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Meditation

Meditation is a mental exercise that trains attention and awareness. Its purpose is often to curb reactivity to one's negative thoughts and feelings, which, though they may be disturbing and upsetting and hijack attention from moment to moment, are invariably fleeting.

The Benefits of Meditation

It’s impossible for us to make our thoughts disappear; often, the more we try to suppress them, the louder they become. But practicing meditation can help clear away the mind’s chatter. Studies show that meditating even for as little as 10 minutes increases the brain's alpha waves (associated with relaxation) and decreases anxiety and depression.

Why should I try meditation?

Meditation has been shown to increase focus, reduce stress, and promote calmness. It can also help people recognize and accept negative emotions—especially when it is done in combination with mindfulness practices that keep people grounded in experiencing the present. It may be particularly effective when the meditator has social support, such as in a structured group setting or with the help of a friend or family member.

What types of meditation should I try?

In mindfulness meditation, one turns their attention to a single point of reference, such as one’s breath or bodily sensations, or a word or phrase known as a mantra. The practice has been shown to decrease distraction and rumination, make negative automatic thoughts seem easier to let go of, and promote greater enjoyment of the present moment. Loving-kindness meditation directs one’s focus toward developing feelings of goodwill, kindness, and warmth for others. It can help boost empathy and compassion, and curb charged responses to negative thoughts.

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How to Meditate

People meditating. AboutLife/Shutterstock

Most forms of meditation are meant to decrease distractibility and promote focus on and enjoyment of the present moment. Like many forms of meditation, requires that one turn attention to a single point of reference. It can involve focusing on the breath, on bodily sensations, or on a word or phrase, known as a mantra. Successful meditation takes into account both internal and physical states:

Does the mind have to be completely blank to meditate?

It’s common for a person’s thoughts to wander during meditation, especially when they are first starting out. Trying to stop thinking completely is futile and often serves to intensify unwanted thoughts. Instead, the key is to notice when the mind wanders and bring one’s attention gently back to the meditation practice.

How long do you have to meditate to see results?

Meditation involves a heightened focus on the present moment that can be disorienting at first. Many beginners start with short sessions of three to five minutes each and gradually increase the time they spend meditating. The length of the meditation is less important than being consistent, as many meditators agree that they see results practicing just 10 minutes every day.

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