We hear so much about meditation in media. You see the pictures of people sitting criss cross you might wonder what they’re doing or what they are thinking about. Meditation is so much more than just a specific pose and thoughtlessness. Meditation can be beneficial for everyone! There are so many different types of meditation out there. There has been much research on meditation and its benefits for those who practice. Meditation not only helps mental Wellness but physical well-being as well. Meditation can be helpful for anxiety depression and even insomnia. Meditation most commonly consists of “a quiet location with as few distractions as possible, a comfortable posture, focus of attention and an open attitude”. Meditation requires a quiet location because it requires such specific focus. People sit, lie down, walk or other specific positions that are conducive to keeping focused and being comfortable. Meditation requires focus because a lot of meditation revolves around a specially chosen word or mantra, an object or oftentimes sensations of the breath and in order to focus on these types of things practice is needed.
The open attitude required for meditation revolves around letting distractions come and go naturally without judging them or yourself for having those distractions. Sometimes thoughts and distractions during meditation are described as clouds in the sky. Think of your thoughts as the clouds, they float by you don’t judge them for their shape or size or color, but you noticed them, and you don’t try to control the clouds or hold on to the clouds but you allow them to pass. Another way to illustrate this idea is thinking of your thoughts while meditating as a Creek. The water in the Creek is your thoughts and you don’t judge the water for the way it moves or the way it flows, and you don’t control the water or its flow by hanging on to it for longer than when it is passing. You allow your thoughts to flow in the same way while meditating. Meditation is something that takes practice; it’s not easy to allow your thoughts to flow or pass by like a Creek or like clouds. We are so conditioned to hold onto thoughts as they come in our daily lives that it takes intentional practice to break this cycle for the time while we’re meditating.
The intention behind this practice is carrying the mindfulness beyond the meditation and into your daily life. But just like playing a sport or starting a new hobby practice improves the experience. The more practice you have meditating and allowing your thoughts to flow with the focus of attention the easier the practice becomes and the more benefits you’ll see. Meditation is a practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a mental state of focusing on the present moment. According to Oxford dictionary, mindfulness by definition is “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly accepting and acknowledging ones feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations”. This definition is extremely similar to the practice of meditation.
Research Studies by the National Health interview survey found decreased symptoms of anxiety after 36 meditations and found decreased insomnia in another study after practicing meditation when compared with other interventions to mitigate insomnia. Another research study found after eight weeks of meditating there was a reduction in anxiety and depression symptoms. Meditation has also been found to increase job satisfaction, decrease aggression and reactivity to negative feedback, decrease stress, and increase focus. Research has found correlation between key components of moods such as happiness and irritability being changed for the better through meditation practice.
Meditation can be beneficial for people of all ages including kids! The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to share meditation with their children and incorporate mindfulness training in their daily life. Kids need time to relax and focus as it helps them function more effectively and clearly. Kids have found benefits from meditation similarly to adults. Kids focus was improved therefore benefiting those who live with ADHD. Kids also saw the same benefits as adults when it came to decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression. Kids school performance, sleep, behavior problems, and eating difficulties were also seen to change for the better with the addition of meditation practice in their lives.
Kids do need different types of meditation than adults. For preschool children a few minutes per day is a great place to start for mindfulness and meditation. For grade school children 3 to 10 minutes once or twice a day can be a great beginning practice. Teens and adults can see benefits from meditating anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes per day or more based on personal preference. Incorporating pieces from meditation into your children’s routine can be beneficial such as practicing deep breathing before bedtime or before answering a difficult question at school or even a soccer game. Deep breathing is a great start to be able to process and manage strong emotions. In the last few years especially mindfulness and meditation has emerged as a way of helping children cope with conditions such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, and stress all yielding positive benefits for the child’s well-being. If you’d like to learn more about how to practice mindfulness and meditation with your child check out “The Power of Mindfulness” by Julian Garey on Child Mind Institute’s website.
Apps like Headspace and Daily Calm are great for starting your meditation practice. Most of the meditations are 10 minutes intentionally so it is more manageable to practice because most of us can find 10 minutes to take for ourselves. Headspace even partnered with Netflix and created a series where they have a 10 minute meditation coupled with a 10 minute preface about the topic in which they will do the meditation on that day. They also have an interactive episode where you get to select how you are feeling and what meditation you feel will be the most beneficial for you that day.
At the end of the day meditation is a great coping skill and can decrease negative mental health outcomes; however, it is not our replacement for therapy and sometimes we need more help. If you or someone you know could benefit from individual, couples or family counseling please do not hesitate to reach out, that’s the most difficult step. Contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced mental health counselors.