Numerous studies have proven the benefits of regular meditation.
These can include decreased stress, improved concentration, lower blood pressure, and reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression, just to name a few.
And while there are different types of meditation, they can all offer a similar set of proven benefits for mental and physical health. Here’s what research has found.
1. Better focus and concentration
Mindfulness meditation helps you focus on the present, which can improve your concentration on other tasks in daily life.
A 2011 study from the Harvard Medical School examined the effects of mindfulness meditation on the brain and found a connection between mindfulness and processing new information.
The researchers examined the brains of 17 people before and after participating in an eight-week meditation program. Brain scans showed an increase in gray matter in the parts of the brain responsible for learning, memory, and emotional regulation.
Additionally, a 2016 study from researchers at Carnegie Mellon University demonstrated how mindfulness meditation can improve concentration and decision making.
The study consisted of 35 unemployed adults looking for work. One group participated in a three-day relaxation program without mindfulness meditation components, while the other group participated in three days of mindfulness meditation. Brain scans before and after showed an increase in connectivity among parts of the brain that control attention for the meditation group.
“Research shows we can actually train our attention and our meta-awareness, and that this is a learnable skill,” says Richard Davidson, PhD, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and founder of the Center for Healthy Minds.
2. Improve self-esteem and self-awareness
Mindfulness meditation encourages you to slow down, allows for deeper self-reflection, and can help you discover positive attributes about yourself.
“Mindfulness helps increase self-awareness by increasing the ability to examine one’s thoughts and feelings without judgment, which ends up improving self-esteem,” says Brian Wind, PhD, Chief Clinical Officer at JourneyPure.
According to researchers at Stanford University, mindfulness meditation can especially help those with social anxiety. In a 2009 study published in the Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 14 participants with social anxiety disorder participated in two months of meditation training and reported decreased anxiety and improved self-esteem after completing the program.
3. Reduce stress
Mindfulness meditation can also lower the levels of cortisol — the stress hormone —which helps you feel more relaxed.
In a 2013 review, researchers analyzed more than 200 studies of mindfulness meditation among healthy people and found meditation to be an effective way to reduce stress.
Repeating a mantra — such as a word or phrase — during meditation can also have a calming effect, and by concentrating on your mantra, you’re able to shift your focus away from distracting thoughts.
Transcendental meditation has a similar effect, in which you silently repeat a word or sound to keep yourself focused, and as a result you’re able to reach a state of complete stillness and stability, says David Foley, founder of Unify Cosmos, a meditation center in Oklahoma.
For example, a 2019 study showed a reduction in psychological distress among teachers and support staff who participated in a transcendental meditation program.
Researchers used stress scales before and after the program to measure the participants’ levels of burnout, depression, and stress. After receiving a seven-step transcendental meditation course, participants practiced meditation twice a day for 15 to 20 minutes over the course of four months and reported lower levels of stress and burnout than before learning the techniques.
4. Manage anxiety or depression
Mindfulness meditation helps train your mind to focus on the present, making you less likely to ruminate on anxious thoughts that can fuel depression.
A 2014 research analysis published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that mindful meditation can help ease anxiety and depression, and could be part of a comprehensive mental health treatment plan.
Research has also supported the benefits of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) — a therapy program that incorporates mindfulness meditation. Studies have found that MBSR can help those with anxiety calm their minds and reduce symptoms of depression, including trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, and low mood.
5. Fight addiction
Meditation can alter the brain receptors associated with drug and alcohol addiction, which may reduce cravings for these substances, Davidson says. Additionally, mindfulness meditation can increase your awareness of cravings and allow you to better manage them.
“That awareness is really powerful because it can allow us to ride the urge or the craving… without getting overcome by it,” Davidson says. “We can notice the urge, notice that it’s there, but we don’t have to give into it.”
A 2018 study published in Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation found that mindfulness training can help prevent future relapses for people with a substance use disorder, as it produces a therapeutic effect that helps regulate how the brain experiences pleasure.
