Deep breathing is a great stress reliever, and the technique called "mindfulness meditation" is helpful to use breathing to get more in touch with your inner self.
People who meditate say they feel more positive, and have more energy and better concentration.
Many physiological benefits
According to a previous Health24 article, the brains of people who regularly meditate shrink less as they age, and they have stronger connections in the brain itself.
Meditation has many other physiological benefits; examples are:
- Generalised reduction in respiratory and heart rates and a decreased pulse
- Increases alpha brainwaves, linked to relaxation
- Reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke
- Restores the body's own self-repair mechanisms
- Decreases blood pressure
- Decreases muscle tension
- Increases serotonin levels
- Reduces PMS
There's more than one way to tap meditation's benefits – through variations in technique. A study published in the journal Mindfulness looked at what can be gained from a few popular approaches.
With body scan meditation, you focus on each body part, one at a time, from your head to your feet. When paired with focused breathing, study participants sharply reduced their number of negative thoughts, and thoughts about the future and the past. Body scan meditation can help you feel more centred and focused on the "now".
Loving-kindness. This type of meditation helps you deepen positive feelings for a loved one as well as for yourself, your extended social circle, and beyond. This type of meditation led to the greatest boost in participants' feelings of warm, positive thoughts about others. It can be a good approach if you're facing interpersonal conflicts.
Observing-thought. This type of meditation teaches you to recognise and define thoughts – as negative or positive, for instance – without becoming absorbed in them. This practice helped participants become more aware of both thoughts and judgmental attitudes they held toward others. It also can stop rumination – the habit of repetitively going over distressing situations in your mind.
While meditation, in general, can help you feel more relaxed, different types offer additional benefits. Experiment to find those that bring you closer to your personal improvement goals.
Image credit: iStock