Here’s a closer look at the three forms of meditation that are most popular today. Read about each one to see how they might benefit you:
Compassion and loving kindness
This practice is designed to cultivate warm, compassionate feelings toward others, even toward those we may not like. It begins by cultivating feelings of self-compassion, then moves toward developing feelings of love and compassion toward others. A study from Stanford University led by researcher Cendri A. Hutcherson found that even a short, seven-minute compassion meditation can increase feelings of social connectedness with others.
A wandering mind is the greatest challenge to effective meditation, and in focused attention, the meditator concentrates on the cycle of each breath as it goes in and out. Each time the mind begins to wander, the meditator returns his or her focus to the breath. At Emory University, a study revealed that different areas of the brain lit up as the attention shifted, further supporting findings that meditation—even in short increments—creates physiological changes within the brain.
involves observing what’s going on during meditation—sights, sounds, smells, sensations and thoughts. Instead of being engaged in them or carried away by them, meditators observe and dismiss them, and studies have shown that those who practice mindfulness experience diminished activity in areas of the brain typically associated with anxiety, such as the amygdala and the insular cortex. Ronald D. Siegel, PsyD, assistant clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, teaches that walking and eating meditations are particularly effective for those who want to learn mindfulness.
Both can be started informally, such as just being more “present” and aware while walking or eating, and then can become a more formal practice if desired.
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