6. Control pain
Many doctors recommend mindful meditation practices as part of a comprehensive pain management plan, Davidson says.
For example, a 2020 study of more than 6,400 participants across 60 trials found that meditation could reduce pain in those who suffered from post-surgical, acute, or chronic pain.
It’s not going to be a cure all for everything and it won’t necessarily make the pain go away,” Davidson says. “We can recognize that the pain is there, but we don’t get ensnared by it in the same way, and that can be enormously beneficial in helping us cope with chronic pain.”
7. Make you more kind or loving
Loving kindness meditation can foster compassion for yourself and others. It strengthens circuits in the brain that pick up on other people’s emotions, promotes altruistic behavior, and decreases the implicit or unconscious bias responsible for perpetuating harmful stereotypes.
To start a loving kindness meditation, you might envision a loved one in your mind and wish them happiness. You can then extend that love to yourself and other people in your life.
“You can use a simple phrase that you silently repeat to yourself, like ‘may you enjoy happiness’ as you hold that person in your mind,” Davidson says.
The bottom line
Meditation can have many health benefits, from physical to mental and emotional. If you’d like to improve your focus, reduce stress, or deal with addiction, depression, or chronic pain, you should give it a try and see if it’s right for you.
To get started, check out our beginner’s guide for how to meditate.
Thousands of studies have shown the positive effects of meditation. Here are the highlights.
- By Wanderlust
- March 7, 2016
Sergey Nivens/Dollar Photo Club
The benefits of a meditation practice are no secret. The practice is often touted as a habit of highly successful (and happy) people, recommended as a means of coping with stress and anxiety, and praised as the next-big-thing in mainstream wellness. And it’s not just anecdotal. Thousands of studies have shown the positive impact that meditating has on our health and well-being. We’ve culled through the list to bring you highlights from the early stages of research into mindfulness.
Sleep Better: More Shut-Eye at Night Means Brighter Days
Sleep isn’t just relaxation for eight hours a day—it’s essential to our cognitive functioning. Meditation gives you all sorts of benefits, like enhanced REM sleep and increased levels of melatonin.
Turns out it can even help serious sleep problems. Researchers conducted a study to see if mindfulness meditation would benefit those struggling with chronic insomnia. After eight weeks, those in the meditation training had less total wake time during the night, were more relaxed before going to bed, and reduced the severity of their sleep problems. Plus, in a follow up study six months later, the insomnia sufferers had maintained a better quality of sleep.
Stress Less: Make Room for More Happiness
It’s a little-known secret that Wall Street execs, famous artists, and Silicon Valley whiz kids are some of the biggest advocates of meditation as a way to manage stress.
A 2005 study at Harvard Medical School found that meditation increases the thickness of your prefrontal cortex, the area of your brain associated with attention and self-awareness.
Furthermore, we now know it even reduces employee stress and burnout. A study on teachers at a school for children with severe behavioral problems who were treated to a Transcendental Meditation program had less stress, less depression, and overall lower burnout than other teachers.
More Mindful Meals: No More Stress Eating
Researchers at UC San Francisco studied a group of women to test if meditating could prevent overeating. The scientists didn’t prescribe any diet, but instead taught mindful eating, and had participants meditate for thirty minutes a day. What happened? While the control group actually gained weight, the treatment participants maintained their weights, plus lowered their cortisol levels. Higher reductions in cortisol and stress also showed higher reductions in abdominal fat.
Reduce Pain and Heal Faster: Relieve Pain by Changing Your Mind
Jon Kabat-Zinn, who heads up the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine at University of Massachusetts Medical School, proved back in the ‘80s that meditation and mindfulness could significantly improve pain symptoms and quality of life in chronic pain patients, even up to four years later. His program, called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is practiced widely.
Recently, we’ve also gotten a look at how the brain might be involved. When researchers had people participate in four days of mindfulness-based training, participants reported less pain intensity and unpleasantness. What’s more, MRIs showed reductions in pain-induced cerebral blood flow during meditation sessions.
