Does it feel like we're living in the age of anxiety?
It seems our lives are more demanding, stressful, and distracting than ever before.
The constant barrage of information flooding our digital devices, coupled with our on-going responsibilities and obligations as professionals, parents, and students can wreak havoc on our peace of mind.
Are you feeling it in your own life?
Do you ever wish there was a button you could push to escape the madness and find your center?
One of the best things you can do to improve your mental health and reclaim inner peace is to practice meditation.
What Are The Benefits of Meditation?
There are so many helpful things about mindful meditation beyond finding inner peace.
Studies show that various meditation techniques are associated with reduced stress and anxiety. Meditation can also lower incidents of addiction, depression, and eating disorders.
In fact, a new study suggests meditation rivals antidepressants for treating depression and anxiety.
Research also reveals that meditation can reduce blood pressure, decrease pain, lower stress hormone levels, and improve health on a cellular level.
Meditation even changes your brain by affecting its structure and making certain areas thicker while decreasing the density of others.
It was found to increase cortical thickness in the hippocampus, the area that governs learning and memory, and in areas of the brain that play roles in emotion regulation. It decreases brain cell volume in the amygdala, which is responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress.
Meditation decreases activity in the default mode network (DMN), the brain network responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts which are associated with being less happy.
One of the best things about meditation is that is it useful and accessible to anyone.
You don't have to be specially trained in the art of meditation or belong to a certain religion in order to practice it and enjoy the benefits.
Because there are so many different types of meditation, and they don't require any special equipment, anyone can find a meditation practice that works best for them.
While there are hundreds of meditation types, let's review ten options that are easy to learn and practice for anyone — from a beginner to a more experienced meditator.
“Meditation is a way for nourishing and blossoming the divinity within you.” ― Amit Ray
Here are 10 different types of meditation to overcome anxiety and find inner peace:
1. Breathing Meditation
The purpose of breathing meditation is to relax your mind and create a sense of inner peace.
You can practice a breathing meditation on its own, or use it as a warm-up to calm your mind and body before beginning a deeper meditation.
Breathing meditation is derived from Buddhism and was initially taught by Gautama Buddha. It is now one of the most popular and well-known forms of meditation.
How to Do It
In order to practice this, you must stop distractions and clear your mind.
Find a quiet place to meditate and get comfortable. You can sit in a cross-legged posture or in any position that you find to be comfortable.
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Keeping your back straight, relax your eyes and bring your attention to your breath.
Resist your mind trying to wander to various thoughts that are passing through and always refocus your mind on your breath. Repeat this until you feel calm and settled.
Here is a great walk-through of an effective breathing meditation.
2. Emptiness Meditation
The goal of emptiness meditation is to lead your mind to the perception of the “absence of inherent existence.”
This form of meditation originated with the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism in which you learn to see the emptiness of all things.
Says psychotherapist Susan Kahn on her site, Emptiness Teachings, “To see through the deception of inherent existence is critical because it is the root error that leads to the endless grasping and aversion that underlies all suffering.”
There are two ways this form of meditation can be accomplished — the direct path and the gradual path.
Using the direct path, you will learn to recognize the empty nature of both yourself and other people in the moment.
If you choose the gradual path, you will learn to recognize the empty nature of things around you progressively.
For example, you may first recognize yourself as empty before seeing other people as being empty. Then, you may recognize that your mind is empty, and so on.
How to Do It
If you are new to emptiness meditation, you would do well to follow a guide who can help you discover the vast peace of emptiness. Use this video for your meditation practice to help you:
3. Guided Meditation
It can be hard to meditate without a teacher, especially if you are new to the practice. This is where guided meditation can help.
Guided meditation requires less effort than meditating on your own because it walks you through the meditation and gives you a step-by-step guide to find your inner peace.
Guided meditation probably dates back to a time long before people were able to document it and describe it as a systemized practice. It continues to be popular today due to its health benefits and ability to relax people.
How to Do It
There are many options for guided meditation on a wide variety of topics.
From listening to videos online to attending a class, it is important to find what makes you the most comfortable.
This audio guided meditation is focused on relieving anxiety, but you can find hundreds of guided meditations online.
