How does meditation help people
Meditation: effects, instructions and tips for successful meditation
- Meditation promotes relaxation and concentration. The state of "mindful serenity" does not succeed immediately - beginners should be patient.
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One appointment chases the next, the cell phone keeps ringing and the mountain of unfinished business is not getting any smaller. Meditation helps to switch off a few minutes in the stressful everyday life, to take your time and to learn mindfulness. The technique of immersion is easy to learn and practicable in almost all situations.
Article content at a glance:
What is meditation
Meditation is focused attention. The word "meditation" is derived from the Latin word "meditari", which means "to ponder", "to ponder". Meditation includes numerous traditional and modern methods from different cultures with the help of which relaxation can be achieved.
These include, for example, Far Eastern techniques such as yoga, Qi Gong and Zen meditation as well as Western approaches to meditation, including autogenic training or progressive muscle relaxation.
Aim of meditation: to calm thoughts
The goal of meditation is relaxation. The meditator focuses his attention on a particular thought, movement, or perception. This can be a physical sensation, music, a scent or an imaginary image. This means that annoying brooding or everyday thoughts can be faded out and the carousel of thoughts in your head comes to a standstill. The meditator thus calms his mind.
When meditating, it is important to take your time and focus on the present, the here and now. The meditator learns to open his mind and practice mindfulness. This reduces stress and helps to expand awareness. A lot of practice is required to achieve a meditative state of deep relaxation and focus. But even the first attempts at meditation are often experienced as beneficial and relaxing.
How does meditation work?
Numerous scientific studies have examined how regular meditation affects the body and health. Meditation exercises lower the concentration of stress hormones in the blood, slow down the brain waves (theta waves) and activate the autonomic nervous system. During the exercises, the entire metabolism slows down: the heartbeat calms down, breathing becomes deep and regular, and the electrical skin resistance, which decreases when stressed, increases again.
Regular meditation also promotes sleep and helps regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Researchers have even found evidence that meditation has an impact on brain structures that are specifically responsible for working memory, conscious control and conflict management.
Meditations are supposed to help with fears and stress and promote self-reflection and mindfulness towards one's own body. With regular practice, a state of relaxed alertness can also be achieved in everyday life. This increases the ability to deal with stress more calmly in life. Many athletes meditate to improve their performance (mental training).
Meditation can help with:
A 2018 study of 203 US veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan showed that meditating can also help with trauma. Meditation was found to be just as effective as psychotherapeutic measures.
Who is meditation for?
With a few exceptions, meditation is recommended for everyone. Many people meditate unconsciously by "immersing themselves" in a particular thought, sensation or activity.
Children also benefit from appropriate exercises. Usually they have the ability to focus on one thing. In modern society, however, the attention of children is very demanding and sometimes overwhelmed. Meditation can help children find relaxation and better tolerate stress.
Not being able to sit still, concentration problems and impulsive behavior are the guiding symptoms of attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder. Read more about it here and find out what really helps with ADHD
focus on ADHD
Meditation can also be used therapeutically for ADHD and other disorders. Meditation techniques teach children to relax and focus. Which form and technique of meditation a child likes depends on personal preferences. In general, many children like imaginary journeys, autogenic training and yoga.
Who Shouldn't Meditate?
Meditation is not recommended for some illnesses. Meditation is not recommended
If meditation reveals stressful feelings and thoughts that the meditator cannot process alone, it is important to talk to a doctor or psychotherapist about it.
Risks and side effects of meditation
Some meditation techniques can have undesirable side effects, such as creating fears, worries, distorted emotions, or an altered sense of self. There is a particular danger with meditation techniques, which are about dissolving solidified points of view or even the notions of an independent "I".
Different forms of meditation
There are different forms and techniques of meditation. Some are more physical, others focus on a specific action or thinking and feeling. The meditator should reach a state of "not thinking" or a "thoughtless silence" that can give as much relaxation and strength in a few minutes as hours of sleep.
The list of possible techniques is long, it ranges from sitting meditations, image and sound meditation, tea ceremonies and calligraphy, hypnosis and autosuggestion to yoga and meditation techniques borrowed from martial arts.
A basic distinction is made between passive and active meditation. In the passive meditation the practitioner concentrates on his breathing, a perception, a thought, a word or a saying - for example a mantra.