Beat Anxiety: Send Worries Packing
Focusing on all the terrible things that might happen to us—but often don’t!—takes us away from the present, and causes our bodies a lot of stress.
Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist and assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, found that meditation could even help those with generalized anxiety disorder, a condition marked by hard-to-control worries, poor sleep, and irritability.
Smile More: A Happy Pill, with No Side Effects
Meditation helps us gain awareness of our minds, so we can see negative thoughts and say “those thoughts are not me.” Becoming less identified with our emotions and thoughts helps those thoughts lose power.
A Harvard study found that mind-wandering, which often means drifting to these negative thoughts, was linked to unhappiness. And recently, Madhav Goyal, who led a study by Johns Hopkins researchers, said that for depression, “we found a roughly 10 to 20 percent improvement in depressive symptoms compared to the placebo groups. This is similar to the effects of antidepressants in similar populations.”
Relax: Don’t Let the Little Things Get You Down
Investigators from the Benson-Henry Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital found that practicing meditation causes what is called the “relaxation response,” the opposite of the “fight-or-flight” response—what happens to our bodies when we get stressed. Their studies showed that the relaxation response alleviates anxiety and also has positive effects on heart rate, blood pressure, and brain activity.
Enhance Your Love Life: Your Relationship Will Thank You
Your partner will thank you. By learning to better recognize your own emotions, and those of others, you’ll more easily experience lasting harmony in your relationships.
Researchers from the University of California-San Francisco taught 82 female teachers, all married or living with a partner, how to meditate. Compared with a control group that hadn’t learned meditation, the women gave fewer negative facial expressions during a marital interaction test. Good news, because studies at UC Berkeley showed that people who demonstrate negative facial expressions toward their partners are more likely to divorce.
Maharishi International University in Iowa found that women who practiced meditation reported significantly greater marital satisfaction than those who didn’t. Those who meditated regularly saw the greatest benefits.
Lead a Successful Life: A Clear Path to Achieving Your Goals
Maybe you’ve heard that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be great at something. The Beatles played 1,200 concerts together before becoming internationally known. Bill Gates started programming in eighth grade. But new research shows there’s a different formula for success.
World-class athletes, top managers and world-class performers, when tested, have all shown high levels of what’s called brain integration. This means that their brains are wired with strong connections between the different areas, they have heightened attention, and they’re able to think quickly to deal with problems.
This is the new key to success, as noted by U.S. neuroscientist Dr. Fred Travis, because it’s the fire starter behind the creativity that often leads to success.
Luckily, a study from Harvard Medical School demonstrated that meditation causes changes in brain waves that actually improve the brain’s functionality. You can find success in any area of your life, and just think of all the time you’ll save!
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Do You Want To Learn How To Meditate?
Did you know that you can get Private Meditation Instruction & Personalized Guided Meditation with Marilyn Hastings?
This private session creates a personalized environment to experience various meditation techniques according to your own unique preferences. We go at your pace and comfort, maximizing a relaxed approach to mediation. This service includes a personalized Guided Meditation to enhance an area of your life, that you choose, for more well-being, abundance and joy!
Marilyn can also tell you about her scheduled group meditation classes.
Stressed out? Here’s how just 20 minutes a day spent meditating can improve health.
Often thought of as a hippy-dippy practice aimed at transcendence, meditation is coming into its own as a stress-reduction technique for even the most type-A kind of people.
In 2005, for instance, severe chest pains sent Michael Mitchell to the emergency room in fear of a heart attack. It turned out to be gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Nevertheless, after checking his heart, the doctor admitted him and chastised him for not coming in sooner. “That really shook me up. It was a wake-up call to have a look at my type A personality and workaholic lifestyle,” says the 44-year-old Simi Valley, Calif., statistician for the Veterans Health Administration.
