalini,” Sound meditation, mantras, pranayama, etc.
- Open attention -instead of focusing attention on any object, keep it open.
Are meditation and yoga the same?
Yoga combines spiritual, mental, and physical exercises at the same time. It shows a variety of ways to attain self-realisation, higher spiritual connection, and a peace of mind. Yoga is a way of life that strengthens the spirit through physical activity, self-control and focus.
Meditation is one of the five principles of yoga, the essence of which is constant observation of the mind. It suggests focusing your complete attention on one thing (an object, a sound, breathing) in order to reach calmness and mental clarity.
Both terms are very similar. However, yoga is a combination of physical and psychological exercises while meditation requires only psychological engagement. Both processes have a positive impact on the body.
To sum up, meditation is a unique process of a deep understanding of the spiritual world. It helps to improve concentration, and gain wisdom and peace inside.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility.
- EEG alpha blocking correlated with perception of inner light during Zen meditation.
- Effects of stress and relaxation on central pain modulation in chronic whiplash and fibromyalgia patients compared to healthy controls. (2016, biblio.ugent.be)
- Employing pain and mindfulness to understand consciousness: A symbiotic relationship(2019, researchgate.net)
- Loving-kindness meditation for posttraumatic stress disorder:
- Meditation Increases Compassionate Responses to Suffering. (2013, journals.sagepub.com)
- Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy: Theory and practice. (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Meditation: In depth.
- What are the benefits of mindfulness.