Well-known passive forms are:
- Transcendental Meditation: The technique for activating the self-healing powers was popularized in the West by Yogi Maharishi Mahesh in the 1950s.
Vipassana meditation comes from India and is one of the oldest meditation techniques. It is a mindfulness meditation.
Zazen, "sitting in silence", is a sitting meditation from Zen Buddhism.
Shamata (also Samatha) goes back to the historical Buddha and means something like "peaceful lingering".
Metta meditation is a mostly guided meditation for learning love and compassion.
On the other hand, the active meditation rather a movement or an action in the foreground. This can be yoga, tantra, a martial art or the recitation of prayers or mantras.
Forms of active meditation are:
About the body: for example Tai Chi, Yoga, Qi Gong, walking meditation, progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobson, meditative dance
about the mind: Zen meditation, Christian mysticism, certain forms of yoga
about the feelings: picture meditation, music meditation, singing bowl meditation
about doing: calligraphy, mandala painting, ikebana, singing, praying
Everyone has to find out for themselves which meditation technique works best for them. For example, the Mantra meditation. It comes from Hinduism. The meditator looks for a short word (mantra), which is melodious, but neither positive nor negative. This word is pronounced rhythmically again and again with closed eyes: first loudly, later more quietly, until finally it is only thought. By constantly repeating it is easy to switch off completely.
By the way, the simplest and best-known mantra is the original syllable "OM". It should represent the sound of the universe and thus the origin of all other sounds.
Also the Breath meditation is suitable for beginners. Breath is an essential element of various meditation techniques. Buddhist monks do not use any means other than listening to their own breath.
Instructions and tips for meditation
Meditation takes a lot of practice before deep relaxation is achieved. Especially with beginners, thoughts quickly wander or external circumstances cause distraction. Here it helps to pay little attention to the thoughts and just let them move on. Experts advise being patient and not getting discouraged at first. Sitting quietly and breathing also has a relaxing effect.
Proper preparation for a meditation
It often helps to acquire a certain routine or ritual. Find a place where you feel completely at ease and are largely undisturbed. Prepare all the things you will need for your meditation. For example, you can prepare a tea that you enjoy afterwards.
The best conditions for a pleasant and successful meditation:
Peace and privacy: To meditate, it is helpful to be undisturbed. A suitable place can be your favorite place in nature, your living room or the practice room of a meditation studio.
Switch off potential sources of interference: If you are practicing at home, it is a good idea to maintain a calm atmosphere during meditation. For example, close the door and turn off your cell phone and telephone.
Meet basic needs: Comfortable clothing and a room with a pleasant temperature are important. An overfilled or hungry stomach and the need to urinate make meditation difficult.
Silence: Silence is especially important if you are new to meditation. With increasing practice it is possible not to be disturbed by noises. Experienced meditators perceive background noises such as the noise of a construction site without reacting to them.
Special meditation music. By listening to music, you are less likely to perceive background noises that could be distracting. Be sure to use special meditation music, not relaxation or wellness music. These are unsuitable for meditation.
Correct posture when meditating
Meditation can be practiced sitting, kneeling or lying down, standing, walking in nature and even dancing. The classic meditation posture is the lotus position or other variants of the cross-legged position. Your spine should be upright and your back should be straight. A rolled towel or a meditation pillow under the buttocks makes it easier to sit upright. A chair on which the meditator sits comfortably and with a straight back is also suitable. Lying down meditation is ideal for techniques like progressive muscle relaxation, but carries the risk of nodding off. A firm yoga or exercise mat is ideal as a base.
Instructions on how to meditate
1. To meditate, take an upright, comfortable sitting position that can be endured without fatigue. To start with, ten to 15 minutes, which can be set on a short-term alarm clock, are sufficient. Pay attention to a pleasant, gentle alarm tone.
2. Yawn heartily again and circle your shoulders a few times to relax the muscles in your face, jaw, and shoulder muscles.
3. Then close your eyes and breathe in and out deeply through your nose for a few breaths. The breath should flow into the stomach in its natural rhythm. Then, depending on the form of meditation, focus on your breath or your mantra, for example.