Mitchell had shrugged off his high blood pressure, but now he kicked off a personal makeover. He read books on happiness, started psychotherapy, and got more exercise. And, despite a skeptical frame of mind, Mitchell turned to meditation on the recommendation of a trusted co-worker. Within a month, he felt more relaxed — and his blood pressure returned to normal.
Health benefits of meditation
Mitchell’s experience is borne out by studies showing that meditation not only lowers blood pressure but also can amp up your immune system — although the mechanism isn’t clear — while improving your ability to concentrate.
Those who meditate can choose among a wide range of practices, both religious and secular. What they have in common are a narrowing of focus that shuts out the external world and usually a stilling of the body, says Charles L. Raison, MD, clinical director of the Mind-Body Program at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.
Raison participated in a study that indicated that meditation improved both physical and emotional responses to stress. In the study, people who meditated regularly for six weeks showed less activation of their immune systems and less emotional distress when they were put in a stressful situation.
Meditation and stress reduction
Stress reduction could be the key to meditation’s beneficial effect on health. “We know stress is a contributor to all the major modern killers,” Raison points out. More studies have shown improvement for fibromyalgia and even psoriasis in patients who meditate. “It’s hard to think of an illness in which stress and mood don’t figure,” Raison says.
Science hasn’t yet connected the dots between what happens in the meditating brain and the immune system. But a University of Wisconsin study saw increased electrical activity in regions of the left frontal lobe, an area that tends to be more active in optimistic people, after eight weeks of training in meditation.
How to learn to meditate
If you think that meditation might help you unwind a bit, there are dozens of techniques and disciplines available, from saying a mantra to staring at a candle flame to counting breaths. Keep trying until something feels right. And check out community centers, local colleges, and HMOs for classes; they’re often affordable at such places.
Mitchell himself now meditates almost every morning, sitting on a special bench in his living room. He’s better at coping with life’s vicissitudes, he says, adding that if he slacks off “little things get under my skin in a way they normally wouldn’t. When I get back into the rhythm, I wonder why I let myself get away from meditating regularly.”
Sources: Charles L. Raison, MD, clinical director of the Mind-Body Program at Emory University’s School of Medicine, Atlanta, Ga. Dusek, JA, et al., The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2008, 14 (2): 129-138. Davidson RJ, Psychosomatic Medicine 2003, Vol. 65, 564-570. Amishi, JP, Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, Vol. 7, No. 2, 109-119(11). Thaddeus, WW, Psychoneuroendocrinology 2008, 34(1): 87-98. Sephton, SE, Arthritis and Rheumatism, 2007,Vol. 57, 77—85. Kabat-Zinn, J, Psychosomatic Medicine, Vol. 60(5) 625-632. Davidson, RJ, Psychosomatic Medicine, 2003, Vol. 65, 564-570.
Meditation isn’t very hard. In fact: if you can breathe, you can meditate. Learn how to meditate, as taught by the Buddha, with our easy-to-follow guide.
Photo by Marvin Moore.
How to Practice Breath Meditation
Breath meditation is likely the most popular and straightforward meditation practice. It is also the basis of many other forms of meditation. Try these essential instructions.
Find a quiet and uplifted place where you can do your meditation practice. When starting out, see if you can allow 5 minutes for the practice.
1. Take your seat. Sit cross-legged on a meditation cushion or on a straight-backed chair with your feet flat on the floor, without leaning against the back of the chair.
2. Find your sitting posture. Place your hands palms-down on your thighs and sit in an upright posture with a straight back—relaxed yet dignified. With your eyes open, let your gaze rest comfortably as you look slightly downward about six feet in front of you.
3. Notice and follow your breath. Place your attention lightly on your out-breath, while remaining aware of your environment. Be with each breath as the air goes out through your mouth and nostrils and dissolves into the space around you.
At the end of each out-breath, simply rest until the next in-breath naturally begins. For a more focused meditation, you can follow both the out-breaths and in-breaths.
