3 Benefits of Meditation & How To Get Started
The term “meditation” describes a variety of practices that focus on connecting the mind and body and are used to calm the mind and enhance overall well-being. “Some types of meditation involve maintaining mental focus on a particular sensation, such as breathing, a sound, a visual image, or a mantra, which is a repeated word or phrase. Other forms of meditation include the practice of mindfulness, which involves maintaining attention or awareness of the present moment without making judgments (nccih.nih.gov).”
Planning, problem-solving, and/or negative thinking can be draining, and increase your risk of experiencing stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression. However, practicing meditation exercises can help you direct your attention away from this kind of thinking and engage with the world around you.
At Pathfinders Pastoral Care Ministries, we see the benefits of mindfulness and meditation firsthand. In fact, research has shown that mindfulness meditation changes our brain and biology in positive ways. Whether you do it in the morning, throughout your day, or before you go to bed, mindfulness practices can positively impact mental wellness, sleep habits, physical health, and more.
Benefit 1: Reduces Stress & Manages Anxiety
While stress and anxiety are not the same thing, they both can have a negative effect on a person’s mental wellness. When we experience stress or anxiety, many of us tend to focus on these feelings, leading to further stress and anxiety. Practicing mindfulness and/or meditation practices train your brain to focus on calming, positive emotions to reduce these symptoms and relax the mind.
“In an 8-week study, a meditation style called “mindfulness meditation” reduced the inflammatory response caused by stress. Furthermore, research has shown that meditation may also improve symptoms of stress-related conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, and fibromyalgia (healthline.com).”
“May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord.” - Psalm 104:34 NIV
Benefit 2: Enhances Physical Health
First and foremost, meditation isn't a replacement for traditional medical or care treatments, but it can be a positive addition to a treatment plan. In fact, research has found that meditation can be effective in pain management. The focus on calming, positive emotions can make the brain less sensitive to pain and increase use of the brain’s own pain-reducing opioids.
“One review of 38 studies concluded that mindfulness meditation could reduce pain, improve quality of life, and decrease symptoms of depression in people with chronic pain… Meditators and non-meditators experienced the same causes of pain, but meditators showed a greater ability to cope with pain and even experienced a reduced sensation of pain (healthline.com).”
In addition, mindfulness meditation can be effective in managing and reducing high blood pressure. For many, high blood pressure is impacted by increased stress levels. By using meditation to reduce stress, you’re relaxing the nerve signals that coordinate heart function, blood vessel tension, and the “fight-or-flight” response that increases alertness in stressful situations.
Benefit 3: Can Be Practiced Anywhere, Anytime
The beauty of mindfulness and meditation is that they can be practiced anywhere at any time.
“You don’t need fancy cushions, aromatic candles, or the perfect soundtrack to meditate. It doesn’t need to be first thing in the morning or done with a woven shawl over your shoulders. You needn’t have a good singing voice to chant, nor a dedicated yoga room to abscond to. All you need to meditate is you (chopra.com).”
Getting Started with Meditation
Two of the most common styles of meditation include:
Focused-attention meditation, which concentrates attention on a single object, thought, sound, or visualization. It emphasizes ridding your mind of distractions. Meditation may focus on breathing, a mantra, or calming sound.
Open-monitoring meditation encourages broadened awareness of all aspects of your environment, train of thought, and sense of self. It may include becoming aware of suppressed thoughts, feelings, or impulses.
For beginners, focused-attention meditation is typically the more effective style, as it focuses on clearing the mind and drawing your attention toward one action or moment.
When getting started, don't judge your skills, which may only increase your stress. Meditation takes practice, and it's common for your mind to wander during meditation, no matter how long you've been practicing.
In addition, it’s important to note that practicing mindfulness meditation one time will not completely reduce or resolve anxiety, stress, or physical illness. Mayo Clinic recommends a person should practice every day for about six months to really start to reap the benefits.
At Pathfinders Pastoral Care Ministries, our Christian counselors specialize in helping individuals improve their mental wellbeing by thinking Spiritually and discovering effective strategies that work for them. Contact us to learn more about how this type of counseling could benefit you or someone in your life.