Meditation may be a household word, but that doesn’t mean it's well-understood. When some people picture “meditation,” they imagine far-away retreats, not their own living room. Millions of people around the world practice meditation, but for many, it still seems too exotic for real life.
This might be because meditation isn’t just “one thing.” It’s a word used to refer to a family of different activities that engage the mind and body. What these activities share is focused concentration. During any meditation practice, you try to reach a state of awareness of your own thoughts and feelings, and a connectedness with yourself and the environment. With time, a meditation practice can help you find peace and enhanced well-being.
Professional athletes, people in the workplace, celebrities, military service men and women, kids in school and older adults practice meditation. In other words, meditation is not too exotic for real life — in fact, it fits right into it. Anyone who wants to can practice a form of meditation, and it’s proven to be beneficial to your health and well-being.
The benefits of meditation
There are many health benefits of meditation. It can:
- Reduce stress
- Improve stress-related health conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and fibromyalgia
- Promote mental and emotional health
- Reduce anxiety and depression
- Control pain
- Improve sleep
Meditation can also you help develop a more positive outlook on life. No matter what type of meditation you choose to explore, all forms encourage focused attention, relaxed breathing, and an open, welcoming attitude — all helpful practices that you can take back into the “real world” when you’re done.
There’s something for everyone
Meditation is an umbrella term. It encompasses many different styles. Most anyone can find a practice that works for them, no matter how busy their lives. Here are some ideas for fitting meditation into your life:
- In the car frequently? Try mantra meditation. Park in a safe, quiet place. Relax a bit in your seat and choose a calming word, thought or phrase. Repeat it over and over, either by speaking, whispering or thinking it in your mind. You can do this for just a few minutes. It can have a calming effect and help focus your brain from distraction.
- Commute by public transportation? Get seated, pop some sunglasses on for a sense of privacy, close your eyes and practice mindfulness meditation. You just need to close your eyes, pay attention to your breath and focus on present thoughts. When your attention wanders, notice where it wandered to, and then bring your thoughts back to the present — not past worries, not future tasks, just your breath in the present moment. One warning: you can get so focused on mindfulness meditation, you might miss your stop!
- Looking to get some exercise while you relax your mind? Tai chi and yoga are both forms of meditation, where you perform a series of physical movements in a gentle and mindful way. Tai chi is a gentler form of movement. Yoga can help you build more balance, coordination and flexibility.
- Have kids and looking for an outlet? Get the kids involved. There are meditative practices that even young kids can try, either by themselves or with you. They will also experience wellness benefits from meditation. In fact, many schools today use meditation to help their students quiet their minds and focus.
There are many ways to practice meditation — and as you can see, it can easily fit into a busy life. No matter how you start, or how you sustain your practice, anyone can access the mind-body benefits of meditation.
1. Xiang, E.(2016) Mindfulness in the Military. Discover Magazine (2016).
2. Allen, A. B., & Leary, M. R. (2014). Self-compassionate responses to aging. The Gerontologist, 54(2), 190–200. [p 190 / col 1 / par 1]
3. Neff, K. D. & Davidson, O. (2016). Self-compassion: Embracing suffering with kindness. In I. Ivtzan & T. Lomas (Eds.), Mindfulness in Positive Psychology (pp.37-50). Rutledge. [p9 / par 1]
4. Neff, K. D. & Davidson, O. (2016). Self-compassion: Embracing suffering with kindness. In I. Ivtzan & T. Lomas (Eds.), Mindfulness in Positive Psychology (pp.37-50). Rutledge. [p8 / par 3]
5. Neff, K. D., & Knox, M. (2017). Self-Compassion. In V. Zeigler-Hill & T. Shackelford (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences. New York: Springer. [p3 / col 2/ par 2]
6. Yarnell, L. M., Neff, K. D. (2013). Self-compassion, interpersonal conflict resolutions, and well-being. Self and Identity. 2:2, 146-159. [p 154 / par 5]
Reviewed by Kaiser Permanente Clinical Ambassadors, including Mark Dreskin, MD, Sharon Smith, LPC, and/or David Kane, LCSW. September 2018.
This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.
Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage, Summary Plan Description or other coverage documents. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.