4. Note the thoughts and feelings that arise. Whenever you notice that a thought, feeling, or perception has taken your attention away from the breath, just say to yourself, “thinking,” and return to following the breath. No need to judge yourself when this happens; just gently note it and attend to your breath and posture.
5. End your session. After the allotted time, you can consider your meditation practice period over. But there’s no need to give up any sense of calm, mindfulness, or openness you’ve experienced. See if you can consciously allow these to remain present through the rest of your day.
There! You’ve just meditated! For more guidance, follow along with the audio version of this meditation while sitting:
Breath meditation is a vital practice in itself, but it also represents the very foundation of all of Buddhist meditation’s varied forms. We’ll get to some of these shortly. But first: you probably have some questions.
What is Meditation?
Buddhist meditation is the practice of intentionally working with your mind. There are several asian words that translate to “meditation.” These include bhavana—which in Sanskrit means both “meditation” and “to cultivate”—and the Tibetan word gom, which literally means “to become familiar with.” Basic Buddhist meditation starts with practices to help calm and concentrate the mind. From there, you can begin to investigate the nature of reality and develop insight.
The most common form of meditation is breath meditation, in which you rest your attention on your breath, as described in the instruction above. Different Buddhist traditions have slightly different instructions for breath meditation. Vipassana meditation is the form of meditation thought to have been taught by the Buddha himself. Zazen is the stripped-down practice at the core of Zen Buddhism. Mindfulness is the science-backed practice gaining popularity in education, business, and healthcare.
Below, you’ll see some different types of sitting meditation. Try a few, and see what feels right for you. Tip: Stick with each meditation for a few sessions to develop a full sense of how it works for you.
WhatвЂ™s the Bottom Line?
How much do we know about meditation?
Many studies have been conducted to look at how meditation may be helpful for a variety of conditions, such as high blood pressure, certain psychological disorders, and pain. A number of studies also have helped researchers learn how meditation might work and how it affects the brain.
What do we know about the effectiveness of meditation?
Some research suggests that practicing meditation may reduce blood pressure, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression, and insomnia. Evidence about its effectiveness for pain and as a smoking-cessation treatment is uncertain.
What do we know about the safety of meditation?
Meditation is generally considered to be safe for healthy people. However, people with physical limitations may not be able to participate in certain meditative practices involving movement.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is a mind and body practice that has a long history of use for increasing calmness and physical relaxation, improving psychological balance, coping with illness, and enhancing overall health and well-being. Mind and body practices focus on the interactions among the brain, mind, body, and behavior. A new report based on data from the 2017 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) found that U.S. adultsвЂ™ use of meditation in the past 12 months tripled between 2012 and 2017 (from 4.1 percent to 14.2 percent). The use of meditation by U.S. children (aged 4 to 17 years) also increased significantly (from 0.6 percent in 2012 to 5.4 percent in 2017).
There are many types of meditation, but most have four elements in common: a quiet location with as few distractions as possible; a specific, comfortable posture (sitting, lying down, walking, or in other positions); a focus of attention (a specially chosen word or set of words, an object, or the sensations of the breath); and an open attitude (letting distractions come and go naturally without judging them).
What the Science Says About the Effectiveness of Meditation
Many studies have investigated meditation for different conditions, and thereвЂ™s evidence that it may reduce blood pressure as well as symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and flare-ups in people who have had ulcerative colitis. It may ease symptoms of anxiety and depression, and may help people with insomnia.
Read more about meditation for these conditions:
The ability to focus is a habit of mind.
Posted Feb 22, 2011
- Understanding Attention
- Find a therapist to help with ADHD
When you were a child, like all children, you were told numerous times, “Pay attention!” Now, if you are old enough to have reached senior status, you may have that problem again. Aging processes make many seniors as inattentive as they were as children. Few people have the temerity to tell a senior to “pay attention,” so you may have to be your own taskmaster.
The implied assumption in all this is that people learn to focus and have to be reminded often in order to master the ability to concentrate. Over the years, people can improve their ability to concentrate. The ability to focus is a habit of mind, one that must be acquired through years of being reminded and of doing it. If this habit has deteriorated, it is not too hard to re-learn it.