4. Loving-Kindness Meditation
Loving-kindness meditation is also known as Metta meditation.
“Metta” is a Pali word meaning kindness and compassion. Loving-kindness meditation comes from Buddhist traditions, and in the present day, it focuses on overall wellbeing and benevolence toward yourself and others.
Some of the benefits that you might feel from practicing this type of meditation include increased empathy, increased compassion, a more loving attitude, more self-acceptance, a greater sense of competence, and increased feelings of purpose.
How to Do It
To practice this meditation, take a seat in a meditation position, close your eyes, and calm yourself with a breathing meditation.
Then begin the loving-kindness meditation by thinking about feelings of kindness and benevolence toward yourself.
As you continue to breathe, speak out loud or to yourself the following phrases:
- “May I be free from inner and outer harm and danger.”
- “May I be safe and protected.”
- “May I be free of mental suffering or distress.”
- “May I be happy.”
- “May I be free of physical pain and suffering.”
- “May I be healthy and strong.”
- “May I be able to live in this world happily, peacefully, joyfully, with ease.”
After you speak these phrases about yourself, focus your attention on someone you love or care about deeply, using his or her name:
- “May John be free from inner and outer harm and danger.”
- “May John be safe and protected.”
- “May John be free of mental suffering or distress.”
- “May John be happy.”
- “May John be free of physical pain and suffering.”
- “May John be healthy and strong.”
- “May John be able to live in this world happily, peacefully, joyfully, with ease.”
Follow the same practice for someone you feel neutral about, then someone with whom you have difficulty, followed by all sentient beings in the world.
As you repeat each statement about these people or beings, be mindful of the meaning of each phrase and your deep desire for their happiness and safety.
Focus on the feelings of love, tenderness, and compassion you have for them. Visualize your feelings of loving kindness enveloping each person with a warm, protective shield.
The purpose of this practice is to wish happiness and well-being for everyone.
This practice can be helped by visualizing the suffering of other people and sending them love, or by wishing peace and happiness to another person.
5. Mantra Meditation
A mantra is one of the most commonly used tools for meditation. The word “mantra” is a Sanskrit word derived from the words man (“mind”) and trai (“protect”).
This means that mantras are tools that are used to help protect the mind.
Most mantras are valuable because of their sound quality. They can either be spoken or listened to, recited fast or slowly, be simple or abstract.
Some mantras are short, one-syllable words, like “Om,” while others are a series of words put together, such as,”Om Namah Shivaya.” This translates to “I bow to Shiva, the supreme deity of transformation who represents, the truest, highest self.”
But mantras don't have to be Buddhist. You can use your own mantra, like, “I breathe in peace. I breathe out stress.”
Mantras create sounds, which create a vibration. These vibrations can transform your mind and body in a positive way to increase your overall wellbeing and feelings of peace.
For meditation, the idea of repeating mantras is pretty simple.
Whenever you are giving your full attention to the mantra, you are not being distracted by other thoughts, ideas, or feelings.
If you are able to keep your mantra on a loop, you can stay in your peaceful state of being while you are meditating.
How to Do It
To practice a mantra meditation, get into a comfortable seated position.
Decide the mantra you want to use for your meditation.
If you want to become energized, chant your mantra quickly. Alternatively, if you want to calm yourself, say it slowly over and over in your mind.
You can play around with different speeds to see what works best for you. You can also play around with how loud you say your mantra, depending on how much chatter you are trying to quiet in your brain.
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You can practice synchronizing your breathing with your mantra until you find your rhythm. Once you do, saying the mantra with your breathing will become second-nature.
Whether you are saying your mantra out loud or just listening to it, allow your mind to pay attention to each repetition. Let every repetition be new and energized.
Unite your mantra with your mind. Pay complete attention to what you are doing.
Add thought and care into your mantra meditation, whether that is curiosity, gratitude, reverence, or anything that makes sense for your specific mantra.
6. Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation has several lineages, but it is mainly an adaptation from traditional Buddhism. “Mindfulness” is how we in the West refer to the Buddhist term “sati”.
John Kabat-Zinn, the creator of the mindfulness-based stress reduction program, is known as the person who brought mindfulness meditation practice to the Western world and initiated its popularity by putting mindfulness into a scientific context.
