Remember that commercial for Calgon? Its catchline was, “Calgon, take me away.” Sure, it may be dated a bit, but the concept still rings true today. Maybe even more so! Many of us lead stressful lives, no doubt about that. The list of “to-dos” seems never-ending. (Anyone else create a list of things to accomplish for the day and never get to scratch off all of them?)
That’s why, just as our moms had Calgon to take them away, we too must find a way to unwind. In 2021, however, meditation is where it’s at. It’s the new(ish) remedy to our overscheduled, overstressed lives. And one of the best parts about meditation is that there are various types of meditation to choose from; therefore, there’s something for everyone.
What is Meditation
Who doesn’t need a little time in the day to relax and unravel their stress? Well, there are different types of meditation to help you do just that. Yes, there are a bunch of different ways to meditate and yes it can seem overwhelming, but once you really get started, you’ll be hooked!
So what is meditation anyway? You can search the Internet and find a plethora of ways to describe meditation, but a good one comes from The Mayo Clinic: “Meditation is considered a type of mind-body complementary medicine.” It is an exercise. It is a practice. And it’s extremely beneficial.
Though practiced for thousands of years, the more popular types of meditation have taken a more modern twist to help you reduce your stress level, find deep relaxation, and/or gain a new perspective on a situation. Again, it is a practice—an exercise—and just like it takes time to build your muscles, it takes time to be able to meditate fully and in any place you may be.
What you need to know is that whatever type of meditation you choose to do, you are going to practice focusing on the present moment. You will hear a lot of “being present” and “focusing on the now.” There’s a lot of focused breathing involved (beyond the regular breathing we do to, well, survive). Moreover, you can spend two minutes meditating or an hour or more; it’s all up to you.
Types of Meditation
There are many types of meditation, and honestly, you can find different names of the same types of meditation. So to explain every single one of them would take up far too much time. Therefore, for the sake of time, here are some of the most popular.
It’s important to note that many meditators actually mix forms to suit their own needs or practice different forms depending on where they are and what they need (relaxation, stress relief, anxiety relief, reconnecting with the present moment, etc.).
Another important note is to understand that these types of meditation are not a cure, meaning they are not going to turn you into a completely zenned-out happy person. It’s a TOOL to help you have more control over your thoughts, feelings, reactions to situations, sleep, etc.
Now, onto the types of meditation:
Guided and Unguided Meditation
As the name suggests, in guided meditation, you listen to someone ‘guide’ you through the meditation. That someone is commonly a person you listen to via an app, YouTube, a class you attend, etc. Conversely, in unguided meditation, you do the process silently, without a guide talking you through the steps. Both guided and unguided have their benefits and are included in the specific meditations you will read about here today.
You’ve probably heard the term “mindfulness” before, as it’s been a buzzword for the past handful of years. Well, mindfulness is a type of meditation. This is where you focus on, or be mindful of your thoughts and feelings and simply let them pass. Don’t dwell on them–that’s the key.
We all know that it’s almost impossible NOT to have thoughts running through our minds. However, with mindfulness, instead of dwelling on what you are thinking about, you turn your concentration to either an item or onto your breath. You let go of the thoughts entering your mind. (I like to think of it as shooing away a fly.) This type of meditation helps you find true quiet within your mind so that you may feel at peace. It also helps you become more attuned to the situation at hand.
Next, we have focused meditation, where you literally focus your attention on one of your five senses or your breath. With this type of meditation, you can also bring in an outside item such as a candle or tangible object in which you can concentrate all of your attention.
Focused meditation is a great way to take a minute to yourself when feeling really stressed. Taking your mind from the chaos to the calm will give you the boost you need to make smarter decisions and react more calmly.
Progressive Meditation/Progressive Relaxation
In progressive meditation or progressive relaxation, you work in a specific order throughout your body, tensing certain muscles and then relaxing them (starting with the hands and working all the way to the toes). During the body scan, you let go of the tension you feel in each part of your body, piece by piece until you are relaxed.
Progressive relaxation is a type of meditation often practiced at night because it is meant to relieve the tension in your body. Many therapists walk their patients through this body scan technique as well. It’s an amazing way to really relax after a long day or to ease the tensions you feel in your body.
Spiritual meditation is a type of meditation for those looking to connect with their spiritual side, focus more on their god or the universe that surrounds them, and/or connect with themself in a much deeper way. It’s been around for ages and is incorporated in many religions. But it really doesn’t have to be about any specific religion—so don’t let that scare you away.
In this type of meditation, you can really connect with your own consciousness and energy. Also, when doing this type of meditation, it’s best to be somewhere quiet. You sit (or lay) and focus on the moment. Depending on your reasons to choose spiritual meditation, you will then go deeper into connecting within yourself.