Of course, with today’s schoolchildren, it is a different matter. Any experienced teacher will tell you that kids’ attention spans are terrible and much shorter than was typical a generation ago. The problem, presumably, is our new age of multitasking, where the constant flitting from texting to phone calls to web browsing to video games and the like is making our kids scatterbrained.
Everybody from first-grade school teachers to Ph.D. candidates knows that to learn and remember things, you need to pay attention. The trick is how to make yourself more attentive and focused. A great book on this topic has been written by Winifred Galagher called Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life.
What does one do to improve their ability to concentrate? It takes the discipline of frequent self-reminding. You learn to focus by making yourself do it—again and again—until it becomes a habit, a way of thinking. Here are some specific tips:
1. Value attentiveness. Realize that you create your personal reality by what you pay attention to. All of us get much less out of life than we could, because we are not paying attention.
2. Live in the now. An expert on this philosophy, Eckhart Tolle, says, “The clock’s hands move, but it is always now.” Grab the present intensely. You cannot know the future and you cannot re-do the past. You can correct for past weaknesses and mistakes and reduce their likelihood in the future, but it has to be done in the now.
3. Be more aware. Consciously attend to what you are doing, why, and how. Be aware of how you feel. Emotions affect the ability to focus. If how you feel interferes with your concentration, change how you feel. It IS a choice.
4. Notice the little things. Develop an eye for detail. See the forest, but also see the trees (and the leaves, bark, insects, birds, squirrels, and everything else there). Notice the small pleasures of life. This teaches you how to focus and makes you happier. Target things that are fun and provide positive reinforcement.
5. Set goals, and monitor your progress. Keep track of how you are getting goals achieved and what adjustments need to be made along the way.
6. Identify your “targets of attention.” Think of what you are experiencing as targets for attentiveness and take mental aim at them. Targets should be interesting or have a clear value. If these attributes are not apparent, you must consciously enable them. Make tough choices about your targets of attention. Attend to those things that serve your own best interests. Choose challenging targets of attention, ones that push you to the edge of your competence.
7. Shut out distractions. Don’t be sidetracked by interruptions or mind wandering. In memory tournaments, contestants wear earplugs. Germans are said to wear glasses with side blinders. Some contestants face a blank wall.
8. Don’t multitask. This is the archenemy of attentiveness and profoundly interferes with the ability to learn—and especially to remember. Multitasking creates a superficial way of thinking that also imperils the ability to think deeply in intellectually demanding situations.
9. Fight boredom. Make your targets of attention more engaging by creating competition or making them into some sort of game. Enliven dull work by thinking of it in novel ways. Find ways to change the pace of your attention. Don’t let it become a drill.
10. Make emotion work for you. Develop a passion for what you experience, as that will rivet your attention. Both negative and positive emotions work. The kiss of death for learning is to be bored and detached from what you are trying to learn. Ask any school teacher how big a problem that is for so many students.
11. Practice attentiveness. Acquiring good concentration ability isn’t much different from developing a good golf swing. You have to practice. Psychologist Ellen Langer suggests staring at your finger, for example. Attentiveness is cultivated from the more you notice: the dirt, distribution of hair, pattern of skin folds, shape of the knuckles, and features of the nail (shape, color of quick, ridges, etc.). Do similar exercises with any object you encounter. You will find that daily life experiences become more engaging. You will get more out of life.
12. Learn how to meditate. See how long you can sustain focus on your breathing and keep out all intruding thoughts. Notice all things associated with the breathing, but nothing else. Hear the sound of the moving air with each breath. Feel the pulse in your neck. If you don’t feel it, crook your neck or lie down to feel it in your back or hear it by turning your ear to a pillow. Notice the rhythm and the gradual slowing. Feel your clothes shifting position and the tension flowing out of your muscles, first in the jaw, then in the back and legs. Not only does meditation teach your brain how to concentrate, it also lowers blood pressure and contributes to peace of mind.
