It seems as though every time we turn around, the world has increased its pace by five-fold, placing more and more demands on our time.
Meanwhile, current discourse seems to be lacking in basic courtesy and civility, we feel more isolated than ever from friends and family, and society in general has become more polarized.
All of this can leave you feeling stressed, anxious, and depressed. If this is the case, it may be an excellent opportunity for you to look into starting some self-care, built around a solid meditation practice. There is a wide array of medication practices from which to choose, each of which helps you achieve your goals in different ways.
In fact, if you are considering starting some type of meditation practice, you are in good company. According to a 2015 survey put out by the National Center for Health Statistics, 18 million Americans, or approximately 8 percent of the general population, use some type of meditation technique.1
Mindfulness meditation, mantra meditation, and meditation combined with yoga were the most popular, according to survey respondents. What are these types of meditation, and how might they be beneficial? Read further to find out more.
Mindfulness meditation involves remaining in the present moment, rather than fixating on things in the past or dreading the future. The key is to be aware of your present surroundings, but without attaching judgment or negative thoughts or emotions to that awareness. Mindfulness meditation also includes being aware of your breathing and slowing it down to progressively relax.
This form of meditation has been extensively studied, particularly in regard to its effect on both physical and mental health. A 2012 paper, in the journal Psychotherapy, summarizes some techniques that psychotherapists can use to incorporate mindfulness meditation into their therapeutic encounters with patients.2
A 2014 paper, in the journal American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, studied a group of African-American men with chronic kidney disease. The patients underwent either training in mindful meditation or standard education on lifestyle changes.
At the end of the study, those patients who did mindful meditation showed significantly greater improvement in symptoms than did those who only received education on lifestyle changes.3
2. Mantra meditation
Mantra meditation comes from the Hindu and Buddhist traditions and uses a repetitive sound or word to help clear the mind. Gongs or chimes can often be used, as well as the very common Om chant.
Regardless of the word or sound, the intent is to allow the mind to reach a deeper level of awareness. Mantra meditation can work well if you have difficulty focusing on just your breath. A sound or word may serve as a better focal cue in this case.
3. Meditation and yoga
If you already have a regular yoga practice, you already are familiar with breath awareness, so it should be very easy to add meditation to your existing yoga practice.
In fact, some styles of yoga, such as kundalini, already include meditation and mantras. One of the benefits of combining meditation with yoga is that it works to heal both mind and body.
A recent study in Complementary Therapies in Medicine surveyed military personnel about their experiences with yoga.4 Those who had a regular yoga practice all reported that it greatly improved their mental and physical well being.
Given the high rates of PTSD among veterans and active-duty military personnel, as well as the chronic back, neck and shoulder pain they often incur from the weight of their packs, a program to combine meditation and yoga could be of enormous benefit.
With a 24/7 news cycle, instant global communication, and greater demands on your professional and personal time, you may feel that you simply can’t stop and catch your breath.
Times such as these are when you should take a break and do your meditation practice to center yourself and improve your physical, emotional, and mental
1. Clarke TC, Black LI, Stussman BJ, et al. Trends in the use of complementary health approaches among adults: United States, 2002-2012. National Health Statistics Reports, No. 79. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, 2015.
2. Davis DM, Hayes JA. What are the benefits of mindfulness? A practice review of psychotherapy-related research. Pychotherapy. 2012;48(2):198-208.
3. Park J, Lyles RH, Bauer-Wu S. Mindfulness meditation lowers muscle sympathetic nerve activity and blood pressure in African-American males with chronic kidney disease. American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. 2014;307(1):R93-R101.
4. Hurst S, Maiya M, Casteel D. Yoga therapy for military personnel and veterans: Qualitative perspectives of yoga students and instructors. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2018;40:222-229.