The act of meditation has many forms.
The least complicated method is to simply sit and observe your breath for a minute or two. A more advanced practice might include an hour in quiet contemplation. Some techniques relax. Others may energize. Still others might sharpen focus. And for some people, meditation is a pathway to expanded consciousness that changes their lives for the better.
As scientific research continues to reinforce why meditation is beneficial for your wellbeing, technology is leading the way, making various forms of the practice more accessible. While many people learn meditation in a group or with a dedicated teacher, these apps allow for a private transformative experience whenever you like.
What Is Meditation?
By its simplest definition, meditation is a mind and body technique intended to enable a practitioner to experience improved overall health, including:
- The ability to handle chronic symptoms of conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, compulsiveness, high blood pressure, and others.
- An opportunity to induce a more calming mental and physical state and to reduce stress.
- The chance to condition the brain to be more responsive and change networks in the brain. In other words, regular meditation may actually prompt both neural networks—the extrinsic and the default—to be active at the same time, as revealed in this study New York University study with Buddhist monks.
Keep in mind that even though meditation is closely associated with monks and other members of religious organizations, the practice itself is not a religion.
How Meditation May Help Recovery
If you or someone you love struggles with drug and alcohol addiction, there are numerous triggers that may block the path to recovery. External influences might upset the natural state of inner calm. This may cause some people to be more reactionary, argumentative, or compulsive.
Meditation provides the opportunity to “simply be”—an aspect of mindfulness. If a thought arises, you let it pass without judgment. If you initially feel distracted, you can return to the commitment to meditate without reproach. Once your breathing settles into an easy rhythm, your parasympathetic nervous system prompts the “rest and digest” response, encouraging an enhanced feeling of peace and relaxation. Choosing the quiet over the chaos helps both mind and body reconcile with a new state of being.
Conversely, some individuals think the concept of stillness is an uncomfortable, even frightening, experience. Past trauma or mental health issues may make someone equate stillness with negative thoughts and emotions. So if a person who feels this way wants to try meditation but is uncertain about how they’ll feel, the method will make all the difference.
Types of Meditation Methods
Although it’s easy for most people to think of meditation as sitting cross-legged on a fluffy cushion, there are many different disciplines. Here are just a few.
Guided meditation. This may be helpful for people who want to have a more visual experience and take a mental journey. It may also include positive affirmations.
Walking meditation. Purposeful movement can induce a powerful calming effect. Sometimes practitioners walk in a circle, a labyrinth, or on a short path, heel-to-toe.
Mantra meditation. This is a good option if someone feels he or she may be too distracted by thoughts or external stimuli. The mantra may be one sound or a series of words.
Sound meditation. Various musical instruments, including bells, singing bowls, and gongs, create a vibrational atmosphere. This is helpful for both the body and mind.
Buddhist meditation. This method is acceptable for people of various faiths and for those who don’t follow a particular spiritual doctrine. It’s a training in stillness.
The Latest Meditation Apps
Many people purport that daily meditation has a profound effect on their wellbeing. But what if you don’t have a meditation teacher, or a group class you feel comfortable attending?
Meditation apps are incredibly popular now. While you can easily access numerous podcasts and videos by renowned experts such as Dr. Andrew Weil, Thom Knowles, Deepak Chopra, and davidji, having a quick mobile app seems to be a more fashionable way to stay connected to hundreds of styles and teachers. Try one of the following and see what you think.
Headspace. Initially free, with an optional monthly subscription. This company provides mindfulness training and guided meditation sessions. Available for both iOS and Android devices, it’s a more structured approach with step-by-step instructions to help create a sustainable daily meditation practice.
Insight Timer. Free. Also available for Android and iOS devices, this app features hundreds of meditation styles, soundscapes, and music, with different lengths and purposes. For example, one meditation might feature nature sounds, another is a guided sleep meditation.
Meditation Studio. Free on iOS products with an optional subscription; various monthly/annual plans for Android users. Dozens of experts offer hundreds of options, some guided, some with only music. The app also allows users to access a variety of meditation courses for further education.
breethe. After free trial, various subscription options for Android and iOS mobile devices. Includes guided meditations with and without music, and options for kids.
ZenFriend. Free, with in-app purchases for both iOS and Android devices. In addition to various meditation tools, this company offers a strong social media component to encourage a community of support.
Calm. Trial period, followed by various subscription levels for Android and iOS users. Voted “Best App of the Year” in 2017 by the Apple App Store, this company provides meditations for sleep and anxiety relief, as well as master classes to help change behaviors. There are also ancillary products for purchase, such as an essential oil mist to help with sleep.
For more meditation app options, check the reviews in the App Store or Google Play store, or consult with a treatment expert to learn more about various meditation techniques and if one may help you.
Master Charles Cannon: 23 Things You Always Wanted to Know About Meditation.
xoJane: I Tried (Almost) All The Meditation Apps In The App Store And These Are The Seven I Liked Best.