Practicing Meditation for Mental Health and Wellbeing
What comes to mind when you imagine practicing meditation? Is it sitting cross-legged in silence as the outside world races by? Is it clearing your mind of all thoughts in the hope of attaining enlightenment? The truth is that meditation practices come in many different forms and can provide various benefits for anyone seeking inner calm and self-discovery.
How I Started Practicing Meditation
It was more of an interest than a regular habit when I started practicing meditation, and I wanted to learn as much as possible regarding meditative techniques. In 2003, I traveled to the other side of Japan to meditate at a Zen temple. This five-day retreat, called sesshin, involved getting up at 4:00 a.m. every morning to sit and meditate for 15 hours. There were only two breaks per day, and speaking was prohibited. I found the practice incredibly challenging, and after three days of silently staring at a wall, I realized I wasn't ready for such an intense experience. I left the following morning, wondering whether I would ever truly understand the purpose of meditation.
A Different Way of Practicing Meditation
Later that same year, I began experiencing depression and panic attacks. However, it wasn't until 2009, after years of working with more traditional therapies, that I considered practicing meditation again. I had been reading about relaxation techniques when an acquaintance told me his sleep and wellbeing had significantly improved since he began meditating with brainwave-stimulating soundtracks, and I was intrigued.
I read up on brainwave stimulation and discovered that when listening to two tones with slightly different frequencies — one played into each ear using headphones — the brain processes a beat at the difference of the frequencies, which is called a binaural beat. Binaural beats have been connected to potential mental health benefits and may promote creativity and focus.1 I invested in a series of CDs that employed such frequencies and began practicing meditation again.
Life After Practicing 5,000 Hours of Meditation
Since then, I've been meditating regularly for an hour daily. Of course, there have been days when I couldn't meditate for one reason or another, but I do it most days. My mental state has improved enormously during this period, which equals around 5,000 hours of meditation. Is this due to the regular practice or simply the passage of time? I can't say for sure, but I like to think it's a combination of both. Some unmistakable benefits that I am sure of are:
- Practicing meditation before bedtime helps me fall asleep immediately.
- Practicing meditation in the morning allows my brain to wake up before beginning my daily tasks.
- Meditating with a brainwave-stimulating soundtrack makes sitting for an hour much more manageable than sitting silently.
Other Forms of Meditation Practice
Traditional sitting meditation offers many options, whether silently focusing on breathing, reciting a mantra, or listening to a purpose-made soundtrack. There are also many other forms of meditation — for example, movement meditation and progressive relaxation:
- Movement meditation, such as yoga, is an active form that enables you to connect deeply with your body and the present moment.
- Progressive relaxation aims to reduce tension in the body. This method often involves slowly tightening and relaxing muscle groups one at a time throughout the body.2
My personal experience has taught me that meditation can be a powerful healing tool. Meditation isn't a mystical method reserved for a select few but is a versatile and valuable approach accessible to everyone. Its benefits are diverse, and its path is open to all who seek inner calm and self-discovery.
- Cafasso, J. (2023, March 28). Do Binaural Beats Have Health Benefits? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/binaural-beats
- Bertone, H., & Hoshaw, C. (2021, November 5). Which Type of Meditation Is Right for Me? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/types-of-meditation
Brocklebank, M. (2023, October 2). Practicing Meditation for Mental Health and Wellbeing, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, December 8 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/livingablissfullife/2023/10/practicing-meditation-for-mental-health-and-wellbeing