The Challenge: You’ve heard meditation is good for you, but don’t know where to start!
The Science: Different meditations impact you in different ways.
The Solution: Find the type of meditation that’s right for you!
Here’s a sampling of different types of meditation:
Mindfulness Meditation: Mindfulness meditation involves paying attention to sensations, feelings and thoughts in a non-judgmental way. “Mindfulness-based” therapies and educational programs are springing up in clinics and schools across the country. Countless studies are showing that mindfulness meditation is beneficial for attention, memory and stress reduction.
Effortless Meditation: Mindfulness has received a lot of attention, however, a recent study showed that more unfocused meditations can have even greater benefits for stress and emotions. For this reason, you may want to try a more unfocused meditation. Guided meditations or mantra meditations require less effort and involve more relaxation for the mind. In particular, this kind of meditation may be suited to people who already are very focused and have a tendency towards being Type A. For them, a meditation that relaxes the mind and coaxes is to go into a more unfocused state may be more appropriate than a meditation that encourages focus and concentration.
Breathing Exercises: Research suggests that yogic breathing exercises like SKY Meditation can have a tremendously soothing impact on the nervous system (see here and here). Especially in the case of high anxiety or depression, breathing may be the best approach because it both calms the mind and energizes the body.
Loving-Kindness Meditation: Loving-Kindness meditation focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness and warmth towards others (Salzberg, 1997). As I’ve described in my TEDx talk, compassion, kindness and empathy are crucial for our health, well-being and even longevity. Research shows that loving-kindness meditation has a tremendous amount of benefits ranging from benefiting well-being, to giving relief from illness and improving emotional intelligence. For 18 science-backed benefits of loving-kindness meditation, see here.
How can you best figure out what works for you? Taking a class is really the best way. But another great way to start from your own home (or car or office) is to use one of the following handy apps.
These are iTunes’ current top 5 meditation apps:
This app is one of the most comprehensive and advanced meditation apps out there. It’s relatively new but already has celebrities like Hollywood actor Harry Cook tweeting about it. It offers a wide variety of guided meditations by experts in the field, includes a meditation timer, a heart rate monitor, a mood tracker, challenges and trophies to help you keep track of your goals and an insights engine so you can track meditation’s impact on your well-being. App is free.
The name says it all. Meditation, music, nature scenes all designed for you to get your relaxation on. Over 50 guided meditations for a variety of goals from sleep to focus. App is free. Premium content comes at a fee.
An introduction to meditation featuring a 10 session 10 minute class, progress reports, a buddy system, reminders and rewards. App with introductory features is free. Premium subscription comes at a fee.
Features guided meditations by a number of meditation teachers. Also features reminders and timers. App comes at a fee.
Over 80 guided meditations that help you achieve your goals: sleep, working through difficult emotions, productivity, etc. App provides a timer, a tracker and meditations for different circumstances (e.g. while you are commuting). App comes at a fee.
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