3 meditation techniques for better wellbeing
Wellbeing

3 meditation techniques for better wellbeing

Try these different styles and discover the amazing benefits for your mind and body.

3 different ways to meditate

 

For many of us, meditation sounds great in theory, but putting it into practice might seem like a distant pursuit. With to-do lists longer than a six-year-old’s birthday wish list, sometimes it’s hard to prioritise being still for 10 minutes or more. But new research has emerged, that might motivate you to think differently.

With the development of functional MRI scans, scientists have finally been able to get a good look at what’s going on in the brain and confirm what Buddhists have known for centuries: meditation can reduce stress, as well as symptoms of anxiety, depression and pain perception.

There are hundreds of different meditation styles that not only seek to focus our attention, but also help to regulate the parasympathetic (relaxation) nervous system and modulate our moods. “The term meditation refers to a group of practices that cultivate the mind,” explains Dr Paula Watkins, clinical psychologist and founder of the Calm, Conscious & Connected meditation course. “They tend to involve some kind of repetitive activity, such as one’s awareness of the breath, or repeating a mantra”.

Dr Watkin’s advice is that no one technique is better overall, “it’s about finding the style that feels best for you”. The type you try might evolve with how you’re feeling or what you’re striving for at a particular time - so here we’re showcasing a range of effective styles to explore and evolve to your needs.

 

1. Mindfulness meditation


Mindfulness meditation is defined as ‘paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally’. The practice involves closing your eyes and focusing on your breath, as well as the sounds around you and any sensations you are experiencing. “Mindfulness meditation is simply about observing your present state – it’s not about changing how you feel, what you’re thinking or what you’re doing. It’s about building awareness,” says Dr Addie Wootten, clinical psychologist and CEO of Smiling Mind, an online meditation website.

There’s fascinating research into this particular style of meditation with brain scans revealing that regular practice actually changes the brain. “Meditation can lead to stress reduction, attention control, improved sleep, improved connection, communication and relationships, as well as reductions in anxiety and depression,” explains Dr Wootten.

What's it good for? 
Establishing clearer thinking and reducing anxiety and depression. “If you want to benefit from the relaxation benefits of meditation but also want to improve your ability to deal with unhelpful or negative thinking patterns, then mindfulness approaches are likely to be beneficial,” says Dr Watkins.

How to try it:
Download the free Smiling Mind app (www.smilingmind.com.au)

 

2. Automatic transcending meditation


Transcendental meditation is repeating a mantra (often a Sanskrit sound) over and over in your mind. The word ‘mantra’ means ‘tool of the mind’ and is based on  the idea that the repetition will gradually override your mind’s chatter. “Your awareness can effortlessly move beyond your normal level of thinking so you experience deeper states of awareness,” explains Jonni Pollard, meditation teacher and founder of 1 Giant Mind meditation app.

What's it good for? 
Relaxation. “Techniques that emphasise absorption, such as mantra, can be soothing,” Dr Watkins explains. Mantras can also help you focus on a certain task as well.

How to try it:
Try a few of her favourites: ‘I CAN do this’, during a tough fitness session; or ‘This too shall pass’, if you’re not feeling great about something. You can also download the 1 Giant Mind app, a free 12-step beginner’s course (www.1giantmind.org).

 

3. Loving kindness or metta meditation


As the name suggests, this technique involves mentally repeating loving phrases towards yourself and others to bring more compassion into your life. One study showed that when people practised this form of meditation for nine weeks, their positive emotions had increased, and they also reported improved life satisfaction and reduced symptoms of depression.

Loving kindness meditation usually starts with a few deep breaths. Slowly, you begin a series of phrases directed at yourself, such as, ‘May I be happy. May I be well. May I be peaceful and at ease.’ Then you think of someone else and direct the same phrases towards them, repeating, ‘May you be happy. May you be well. May you be peaceful and at ease.’ By concentrating on the phrases, the idea is that you’ll feel more positive about yourself and others.

What's it good for? 
Self-compassion and a greater connectivity to others. “If cultivating better empathy, enhancing your interpersonal skills and connecting better with others is something you’re interested in, then metta meditation could be great for you,” says Dr Watkins.

How to try it: 
Choose thoughts to direct at yourself and others.