By now, what may have once been considered something for the hippy set in American culture is mainstream. From wellness enthusiasts to high-performance athletes and everyone in between, the ancient practice of meditation is “in.” Unlike most passing trends, however, there is a growing body of science to bolster its positive health benefits and therefore increasing interest of a regular meditation practice. These benefits can help change the way we approach life and handle day-to-day challenges, which is something ancient cultures have known long before Americans folded the practice into our own wellness routines. According to Time magazine, the practice has “religious ties in ancient Egypt and China, as well as Judaism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism and, of course, Buddhism.”
Types of Meditation Techniques
At least by modern American practices, meditation is widely used as a relaxation tool, like a massage for the mind. And just like there are many ways to compose a kale salad, meditation comes with a variety of techniques. For example, meditation app Headspace outlines 16 different kinds and includes techniques like focused attention, visualization, and one particular type called Transcendental Meditation (TM), which has captured the interest of celebrities since The Beatles got into it in the 1960s, according to GQ magazine.
What Is Transcendental Meditation?
Transcendental meditation involves silently repeating a mantra for 15–20 minutes a day and is commonly done sitting with the eyes closed. It is one of the most widely practiced meditation techniques.
The Transcendental Meditation website makes a point to state that TM is “not a religion, philosophy, or lifestyle.” Instead, it is a method for achieving a greater sense of peace and calm into daily life, not to mention the benefit of being present (which, it seems, is harder to do these days.) Whether you’re searching for greater meaning, seeking relief from anxiety, or hoping to slow down rapid thoughts, meditation may help.
Transcendental Meditation (TM) may seem intimidating—especially when newbies hear that TM asks practitioners to sit and meditate for 20 minutes—though Shel Pink, founder of SpaRitual and author of “Slow Beauty,” says it’s surprisingly accessible. “Anyone can practice TM… [it] is an effortless and evidence-based meditation practice,” she tells MyDomaine. Pink has practiced TM for 20 years as part of her holistic lifestyle.
Meet the Expert
Shel Pink is the founder of SpaRitual, a sustainable, vegan beauty brand based on the rituals of self-care, and the author of “Slow Beauty.”
Here’s how to do Transcendental Meditation, according to a seasoned practitioner.
Transcendental Meditation is Mantra Meditation
The main difference between Transcendental Meditation and other forms of meditation is the mantra you’re asked to repeat during a meditation session. “In TM, the mantra, used as the vehicle to help the mind settle down, is a meaningless sound versus other types of meditation that use words, phrases, or visualizations during the meditation practice,” says Pink. By focusing exclusively on your mantra, you aim to achieve a state of perfect stillness and consciousness.
I feel a sense of calm, and when I’m done, I have more energy and feel more focused and productive.
While some meditation practices encourage emptying the mind of all thoughts, TM encourages thoughts to come and go, like the passive activity of watching a cloud float by. According to Pink, this is an incredible strategy to manage daily anxieties created by worrisome thinking. “It teaches you how to create a space between you and your thoughts and become an observer.”
How to Do Transcendental Meditation
The journey of Transcendental Meditation begins by finding a certified TM teacher and taking courses to learn the practice. Teachers are certified by Maharishi Foundation USA, a federally-recognized non-profit organization. As an experienced practitioner, Pink meditates twice-daily for 20 minutes. Here’s what a typical practice looks like, according to Pink:
1. Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet on the ground and hands in your lap. Leave your legs and arms uncrossed.