Whether walking along a trail, doing yoga, or planting flowers in your garden, movement meditation is all about focusing on the task at hand. This is great for people who do better while moving around instead of sitting down. Much of what you can do with movement meditation revolves around thinking solely about the task at hand.
For instance, when walking, you can focus on how it feels when your feet hit the ground. Or you can focus on the poses and breaths you are taking during yoga. With movement meditation, it’s not simply getting up and moving around. It’s being purposeful and mindful of how what you are doing makes you feel and focusing on the sensations produced.
Mantra meditation is probably what you may picture when you hear the word “meditation.” It’s meditating while making a sound, such as the “Om” you may be familiar with. Or it’s meditating and repeating an affirmation, such as, “I am grateful for today.” You can make up your own affirmation or find one you like.
The nice thing about this type of meditation is that it helps you focus on your breath without actually having you put your focus on your breath. Instead, you repeat the sound or mantra WITH your breath so that the focus is on what you are saying and not how you are breathing.
How to Choose Which Type of Meditation is Right for You
First, YOU must figure out your WHY. Why are you going to make meditation part of your routine? How do you want it to help you? Once you have figured out the how and why–that’s when you start focusing on the type of meditation that’s right for you. Which type of meditation, or combination thereof, will fuel your fire within?
And remember, you can mix it up and find different types of meditation for different situations. For instance, you probably would not complete my spiritual meditation while at work. Instead, you might use focused meditation at work. Nor would you use movement meditation while walking around the neighborhood with your kiddos. Paying attention to the kids would distract you from the purpose of movement meditation and it wouldn’t work. And paying attention to the kids is much more important at that moment.
In the end, you have to play around with the different types of meditation until you figure out what is comfortable and sustainable in your life. It works best when it becomes a routine. In no time you’ll be using it throughout your day and on your way to a better you.
Meditation’s Benefits: Why Meditate
Meditation is a part of your overall self-care. And it isn’t a secret that self-care is extremely important. Meditation trains you to really rest your brain. You let go for the moment and give your mind some time to “nap,” if you will. Since our brains are constantly working, even while we sleep, we must give them a break once in a while. Yes, science has backed this. There have been various studies showing how meditation can reduce stress. Reducing stress is incredibly powerful for both your mental and physical health.
There is a direct connection between mental health and physical health. When you are mentally healthy, you are at a lower risk for illness. Meditation is a way to keep your mental health in check. It’s not a cure, but it helps tremendously.
Additionally, some studies show how cortisol is lowered in a person practicing meditation. Cortisol is a stress hormone in your body and it’s linked to certain illnesses. The higher the cortisol in your body, the more at risk you are for heart problems, inflammation, and high blood pressure–just to name a few. Lowering your cortisol levels via a type of meditation can greatly improve your overall health. Essentially, lowering your stress gives you a big leg up on becoming physically healthier.
You DO NOT need to practice meditation for hours and hours to reap the benefits, either. Just a few minutes a day can help. It’s free and you can do it anywhere. There are even a ton of apps out there to help you out.
Meditation Apps: Free and Paid Subscriptions
The list of meditation apps below is by no means all that is out there. There are so many. Some offer free subscriptions while others give you some meditations for free but you have to pay to unlock all of the benefits. Try a few until you find what you like before diving into the paid subscription. The links below will take you to each app’s website. However, the app store has them to download as well.
- Calm: Great because you get to try it for free. Also, there are some free meditations you can get in the app without having to pay for the subscription. Another bonus is that they have a section for “beginners” as well.
- Breethe: Much like Calm, Breathe comes highly rated and has many different types of meditations from which to choose. It also customizes your list for you if you’d like (Calm does this, too).
- Headspace: Yet another app you can try out for free before paying for a subscription, Headspace is cool because it is even for the kiddos. Additionally, they stream via Netflix! You can also read articles on the site and learn about the benefits of sleep, mindfulness, etc.
- BetterMe: Has a plethora of types of meditations to choose from! There is so much you can do with this app as well. It has a section for runners, for weight loss, and for men, just to name a few. Again, you can try it for free before you pay for a subscription.
- Simple Habit: This one is great for busy people. You can choose from a bunch of different meditations, guided by different people, and choose a meditation based on the time you have to dedicate to meditation at that moment. There are free meditations to use but also offers a paid subscription as well.
Read More: 10 Anxiety Apps to Help You Calm Your Mind
Meditation: You Won’t Regret It
Whether younger or older, at home, at work, or on the go, there is a type of meditation out there for you to use to conquer stress and stressful situations. You can increase your focus, clear your head, and/or give your brain a break. No matter the reason you choose to meditate, the benefits are clear. You can truly become a more positive, grounded person. Even if it scares you a little. Even if it seems intimidating…give it a try. You won’t regret it!
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