This type of meditation is the practice of focusing on the present moment.
It involves accepting and paying attention without judgment to the feelings, thoughts, and emotions that come up as you return your focus to the present over and over again.
How to Do It
Focus attention on your breathing, and as you breathe in, be aware of your breath and how it feels. As you breathe out, feel the air leaving your body.
Breathe like this for the entire time you are meditating. If your mind wanders, always bring it back to your breath.
In the beginning, your mind will wander constantly. Simply bring it back to your breathing without worrying about your wandering mind.
7. Self-Inquiry Meditation
Self-inquiry meditation is a simple, yet powerful, method of meditation. It originated with the Hindu Advaita Vedanta tradition and is taught by many in the Western world today.
The main question that the practitioner is seeking to answer during this type of meditation is, “Who am I?”
While other basic meditation techniques aim to calm the body and quiet the mind, they don't encourage looking inward like this technique does. This form of meditation helps you uncover your true nature.
Self-inquiry is for people who are spiritually adventurous and are looking to find the answers to life's deepest questions, such as the Buddha or the Hindu sage, Ramana Maharshi.
Not everyone will have transformative experiences doing self-inquiry meditation like these spiritual masters, but everyone has the potential to catch a glimpse of their true selves.
How to Do It
To practice self-inquiry, sit as you usually would for meditation.
Don't try to focus your mind or alter your experience, just stay in your state of awareness. After about fifteen minutes, ask yourself, “Who am I?” Just drop this question into the stillness of your being.
Don't try to think of any answers, such as “I am a child of God,” just continue to return to the question during your meditation.
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As you sink deeper into a meditative state, your mind becomes still, and you may find the answers that arise become more abstract — they arise experientially within your being.
As you continue to do this, you might find yourself asking yourself these questions at unexpected times during the day outside of meditation.
Learning who you truly are will help you quiet the chatter of everyday life and always be able to come back to the fact that you know your true self.
If you are intrigued by self-inquiry meditation, this audio offers a detailed explanation of the practice and what it means.
8. Sound Meditation
Sound meditation, otherwise known as Nada Yoga, focuses on sound starting with external sounds like calming music.
During this meditation, the student gives all of their attention to the sound and focuses intently on hearing it. This helps quiet the mind.
Eventually, the practice evolves to listening to the internal sounds of your body and mind.
The goal of this type of meditation is to hear the “ultimate sound,” which manifests as “OM” — considered to be the sound of the Universe.
This healing practice allows you to experience a sense of inner calm and relaxation. However, sound meditation does not revolve around forcing your mind to be quiet.
Rather it is about listening to the silence that is already there. Silence marks the beginning of happiness, creativity, and possibilities.
Practicing this type of meditation each day allows you to move silence into your mind and body to add compassion and fulfillment to your life.
Even when you are experiencing an anxious moment, you can still connect to the inner stillness and calm that lies beneath the rough surface of your thoughts and emotions.
How to Do It
Begin this practice by taking a few minutes to do mindfulness meditation. Focus the present moment through your breathing. Then, become fully aware of your surroundings.
Pay attention to any sounds around you, even if it is just silence. If the silence lasts for a while, shift your attention to breathing until you notice a sound.
Note the small sounds that come and go and try to follow them for the duration. Try not to attach any narrative to the sounds — just hear them.
If you're meditating indoors, you may hear creaks in the floor, pets moving and sounds from electrical appliances. If you’re outside, you’ll hear birds, the wind in the leaves, the neighbor's dog barking, or even traffic.
Don't think about what causes the sounds or where they are coming from, just notice that they are there. Monitor all aspects of your listening experience, without judgment or attachment.
When you are ready, open your eyes.
9. Vipassana Meditation
Vipassana originated in India and is one of their most ancient techniques for meditation.
Vipassana literally means seeing things as they are. It is the practice of continued close attention to sensation, through which you see the true nature of existence.
This form of meditation was rediscovered by Gotama Buddha over 2500 years ago, who went on to teach the practice to help people treat their illnesses.
This form of meditation aims to dispel mental impurities and allow people to achieve the highest happiness of full liberation.
Vipassana focuses on the connection between the mind and the body.
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This observation-based and self-exploratory journey helps to create a balanced mind that is full of love and compassion.
