The objective of this article is to acquaint readers with the health benefits of meditation and to discuss some of the varying types of mediation available.
By: Susan Adams M.Ed.
Meditation has been useful, according to some recent studies, in improving health by reducing stress. There are various forms of meditation including “mindfulness”, “relaxation response” and prayer meditation. This article provides a detailed account of the three forms of meditation and their effect on the body,.
There are many forms of meditation but the goal of all of them is to focus attention. It is a mind-body process. That is, when focused, the mind is calmed and the body can relax. This creates a sense of well-being thus, the mind’s health influences the body’s health.
Changes in actual brain wave activity during meditation can be shown using electroencephalogram monitoring. EEG measurements of the brain wave activity reflect the various states of conscious. When we are looking at meditation, the deeper the meditative state, the lower the EEG frequency.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, regular meditation can improve longevity and quality of life. It also can reduce high blood pressure, anxiety, substance abuse, and reduce cortisol levels. The cortisol in the blood increases when stress increases. Mediation is also likely to reduce post-traumatic stress syndrome and visits to health care providers. Now, mediation does not replace medical treatment. It does, however, appear to reduce stress and may affect positively the more standard methods of treatment.
Some forms of meditation are easier to learn than others. “Mindfulness Meditation” is growing in popularity. This means that you are able to pay attention to your experience from one moment to the next without being distracted by other thoughts.
“Relaxation Response” is another form of meditation. It emphasizes a type of concentration meditation designed to decrease the often overactive “fight-or flight” response of the sympathetic nervous system. This type of mediation relies on focused attention, whether to repeated words or a pleasing mental image.
Either one of these forms can be done very easily. You may begin by sitting down in a quiet setting. When you are comfortable, focus your attention on a physical sensation such as breathing. You may choose a word or phrase to repeat as you exhale. Allow any distracting thoughts to float away. Stay focused on the central point such as your rhythmic breathing. Start your practice for five minutes and eventually work up to twenty minutes or more twice daily. Meditation like these can often be learned independently with help, if needed, from your local library. You may find other community resources in local universities and community centers to help you.
For some, meditation may also take the form of repetitive prayer. It is not at all limited to certain beliefs or faiths.
With regular practice, meditation can become a daily pleasure. The potential health benefits are an added incentive.