2. Close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths to relax the body.
3. Open your eyes, and then close them again. Your eyes will remain closed during the 20-minute practice.
4. Repeat a mantra in your mind. This is typically a Sanskrit sound learned from a TM teacher.
5. When you recognize you’re having a thought, simply return to the mantra.
6. After 20 minutes, begin to move your fingers and toes to ease yourself back to the world.
7. Open your eyes.
8. Sit for a few more minutes until you feel ready to continue with your day.
More Benefits of Meditation
“When I practice TM, I feel the stress melting away from my body. I feel a sense of calm, and when I’m done, I have more energy and feel more focused and productive. I am more peaceful, proactive, and less reactive to situations beyond my control,” says Pink. According to the Cleveland Clinic, while research on the benefits of meditation are ongoing, existing research indicates a regular meditation practice can help “improve sleep, improve pain management. improve self-esteem, improve concentration,” and even “decrease menopausal symptoms, and reduce the severity of symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.”
Says Pink, “It is a tool to help people achieve a positive state of mind and a deep sense of inner peace for optimal health.”
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Published research has found that the use of Unyte’s products may, as part of a healthy lifestyle, help reduce the risk of or help living well with certain health conditions, including stress, anxiety, depression, pain and many others.
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“One of the most important tools you can incorporate into your life, to affect not only the longevity of your life, but the quality of your life, is a slower, deeper, breathing practice. These exercises do just that.”
“In my opinion, the best program for working at home or office on relaxation and self-regulation skills is the Relaxing Rhythms program.”
“My clients with PTSD, panic and anxiety disorders, and cardiovascular disease have clearly benefited from this approach. Thanks for making biofeedback training so accessible!”
“Students in our campus health center really love it. It’s a unique product that allows them to explore relaxation and stress reduction techniques for the first time in their lives.”
“This product is very helpful for young people with anxiety as it teaches them to still their mind in a format that they are very familiar with – games.
“With Unyte, I learned to meditate and relax while enjoying myself immensely. I definitely recommend this to anyone who wants to improve their quality of life. The games are a fantastic tool that I now use whenever I feel stressed or uneasy.”
We use the biofeedback games with children and adolescents who are struggling with symptoms of anxiety. We schedule them for 30 minute sessions at a time and use them alongside mindfulness instruction. The system does a great job keeping clients focused.
We have made it available for students in our campus counseling center. The students who use it really love it. It’s a unique product that allows them to explore relaxation and stress reduction techniques for the first time in their lives.
Memory problems plague us all as we grow older, none of us are immune to father time. Good thing for you, meditation has been scientifically proven as the best natural solution for both long and short term memory, here are 5 reasons why:
1. Meditation = Mind Strength Training: As we age, our mental capacity peaks and then begins to deteriorate. Using your mind to reach high levels of concentration & laser-like focus is central to meditation. When you do this, you are strengthening & exercising your mind, to keep it in incredible shape. When we meditate we work our mental muscle, prolonging the life of our brain, keeping us from suffering memory loss.
2. Meditation Slows the Aging Process: Stress, a huge factor in accelerated aging characteristics such as memory loss, is greatly reduced after beginning a meditation program. Indeed, many doctors and scientists believe meditation to be the elusive “fountain of youth” for both the body and brain.
3. Meditation taps into the untapped subconscious memory stores: Meditation can help you remember things that you may have already forgotten. With no place within your brain to discard memories, memory stays stored in your brain subconsciously, and only needs to be accessed.
Often, our tools for accessing memory are what we lose. Meditation is the very best way to harness the power of the subconscious mind, thereby retrieving seemingly long forgotten information, healthily & naturally.
4. Meditation stimulates memory associated brain regions: The major long term memory and short term memory storage centers, the Hippocampus and frontal brain lobe, both light up during meditation.
What does this mean for you? By flexing your memory muscle in meditation, your information storage mechanisms multiply, ensuring that your brain retains the ability to store new memories now, and as you age.
5. Meditation increases our focus: Often, when we have memory problems, they come from our lack of attentiveness to a certain subject, such as a person’s name. By being focused and in the moment, which is what meditation teaches us to be, we can better recall important details, because we actively store them as memory and assign them significance.
If you want to upgrade your memory, its clear that meditation is the most robust, highly tested, dynamic product on the market — with the benefits of meditation going far beyond the brain.