Meditation has long been used for relaxation, mindful thinking, and increase of creativity. It’s not only about the movement of your breath. It’s not a breathing exercise. But it’s part of it.
Meditation can have many health benefits, such as:
- Better focus and concentration
- Improve self-esteem and self-awareness
- Reduce stress
- Help manage anxiety or depression
- Fight addiction
- Control pain
- Promote altruistic behavior
Because there are varying practices across cultural, spiritual, and religious traditions, there are lots of ways to meditate. Some common types of meditation include a body scan, walking meditation, loving-kindness meditation, or mindfulness meditation.
To put it simply, mindfulness meditation is the basic act of being aware — or mindful — of what you are doing in the present moment. For example, you could be practicing mindfulness while you are walking your dog, brushing your teeth, or washing your dishes.
That would mean you are 100% involved in the activity you are doing — and not thinking about any distractions, stressing about the past, or worrying about the future. By improving your ability to focus in the moment, what you’re actually doing is training the brain to become less affected by stress.
Body scan meditation
Body scan meditations focus on consciously relaxing different parts of the body. You can do this by:
1. Focus on your feet and how they feel on the floor. Breathe in, and then as you exhale, try to relax your feet.
2. Next, move up to your legs and notice how they feel as part of your body. Breathe in, and then as you exhale, try to relax your legs.
3. You can repeat this process as you move up the body, focusing on your arms, shoulders, and head. You can also start at your head and work your way down.
This type of meditation may be preferable if you have a difficult time focusing on your breath alone it may be easier to anchor your awareness on how your body feels. In addition, body scan meditations are a great way to relieve tight shoulders or a tense neck, which often builds up as a result of stress or anxiety.
Instead of using the breath as the object of awareness, walking meditation encourages you to focus on each footstep in order to be fully present.
This involves becoming aware of the movement of each foot; noticing the action of lifting, lowering, and having each foot touch the ground, one step after another.
Like body scan meditation, walking meditation allows you to cultivate a sense of mind-body awareness by focusing on your body’s physical sensations as it moves. Walking meditation is a great substitute when you might find it difficult to sit still, because it allows you to get moving while still focusing on an object of awareness.
Loving kindness meditation
Loving kindness is a form of meditation geared towards cultivating compassion for yourself and others.
During loving kindness meditation, you can direct phrases of goodwill and a positive intention to yourself, loved ones, difficult people in your life, and even complete strangers. Here’s how:
1. First, get into a comfortable position, in a quiet room, and close your eyes. Focus on your breath as you inhale and exhale.
2. Think about yourself in your head, without judgment. Then, either out loud or in your head, repeat, “May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be safe.”
3. Next, think about someone you love, and direct that same positivity towards them, repeating, “May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be safe.”
4. You can continue to do this while you bring other people into your awareness. Try harnessing these kind, loving feelings towards someone you don’t always like, or someone you don’t even know that well.
Transcendental meditation involves focusing on a specific mantra or phrase by repeating it during meditation.
The mantra acts as the object of awareness for the practitioner, just like breathing is the object of awareness for mindfulness meditation. A mantra can be something as simple as saying “Om” or a phrase like “I am worthy.”
As a result, transcendental meditation may not be the natural first choice for someone hoping to start a meditation practice. However, research has found that transcendental meditation can have similar health benefits to mindfulness meditation, helping to relieve stress and anxiety, and improving overall well-being.