What is Meditation?
Merriam-Webster defines meditation as “a discourse intended to express its author's reflections or to guide others in contemplation” or “the act or process of spending time in quiet thought.” Meditation is widely practiced, and various forms have been around for thousands of years. Traditional Western health care views are evolving and are starting to accept non-traditional treatments, including meditation, as beneficial and healthy practices. The Mayo Clinic notes, “Meditation is considered a type of mind-body complementary medicine.” The amazing thing is anyone can practice meditation; no special equipment is required, it’s relatively simple, and, in most cases, it’s free. Moreover, you can meditate anywhere.
Traditional Medicine Companion Therapy
Mediation is not a replacement for traditional medicine; however, it is useful as a companion therapy. It can help you remain calmer throughout the day and may help manage symptoms of some medical conditions, especially those exacerbated by stress (so, all of them). Research suggests meditation may help manage symptoms associated with anxiety, asthma, cancer, chronic pain, depression, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, irritable bowel syndrome, sleep problems, and tension-related headaches.
Many Plausible Benefits and No Known Side-Effects
Project Meditation®, a company specializing in audio technology for meditation, explains meditation therapy reduces stress and helps with pain management. Through relaxation and resting, the brain rhythm slows down, and so do heart rate, metabolism, and breathing rate, causing blood pressure to decrease. When the mind is calmed in this manner, the body’s natural painkillers (endorphins) are released. As such, meditation may relieve nervous system complaints associated with headache, stroke, and depression, among others, according to the website. Not all of these assertions are clinically proven, but because there are no known negative side-effects to meditation, there is no reason not to try it for whatever ails you.
Popular Meditation Models to Get You Started
There are many relaxations models, but we will focus on three types here. Guided meditation, often led by an external guide, uses imagery and visualization, employing our senses to reach tranquility. In mindfulness meditation, the focus is on awareness and acceptance of the present, and is used to heighten conscious awareness, such as breathing and releasing control of our flow of thought. Yoga is also a form of meditation. Through a series of postures and deliberate breathing exercises, it promotes a more flexible body and a calm mind. Virtually all types of meditation revolve around a quiet setting, comfortable body positioning, focused attention, controlled and relaxed breathing, and an open, non-judgmental attitude.
Guided meditation may be used therapeutically for several applications. Research found that “sufferers of chronic pain have used meditation to successfully decrease pain symptoms, increase healing speed, improve mood, decrease stress, and reduce their overall healthcare costs.” Further, guided meditation has been used in psychotherapy to address many concerns such as stress, anxiety, depression, mood improvement, and even prevention/early intervention of eating disorders and drug and alcohol abuse.
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor of the Harvard Heart Letter, writes, “when researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD sifted through nearly 19,000 meditation studies…Their findings, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest that mindful meditation can help ease the psychological stresses of anxiety, depression, and pain. For more information about how mindfulness meditation works, a free guided recording by Dr. Ronald Siegel, assistant clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, can be found at www.mindfulness-solution.com.
Harvard reports, “Mind-body practices like yoga and meditation have been shown to reduce your body’s stress response by strengthening your relaxation response and lowering stress hormones like cortisol.” Yoga has many health benefits, such as improving heart health, and like other types of meditation, helps relieve depression and anxiety. “A recent article in the Harvard Business Review recommends health insurers cover wellness and prevention-oriented therapies that are both low-cost and evidence-based, as both yoga and meditation are.”
Kids and Yoga
Thus far, we have predominantly discussed what meditation can do for adults—how it can help us cope with daily life, stress, and anxiety, and though it is vital we take care of ourselves so we can continue to care for our children, meditation can also directly benefit them, largely independent of their physical proficiency. The Public Broadcasting System (PBS) explains, “The word ‘yoga’ means ‘union’ in Sanskrit, the ancient language of India. Quite simply, yoga is the ‘union’ or coming together of mind (thoughts and feelings) and physical body.” It’s about exploring and learning in a safe setting while having fun. Yoga teaches children about how to move their bodies in controlled ways, increasing strength, balance, and flexibility. It teaches deep breathing for not only relaxation, but motivation. Yoga helps adults and kids alike focus on self-care and general wellness.
It may seem overly simple to deliberate breathing and stretching, relaxation and positive imagery, but the medical and psychological fields have long believed this type of controlled self-attention aids in the treatment of a host of concerns. Meditation can be done anywhere, at any time, with or without anyone, and is typically free. There are few therapeutic treatments for any ailment that require so little input and have such great benefits to the participant. If you are interested in meditation, chances are favorable there is at least one type out there that will fit your needs and agility quite nicely.
Headspace is a great app for people just starting out, with 10 newbie-focused 10-minute meditation exercises, known as Take 10. It’s designed to help you quickly understand what the practice is all about. There’s also a personalized progress page, a reward system for continued practice, and even a buddy system for you and your friends to help each other stay on track. Once you’ve completed Take 10, the app contains other meditation exercises that can be purchased in the app.
This app comes packed with features, including a five-day guided meditation practice, meditation reminders, personalized meditation offers, and timers for keeping you on track.
Users have access to over 11 hours of custom meditation with buddhify. What’s really unique is that each exercise is tailored to target a specific aspect of your life. Need help going to sleep? The app has you covered. Need help staying offline? Check. Need a work break? It’s here. The tracks range from 5 to 30 minutes. A check-in system lets you evaluate how well you’re meditating and tracks your progress overtime.