Don't worry if "strange thoughts" creep in soon. Stay calm, be aware of the sensations - but gently bring your attention back to the breath over and over again. If you sit uncomfortably during meditation, change your sitting position.
4. When the alarm goes off, it is time to end the meditation. Slowly open your eyes, take a few deep breaths, straighten your limbs. Get up slowly and don't fall back into the hectic pace of everyday life. Instead, try to keep paying attention to yourself and your body for a while longer.
Don't force yourself to complete a particular meditation if you feel uncomfortable. In this case, you better find another time to meditate.
How often and how long do you meditate?
Meditation requires regular practice. Ideally, you should take a little time to meditate every day, preferably always at the same time. It can help to make meditation an integral part of the daily routine. For many, meditating in the morning is a great way to prepare for the day. Others prefer the evening to deal with the stress and possible negative experiences of the day and to get rid of them before going to bed.
Initially, ten to 15 minutes are sufficient. Over time, you can increase the meditation to twenty to thirty minutes, longer if desired. A long, detailed meditation works like a fountain of youth for the soul.
By the way, a wise yogi said: If you are fine and meditation is easy, meditate for twenty minutes. If, on the other hand, you are not feeling well and you find it difficult to meditate, meditate for twice as long.
When the meditation doesn't work
Even experienced meditators know days when they can hardly concentrate. Take note of your thoughts and concerns, and then return your attention to the meditation. Resist the urge to give up and stick with it. But don't put yourself under pressure: deep relaxation and complete immersion cannot be achieved after meditating once, and certainly not forced.
Simple meditations for beginners
Concentrating on the breath can be done as a separate meditation or in preparation for other meditations. It can be used in between to relax in stressful situations or in the evening to help you fall asleep.
Get into a meditation position - sitting or lying down - and close your eyes. Now feel how the breath flows through your body without influencing your breathing.
Observe individual details as you breathe: How the air flows in through the nostrils and how the fresh air feels in the airways. How the chest and stomach move, how the warmer, stale air leaves the body. Do not try to slow or control your breathing, just observe without judgment. If your attention strays, don't fret; keep calmly returning to your breath.
Mindfulness is in the foreground in this meditation. The body should be felt bit by bit. Start with the feet. First, feel your toes. How do you feel right now - warm, cold, relaxed? Then slowly move your attention from bottom to top all the way up to your head. If you feel tension, you can try to relieve it by breathing deeply into this part of the body. Otherwise, only perceive them as far as possible and not evaluate them.
A visualization is a journey of thought to a particularly beautiful place. The power of imagination is used to achieve relaxation and create pleasant feelings. Go in your mind to a place that you associate exclusively with positive feelings. This can be a place that you know from your past or an imaginary place, for example a beautiful beach, a forest clearing or a lake. Picture this place in every detail and feel it with all your senses: Hear the waves or the chirping of birds, smell the flowers, feel the warm sand under your feet. You can save this place as your personal feel-good place and call up the memory at any time when you need rest and relaxation.
Grounding is about feeling the base and connecting to the earth. Sit in a comfortable meditation position. Imagine roots growing out of your feet, reaching deep into the ground beneath your feet, firmly connecting you to the earth that supports you. Now let go of everything that is bothering you and flow away into the ground along these roots. Then imagine how the power of the earth flows in reverse through these roots to you. It climbs up through your feet through your torso and higher and higher until it reaches your head. Feel the power of the earth in your body and gently dissolve the roots again at the end of the meditation.
How do I find the right meditation?
There are many ways to learn to meditate:
Meditation courses are offered in meditation centers as well as at universities or adult education centers.
Meditation weekend: In a retreat, interested people learn to meditate over the weekend or during the holidays.
Guided meditations can be found both as video on YouTube or other streaming providers and as audio CDs in stores. The same goes for the appropriate meditation music.
Meditation apps are no longer a contradiction in terms and are just as popular as apps for healthy eating, fitness or yoga.
Meditation apps - what's up?
Computers and smartphones are often cited as reasons that young people find it increasingly difficult to concentrate. Meditation promotes attention and concentration, but it doesn't sound very attractive, especially for young people. A new app developed by scientists from UC San Francisco in 2018 aims to introduce young people to the topic in a very targeted manner with breathing exercises and simple meditations. An accompanying study has already shown positive results.
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