Breathe in, breathe out, close your eyes, sit still - and that's supposed to help? When the keyword meditation is mentioned, skepticism is often high even today. Yet this age-old technique is actually based on a very simple principle, namely mindfulness of one's own body. Here you can read how regular meditation promotes health and well-being and why the conscious journey into the mind has such a positive effect.
This is what happens during meditation
Meditating is about much more than just muttering individual words with your eyes closed. Brain wave measurements have shown that during meditation the brain falls into a more relaxed and at the same time more receptive state. The brain waves are slower, just like in deep sleep, but at the same time the person is awake. So much for the medical observation, but what is behind it on a psychological level?
The principle of meditation
What we in the western world understand by meditation is the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) method that emerged in the 1980s. Through mindfulness, stress is to be prevented and the conscious experience of daily events is to be promoted.
If meditation is practiced regularly, it is not so much a specific treatment method, but rather a preventive procedure to avoid stress in the first place. In European Ayurveda® meditation is part of the general balance.
First and foremost, this works because the conscious pausing and introspection simply supports the quality of accepting and dealing with any circumstances. By the way, this also includes chronic pain, mental illness and other circumstances.
How meditation supports health
The list of health aspects that can be improved through meditation is unexpectedly long. In medicine, too, meditation is now recognised as a thoroughly valid supplement to therapy with medication. At first glance, the mindfulness tactic helps in the following areas:
- Stronger immune system and heart
- More stable circulation
- Lower blood pressure
- Pain relief for chronic diseases and pain caused by asthma, migraine, allergies, etc.
- Improved concentration and higher attention
But it is not only physically that meditation has a demonstrable effect on health. The psyche in particular benefits greatly from regular meditation, as the following list shows.
- Overcoming anxiety: When meditating repeatedly, the anxiety center shrinks. This means that anxiety or panic attacks occur far less frequently, and in the long run.
- Getting rid of addictions: Medical studies found that smokers in particular were able to get rid of their vice through meditation. Smoking is not infrequently a method of overcoming stress or masking nervousness - both factors are balanced by meditating.
- Fighting burnout and depression: When the body feels overburdened by too much stress, burnout and often depression are the result. Meditation prevents this by blocking out stress. Those who regularly switch off for a short time rest within themselves, breathe more deeply and can better assess how far their energies will reach.
Of course, it must not be assumed that a few meditations will lead to complete inner peace. Hardly any illness can be cured by meditating alone. However, regular meditation is accompanied by a significantly increased acceptance, which makes it easier to deal with pain, symptoms of illness and stress from the outset. The conditions may remain unchanged, but they no longer affect the psyche and well-being as much.
How to meditate
There are a few different ways to meditate. On the one hand, one distinguishes between focusing and defocusing meditation:
- Focusing meditation means to concentrate unreservedly on a single thing. This can be the classical "Omm" or another mantra, but also one's own breathing, the flame of a candle or certain music can be the center of attention.
- Defocusing meditation, on the other hand, involves establishing a clear distance from one's own emotional world. Emotions and thoughts are allowed without restriction, but not evaluated. This makes it possible to look at one's own person from the outside, and irrational fears, desires and ideas become recognizable as such. The observer perspective also makes it possible to build more empathy for others.
- Affirmations help to strengthen one's own mindset and to visualize new goals. With a meditation these are internalized.
However, meditation can also take place in a moving form. Yoga practices or Ayurveda teachings aim at mindfulness and a meditative lifestyle. In yoga, for example, it is movement meditation: body movements are performed consciously and very slowly.
Even 20 minutes of meditation practice per day prove effective after a short time, as studies have shown. After about two months, blood pressure is lowered, breathing becomes permanently calmer and oxygen supply is improved.
Putting it into practice: what matters in meditation
The following three things, and especially the last point, are essential for successful meditation:
- The time: In principle, meditation can be done at any time of day. However, the time frame should always be approximately the same and there should be no abrupt interruptions.
- Posture: Meditation usually works best when you sit upright with your back straight. This supports calm breathing.
- The setting. Breathing calmly for a long time, not moving and only following one's own thoughts - this is a challenge, even for meditation professionals. However, all these emotional states may and should be acknowledged and not pushed away. Meditation means constantly overcoming limits and does not happen at the push of a button.