The science behind meditation is not lacking. Though the practice is thousands of years old, in the last decade science has taken a particular interest in the efficacy and benefit of meditation. Brain imaging studies, behavioral studies, and even studies conducted on the smallest parts of our cellular make up have all found that regular meditation practice can greatly improve our wellbeing in mind, body, and spirit.
For most people, the image of meditation comes up something like a bald-headed monk wrapped in robes sitting cross-legged with his eyes closed finding Nirvana somewhere in his mind. Many people avoid meditation out of fear of not being able to quiet the mind or sit still for long periods of time. What science and more modern forms of meditation have found is that prolonged sitting, silent meditation isn’t necessarily the answer to better wellbeing. Some research has suggested that we need only five to ten minutes of meditation to be positively impacted by the practice. Those five to ten minutes only require a present-awareness of the breath and consistent deep breathing. Much of scientific inquiry has been lent to “mindfulness” and mindful meditation, which has proved to have a wealth of positive benefits. Thankfully, there are numerous kinds of meditation to choose from in order to create your own practice and gain the benefits.
Sitting meditation is the most traditional form of meditation and may include components of other kinds of meditation like mindfulness, mantra, visualization, a guided meditation, and more. By sitting, we can tune into our bodies in order to help quiet our minds. However, sitting still for long doesn’t work for many people, which is why moving meditation can also be an option.
Listen to any athlete talk about the sport they love and they will tell you about a state they enter into while playing: all the noise disappears, everything slows down, they’re completely present and in tune with their bodies, and all they hear is their breath. Meditation can be found in movement when we focus on our breath and bring ourselves into a present state with our movements.
We often don’t realize how little we are intentionally mindful until we practice being intentionally mindful. Mindfulness meditation can take many forms, from visualization practice to progressive muscle relaxation practice, to body scanning practice, to other guided practices as well. Mindfulness-based meditation practices ask us to simply become aware, to notice, and to pay attention without judgment or attachment.
Mantra meditation has had a history across many religions for thousands of years. The practice involves repeating small sentiments over and over, often as part of the breathing cycle. Compassion, gratitude, the love of God, loving-kindness, and spiritual texts are popular intentions or focuses used for this kind of meditation.
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