Vipassana is actually a mental training that people go through to improve their focus and calm their mind. It also helps people increase their goodwill and loving-kindness towards one another.
How to Do It
Begin the meditation with mindfulness of your breathing, noticing all of the subtle sensations and movements involved in breathing in detail.
Follow the air in and out of your lungs and the rise and fall of your abdomen.
When you become distracted, just notice bodily sensations and thoughts without attaching to them. Simply name them (“itch,” “worry,” “sound,” “thought,” etc.) and return your focus back to your breathing.
Your meditation will encompass all sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations, and mental objects such as visions of imagination or emotions.
When any of these arise, focus direct awareness on it, and silently use a gentle verbal label. Then return to awareness of breathing.
Labeling allows you to perceive clearly the actual qualities of your experience, without getting lost in the content.
10. Zen (Zazen) Meditation
Zazen means “seated Zen,” or “seated meditation,” in Japanese.
It has its roots in the Chinese Zen Buddhism, but the most prominent advocate of zazen was Dogen, the 13th-century Zen master and founder of the Sōtō sect in Japan.
He believed zazen was a method for moving toward enlightenment.
Zazen is a more formal meditation style, with a lot of emphasis on maintaining the correct posture to support concentration.
It is usually practiced in Zen Buddhist centers (Sangha) with strong community support, but you can certainly practice it on your own as well.
With Zen meditation, a lot of the focus will be on the correct breath which is determined by correct posture.
Breathe through your nose, as nasal breaths will give you a cooling and warming sensation as you breathe in and out, making it easy to follow the patterns of your breathing during meditation.
How you sit during Zen meditation is very important. If you are flexible, try either the half lotus position or the full lotus position.
To do the half lotus, place your left foot on your right thigh and put your right leg under your left thigh.
To do the full lotus, place each foot on the opposite thigh. Make sure that no matter what position you choose, you are not in pain.
How to Do It
To practice zazen, you must focus on your breath and stay in the present moment.
Find a place where you are comfortable and peaceful and sit on a meditation cushion known as a zafu to help elevate your hips and keep your knees rooted to the floor.
You can fold up a thick blanket to work as a zafu if you don't want to purchase one.
Assume the full or half lotus position depending on your comfort. If these positions are too uncomfortable, sit on a meditation chair or bench.
Make sure your back and neck remain as straight as possible. Try to find balance in your posture.
Hand position is also important. Place your left hand on the right one with palms turned upward. Touch the tips of the thumbs together lightly to form a straight line with an oval opening above your fingers.
Your wrists should rest on your thighs with the edge of your hands resting against your belly. Keep your shoulders relaxed.
Traditionally in Zen meditation, you keep eyes your eyes half open to prevent daydreaming or drowsiness. Your vision should be about one meter in front of you on the floor.
Begin breathing and try to have a calm, long and deep natural rhythm. You should focus on exhalation while inhalation occurs naturally.
The correct state of mind should emerge naturally from deep concentration on posture and breathing. During meditation, you'll have images, thoughts and emotions coming up to the surface from the unconscious mind.
Don't attach to them, but rather just let them go like clouds floating through the sky.
Continue to bring your attention back to your posture and breathing.
Start out with some short sessions where you focus solely on your breath. Once you get comfortable with this, begin to develop a routine that works best for you.
Any meditation can be hard to grasp at first because it takes practice to let go of the thoughts in your mind and allow it to become clear from everyday clutter.
Zen meditation takes some effort to master, so start slowly. If you try to do too much too soon, you may have a hard time focusing on your breathing.
Start off with just two minutes of meditation and increase the amount of time from there.
To help start a meditation habit, set aside the same time each day to solely focus on your meditation.
Create a calming space in the house that you can use during meditation. This way, when you enter this space, your body will know that it is time to calm down and focus.
You can even start with a ritual before you begin meditation, such as drinking a warm cup of tea or listening to calming music.
Whatever you need to do to make meditation a part of your daily routine will help you make it into a habit.
Leave us a message in the comments telling us what you think about this list and your experiences with some of the techniques that you have tried.
If you think this article could be useful for someone else, please share it so they can be introduced to the benefits of meditation as well.