Welcome to another edition of Wellness Wednesday! As part of our continued look at the benefits of meditation on overall health and wellness, I thought this week would be a great time to introduce different styles of meditation practices. While these various techniques may not all work for you, not to worry! The evolution and expansion of the practice over time is indicative of the fact that there is not a “one size fits all” meditation, and part of the therapeutic value is the journey of self-discovery to find what works best for you. With that in mind, here are four proven types of mindful meditative practice that you can easily incorporate into your daily schedule:
1. Breathing Meditation
One of the easiest meditation practices involves simply being mindful of your breathing. By focusing your attention on the natural rhythm and flow of your breath, you become more centered in times of stress and engage the parasympathetic nervous system, which lowers your heartbeat and promotes rest and relaxation. While a benefit of this practice is that it can be easily accessed anytime that stressors or negative emotions arise, I still suggest using a guided audio or video whenever possible to help you temporarily escape and anchor yourself for optimal results.
2. Body Scanning
Body scanning is one of my favorite practices to incorporate into my physical therapy practice with patients because of its proven effectiveness on pain reduction. Simply put, body scanning is yet another mindful meditation practice whereby you focus your attention on your physical self and fully experience the various sensations that arise without judgment. The goal of this practice is not only to anchor yourself (and trigger yet another relaxation response) but to train your mind to become more aware and accepting of the sensory experiences of daily life.
3. Mindful Self-Compassion
This practice involves simply taking time to extend feelings of love and kindness to yourself. Rather than ruminate on negative emotions and experiences that lead to increased anxiety, the goal is to experience such difficult events with openness, sympathy, and understanding to promote self-soothing. Research has shown that these self-compassion practices can not only reduce anxiety and depression but can also reinforce healthy lifestyle habits such as diet and exercise. Further, once you develop skills of self-compassion, you will be better able to improve your surrounding environment by extending such kindness to those around you.
4. Thought Observation
In this practice, the idea is simply to observe the ebb and flow of your thoughts over time. Rather than assigning value or judgment to these thoughts, you simply observe their presence and return your focus to the present moment. While this practice can prove difficult given the constant array of information that bombards us on a daily basis, it can also be incredibly therapeutic as it provides yet another means to focus our attention and be gentle with ourselves.
There is no doubt that mindful meditation provides long-lasting physical and mental health benefits that we all seek in our daily lives. However, many of my patients wonder where to start. With this in mind, I like to remind them that while there are many types of meditations, the most important aspect of any practice is to discover more about yourself without judgment and simply enjoy the journey. Happy Meditating!