As a counsellor, I am often asked by my clients in my one-on-one sessions, “Does meditation help with stress?” Followed by, “my mind is so busy all the time I cannot possibility learn to meditate”.
Meditation is a vital practice of mine which has served and sustained me for many years. I would like to offer you some helpful guidance and tools if you are considering meditation as a daily self care and grounding practice in your own life.
Meditation has the ability to wipe away the day's stress, bringing with it inner peace. It can also allow you to sit with your feelings both difficult and beautiful observing them and then allowing them to move through you.
If stress, has you anxious, tense and worried, consider trying the practice of meditation. Spending even a few minutes in meditation can restore your calm and inner peace.
Anyone can practice meditation. It's simple and inexpensive, and it doesn't require any special equipment.
You are able to easily practice meditation wherever you are — whether you're out for a walk, riding the bus, waiting at the doctor's office or even in the middle of a difficult business meeting.
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. Meditation originally was meant to help deepen understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life. These days, meditation is commonly used for relaxation and stress reduction as well as learning to be comfortable in your own mind and body
Meditation is considered a type of mind-body complementary medicine. Meditation can lead to produce a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind.
During meditation, you focus your attention and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress. This process may result in enhanced physical and emotional well-being.
Benefits of meditation
Meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance that can benefit both your emotional well-being and your overall health.
And these benefits don’t end when your meditation session ends. Meditation can help carry you more calmly through your day and may help you manage symptoms of certain medical conditions.
Meditation and emotional well-being
When you meditate, you may clear away the information overload that builds up every day and contributes to your stress.
The emotional benefits of meditation can include:
- Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
- Building skills to manage your stress
- Increasing self-awareness
- Focusing on the present
- Reducing negative emotions
- Increasing imagination and creativity
- Increasing patience and tolerance
- Meditation might also be useful if you have a medical condition, especially one that may be worsened by stress.
While a growing body of scientific research supports the health benefits of meditation, some researchers believe it's not yet possible to draw conclusions about the possible benefits of meditation.
With that in mind, some research suggests that meditation may help people manage symptoms of conditions such as:
Be sure to talk to your health care provider about the pros and cons of using meditation if you have any of these conditions or other health problems. In some cases, meditation can worsen symptoms associated with certain mental and physical health conditions.
Meditation isn't a replacement for traditional medical treatment. But it may be a useful addition to your other treatment.
Types of meditation
Meditation is an umbrella term for the many ways to a relaxed state of being. There are many types of meditation and relaxation techniques that have meditation components. All share the same goal of achieving inner peace.
Ways to meditate can include:
- Guided meditation. Sometimes called guided imagery or visualization, with this method of meditation you form mental images of places or situations you find relaxing.
You try to use as many senses as possible, such as smells, sights, sounds and textures. You may be led through this process by a guide or teacher.
- Object meditation: when you use an object such as your breath or a stone to focus your attention on
- Mindfulness meditation. This type of meditation is based on being mindful or
having an increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment. In mindfulness meditation, you broaden your conscious awareness. You focus on what you experience during meditation, such as the flow of your breath. You can observe your thoughts and emotions but let them pass without judgment.
4. Qi gong. This practice generally combines meditation, relaxation, physical movement and breathing exercises to restore and maintain balance. Qi gong (CHEE-gung) is part of traditional Chinese medicine.
5. Tai chi. This is a form of gentle Chinese martial arts. In tai chi (TIE-CHEE), you perform a self-paced series of postures or movements in a slow, graceful manner while practicing deep breathing.
6. Yoga. You perform a series of postures and controlled breathing exercises to promote a more flexible body and a calm mind. As you move through poses that require balance and concentration, you're encouraged to focus less on your busy mind and more on the moment.
Elements of meditation
Different types of meditation may include different features to help you meditate. These may vary depending on whose guidance you follow or who's teaching a class. Some of the most common features in meditation include:
Focused attention. Focusing your attention is generally one of the most important elements of meditation.
Focusing your attention is what helps free your mind from the many distractions that cause stress and worry. You can focus your attention on such things as a specific object, an image, a mantra, or even your own breathing.
Relaxed breathing. This technique involves deep, even-paced breathing using the diaphragm muscle to expand your lungs. The purpose is to slow your breathing, take in more oxygen, and reduce the use of shoulder, neck and upper chest muscles while breathing so that you breathe more efficiently.
A quiet setting. If you're a beginner, practicing meditation may be easier if you're in a quiet spot with few distractions, including no television, radios or cellphones.
As you get more skilled at meditation, you may be able to do it anywhere, especially in high-stress situations where you benefit the most from meditation, such as a traffic jam, a stressful work meeting or a long line at the grocery store.
A comfortable position. You can practice meditation whether you're sitting, lying down, walking, or in other positions or activities. Just try to be comfortable so that you can get the most out of your meditation. Aim to keep good posture during meditation.
Open attitude. Allow thoughts pass through your mind without judgment.
You can also listen to sacred music, spoken words, or any music you find relaxing or inspiring. You may want to write your reflections in a journal or discuss them with a friend or spiritual leader.
Focus your love and gratitude. In this type of meditation, you focus your attention on a sacred image or being, weaving feelings of love, compassion and gratitude into your thoughts. You can also close your eyes and use your imagination or gaze at representations of the image.
Building your meditation skills
Don't judge your meditation skills, which may only increase your stress. Meditation takes practice.
Keep in mind, for instance, that it's common for your mind to wander during meditation, no matter how long you've been practicing meditation. If you're meditating to calm your mind and your attention wanders, slowly return to the object, sensation or movement you're focusing on.
Experiment, and you'll likely find out what types of meditation work best for you and what you enjoy doing. Adapt meditation to your needs at the moment. Remember, there's no right way or wrong way to meditate. What matters is that meditation helps you reduce your stress and feel better overall.
Happy Meditating 😊
Amy, Cancer Care Counsellor