We live in a busy, noisy society. Everywhere you look, there are flashy adverts, screaming mobile phones and loud spokespeople. It can get mentally draining to be living in a world that’s so ‘switched on’ all the time.
Think about it- when was the last time that you truly let yourself disconnect from the world? Without checking your emails, or worrying about the due date of your next project. Being able to switch off and live in the moment is hugely important, both for your physical health and your mental health. It can be tricky to do this though, especially with the demands of work, family and personal goals.
This is where meditation comes in. Meditation is one of the best ways to reset your mind and become more in tune with the world around you. It’s less of a one-time thing and more of a skill that you build on as time goes on. It’s something that I firmly believe that every modern person should learn how to do, too.
In this article, we’ll be having a look at meditation in more depth. We’ll be analyzing what exactly meditation is, and the different types that exist. Then we’ll look at the benefits of meditation, what you need to get started, and much more. These points should all combine to help you feel motivated to do your first meditation today.
What is mediation?
Firstly, what exactly is meditation? Headspace, a popular meditation tool, defines meditation as ‘training in awareness’ and getting a better sense of perspective on life. This is a fantastic way of looking at it. It’s not about changing yourself or suddenly being transported to the astral realm, it’s simply about being in tune with the world and living directly in the present.
Additionally, it’s about accepting your thoughts and internal questions. There’s no point in trying to stamp out a particular negative thought or emotion, as this just encourages them to come back even stronger. Meditation encourages you to simply feel all your emotions, and let them wash over you like a wave. If you’re upset or stressed, don’t bottle it up and tuck it away in the corner of your mind. Allow yourself to feel this way, let it pass through you and then allow it to float away from you. This takes the practice of course, but having this level of control over your own mind is a wonderful thing to have.
Types of meditation
Now that we’ve seen what meditation is, what types of meditation are there? There are plenty of different types out there, as set out by this helpful Medical News Today article, and they’ve each got their own set of advantages and benefits that come along with them. If you’re new to this, I would recommend trying out a few different styles to see which one it is that you’re the most comfortable with.
The most popular style of mediation currently is mindfulness meditation. This is the style that I personally practice, and I can assure you of the results! Mindfulness meditation simply revolves around the idea of being present and living in the moment. It’s the style that is practiced by apps like Headspace and Calm- we’ll be looking into those apps later on in this blog, as they are very handy. This particular style of meditation is great if you suffer from anxiety or stress, as it can help you regulate your emotions and feelings easier.
Another key style of meditation to note is loving-kindness meditation. As the name suggests, this style of meditation promotes feelings of love and positivity towards everything– including negative emotions and people that you don’t like. A lot of this style is based around mantras and positive energy, and it can be very rewarding. If you struggle with anger issues or a disconnect from the world, this could be the style for you.
A style that’s worth noting in this article is Zen meditation. This style is very rooted in traditional Buddhism and is often taught by a specific zen meditation master. This is due to the particular steps and postures that are needed in this style. It’s similar to mindful meditation, in the sense that it’s about observing one’s thoughts, but it said to require a much higher level of personal discipline.
There are plenty of other styles of meditation of course, and many niche subcategories too. If none of these ones seem plausible to you, I’d encourage you to spend some time reading up on the matter to see if there are any others that are appealing to you.
Benefits of meditation
There are tons of benefits and advantages that you will get from practicing meditation. It’s something that you will need to work on over time, but you will get better at it each time you practice. I know personally that I struggled the first time I practiced it, as I kept getting distracted and found it frustrating. This is completely normal and is to be expected with anyone who’s new to the practice so don’t worry if this happens to you.
One of the most obvious yet important benefits of meditation is that it can help you manage your anxiety and stress levels effectively. There’s data to back this up, too. The stress hormone cortisol can create issues with inflammation, and an 8-week mindfulness meditation study actually lowered the inflammation rates, as seen here. It can also be great for dealing with anxiety and panic attacks, as it can help clear your mind and understand how you’re feeling on a deeper level.
Boost your emotional wellbeing
Another benefit that meditating brings is boosted self-image and emotional wellbeing. Meditating can often help you understand more about yourself as a person and can boost your abilities in terms of emotional regulation and self-control. These factors combined can be a great way to improve your self-image and feel more in control of your own emotions. Feeling like you’re being controlled by your own emotions is never a nice feeling, and meditation is one of the best ways to deal with this.
Something else that you’ll find once you start meditating is that it can help improve your nights and quality of sleep. This is why meditation is often recommended to people who are suffering from anxiety or insomnia that might be keeping them up at night. Calming the mind, lowering stress and removing negative fixations can all help ease you into a much more peaceful nights sleep. There are even guided sleep meditations available to help you doze off easier; there’s plenty on YouTube if this is something that appeals to you.
A final benefit that’s worth noting is that meditation can help improve your ability to focus and the length of your attention span. Contrary to popular belief, meditation does actually require a lot of focus and thought. If you lose focus when meditating, you’ll slip out of your heightened state and the effects will be lost. This is something that simply comes with time, and once you’ve practiced you should find it a lot easier to focus.
Existing tools and apps on the market
One of the great things about getting into meditation nowadays is that there are plenty of great tools and applications available to help you with your mindful journey. One of my favorites here is Calm. This app has almost everything you could ever need for meditation; from calming music and sleep meditations, to guided meditations and breathing counters. I use this app frequently, and can’t recommend it highly enough.
There are other great apps and tools available out on the market at the moment, I’d recommend taking a look at your app store to see what you fancy. Headspace is very popular, as is Buddhify. They’ve all got various benefits and drawbacks, so I would recommend researching which one you prefer before you commit to one in particular.
Something to note is that most of them do require a subscription/purchase. It’s not necessary of course- for example, Calm can be used for free with some features. It’s just worth noting as some of the more popular ones can get quite pricey.
Other things that you’ll need
There aren’t too many other things that you’ll need to get started with meditating. Some people like to use meditation cushions or benches for comfort, but it’s perfectly ok to meditate on your floor, sofa or bed. It’s a personal practice, and it should be focused around what you’re the most comfortable with. All you will need is a calm, quiet place where you know that you’re not going to be disturbed by anyone.
Some people like to meditate with other objects, like incense, candles or calming music. These are not essential, but if you think that they would help you relax then it could be a great investment for your personal practice.
Useful online resources
As we saw earlier, it’s a great time to get into meditation. Another reason for this is that there is a huge community online who consistently provide helpful resources. Firstly, there are lots of forums and online communities who are always willing to have a chat about meditation. If you’re new and struggling with something, I’d suggest reaching out to these communities to see if they could help you out.
Another great type of resource that is available is podcasts. Pretty much every niche and activity nowadays has a podcast, and meditation is no exception. If you’re looking to learn more about the history, new techniques or notable people in the industry, then I’d definitely recommend looking into these.
Something else that’s frequently available nowadays online is YouTube meditations. This is where my personal meditation journey started- they’re incredibly helpful. Whether you’re hunting for mindfulness meditation, spirit animal meditations, shamanic drumming music or something else entirely, I’m sure it will be available on YouTube for your convenience.
To sum up, meditation is a wonderful practice to get into. It has countless benefits for your physical health and your mental health, and it can also be great for boosting your self-confidence and happiness. If you struggle with sleep issues, anxiety or stress, this could be the solution to your problems. It can take time to pick up but is undoubtedly worth it.
As long as you get yourself into a habit of meditating regularly and trying to learn more about the practice, I’m confident that you’ll be reaping the benefits of this wonderful activity in no time at all.