What is Meditation?
This anxiety practice, which spans almost every spiritual tradition and has many secular forms, is best defined as a broad category of activities that encourage a heightened state of awareness and concentration. These activities increase calmness and physical relaxation, improve psychological balance, promote coping with illness and enhance overall health and well-being.
There are several sub-categories under the meditation umbrella. Among the most common:
Prayer or connection to a higher power, in the context of any religion or spiritual practice.
“Transcending” ordinary thinking from a seated position and repeating a mantra or sound (without meaning) to reach a state of stillness and order.
Similar to transcendental meditation, except the mantra used is a word or phrase that has an exterior meaning to guide the user, such as “health” or “love.”
The user focuses on a predetermined object, music, sensation or their own breath to quiet their mind.
Movement is the focus for the brain, as well as a release of energy. Yoga and tai chi are prime examples; but most any kind of physical movement or exercise can work.
Breath and bodily sensations are the primary focus. Practitioners acknowledge thoughts that pass through their brain, taking note of any patterns and letting them go without involvement or judgement and drawing their attention back to the present.
How do meditation and mindfulness differ?
Mindfulness is a quality, a state of mind that can be cultivated through meditation, which is typically done at a specific time in a spot with relatively few distractions, or during the flow of daily events like getting dressed in the morning, eating a meal, drinking coffee or engaging in conversation. In either case, the point is to acknowledge distracting thoughts and then draw your attention back to the present.
What are the benefits of combining mindfulness and meditation?
Mindfulness meditation, like other forms of meditation, has been shown to have many positive mental and physical effects for those who practice it regularly.
- During a 2016 study of about 120 Alzheimer’s patients, those who participated in mindfulness meditation for two years scored higher on mental agility tests than others trained in progressive muscle relaxation or a control group.
- In 2005, mindfulness meditation was found to be more effective at lifting participants out of depression and anxiety than using distraction methods or allowing them to ruminate about their situation.
- When 56 people with pre-hypertension were studied in 2013, those who were instructed to practice mindfulness meditation lowered their pressure significantly more than another group trained in progressive muscle relaxation.
- Research released in 2013 found that 11 chronic pain patients who had abused opioid prescription drugs who underwent “mindfulness-oriented recovery enhancement” training to notice “natural stimuli,” such as pleasant images, showed stronger responses to those stimuli on an EEG test than a control group which did not.
Photo of Jeremiah Scheffer at Granite Basin Lake by Blushing Cactus Photography