Meditation is a mind and body practice that can be used to help with relaxation, stress management, coping with illness and improving overall health and wellbeing. It can assist you to be more self-aware and to focus on the present moment.
While more research is needed, there is some evidence to suggest that meditation can help with:
- Improving symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Managing chronic pain
- Improving immune function
- Reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Improving sleep
- Quitting smoking
When measuring brain activity using electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), researchers have shown that meditation can change your brain’s activity.
There are many different types of meditation but most have the following in common:
- Finding a quiet location where you won’t be distracted
- Getting into a comfortable position such as sitting in a chair or lying down – no, you don’t need to sit cross legged on the floor!
- Focusing your attention on one thing, which could be your breath, a specific object or a chosen word or set of words
- Practising acceptance. This means letting distractions come and go without judging them and not getting annoyed with yourself if your attention wanders, but instead just directing your attention back to the present moment and what you are doing.
Meditation is most effective when done regularly but doesn’t need to be time consuming – even a few minutes once or twice a day can provide benefits. However it does take practice and it’s important to find the technique that best suits you. There are many ways to get started, from a meditation course to regular weekly classes, online videos or apps.
For more information try the Smiling Mind app – a free meditation app with programs for children and adults.
- Fortney et al. Meditation in medical practice: a review of the evidence and practice. Prim Care. 2010 Mar;37(1):81-90.
- Chan et al. Meditation Interventions for Chronic Disease Populations: A Systematic Review. J Holist Nurs. 2015 Dec;33(4):351-65.
- Hilton et al. Mindfulness Meditation for Chronic Pain: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Ann Behav Med. 2017 Apr;51(2):199-213.
- Ball et al. Does mindfulness meditation improve chronic pain? A systematic review. Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol. 2017 Dec;29(6):359-366.
- Goyal et al. Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2014 Mar;174(3):357-68.
- Better Health Channel: Meditation
- Health Direct: Meditation