Meditation is an ancient practice that, according to archaeologists, dates back to 5,000 BCE. Today, it’s estimated that up to 500 million people meditate, and that figure is growing. It may seem like a simple concept. You sit, focus on your breath, and let your thoughts pass by like clouds in the sky. But the benefits of meditation are vast – far beyond simply helping you relax. And thanks to the growing popularity of meditation, several types have evolved over the years, allowing you to use meditation for anxiety, relaxation, stress, depression, focus & more!
6 Meditation Types That Can Change Your Perspective on Life
There are several types of meditation out there. Some are traditional, some are a fusion of traditional and modern concepts or practices.
One of the most popular forms of meditation practiced today is mindfulness. With mindfulness meditation, the goal is to be aware of and stay in the present moment. When practicing mindfulness meditation, you:
- Let go of the past
- Let go of the future
- Accept the present moment without judgment
The beauty of mindfulness is that it’s a practice you can do anytime, anywhere. Virtually every form of meditation incorporates mindfulness to some degree.
In recent years, the concept of mindfulness has exploded in popularity, primarily because science is showing that it can really help with depression and anxiety. It may also help with memory, focus, and your ability to cope with stress. This may be the most well-known type of meditation for depression and anxiety.
One small study even found that mindfulness could lower blood pressure in people with chronic kidney disease.
Also known as Zazen, Zen meditation is commonly practiced in Buddhism. Those who pursue this form of meditation typically seek out a teacher because it requires specific postures and steps.
Similar to mindfulness, Zen is all about sitting quietly, focusing on your breath, and observing your thoughts without judgment. It’s a popular form of meditation for those seeking a more spiritual path or ways to relax.
A spiritual practice that goes beyond simply observing your thoughts or the world around you. With Transcendental Meditation, the goal is to rise or transcend, above your current state of consciousness.
To reach this state, practitioners may use a mantra or repeat a series of words. Like with Zen meditation, many people who pursue this type of meditation seek out a teacher for guidance. Your teacher will determine the mantra.
Transcendental Meditation was created by Maharisih Mahesh Yogi, and it’s practiced for 20 minutes twice per day. The technique has been incorporated into corporations, schools, universities, and prison programs in the U.S., Europe, Latin America, and India.
4. Metta, or Loving-Kindness
With Metta meditation, the goal is to develop love and kindness towards everything on the planet, including people you dislike or things that cause you stress.
For this type of meditation to work, you must be open to receiving love and kindness. During each session, you send thoughts and messages of loving kindness out to the world and your loved ones.
Instead of focusing on the breath, Metta meditation focuses on a mantra or well-wishes of a sort. You're free to choose your own mantra. Here’s an example:
- May all beings be happy and well.
- May they be at peace and healthy.
- May all beings be free from suffering.
Mantras are repeated silently.
Many people find that loving-kindness meditation can help them overcome emotions that are affecting their mental health, such as:
With regular practice, Metta meditation can improve positivity and help you learn how to forgive. Some people find that it helps with anxiety, depression, and even PTSD.
5. Body Scan
Also known as progressive relaxation, body scan meditation is a form of meditation for relaxation in which you scan your body to find areas of tension and allow that tension to be released. Sometimes, this form of meditation uses a technique of tensing and then relaxing muscles. Sometimes, practitioners are asked to visualize the tension being released from their bodies.
The session starts at one end of the body and works its way through to the other end.
It’s easy to get caught up in the past and future. We dwell on past negative experiences, and we fixate on the future. After all, we have goals and ambitions, right? It’s great to be productive and driven, but there should also be a place for quiet reflection.
That’s where self-reflection meditation comes in. This form of meditation will give you some insight into your thoughts, but it also gives you purpose for your meditation.
During your practice, you will focus on a question and stay aware of your feelings when focusing on that question.
These are just six of the many types of meditation. We encourage you to give each one a try because they each offer a different type of experience and benefit.
The Benefits of Meditation
Each form of meditation has its own benefits, although there’s a lot of overlap among all of them. The key benefits of the various meditation types are:
Meditation for Anxiety
Anxiety is one of the main focal points of research into the benefits of meditation. The studies include:
2019 Frontiers In Psychology
The 2019 study looked at mindfulness meditation and its ability to help with both anxiety and depression. Path analysis on 1151 adults was applied and found that mindfulness meditation led to:
- Direct lower levels of anxiety
- Indirect lower levels of anxiety
Emotional regulation was possible for participants when they focused on worry and rumination.
2010 Meta-Analytic Review
The 2010 meta-analysis looked at the effect of mindfulness on anxiety. At the time, researchers noted that there was little known about the practice’s ability to impact anxiety. Small sample sizes were concerning, so the team chose to analyze 39 studies that included 1,140 participants in total.
What was found was that mindfulness had a significant effect on anxiety and depression.
Researchers concluded that mindfulness meditation is a promising form of intervention for the clinical population that suffers from anxiety and depression.
Meditation for Stress
35% of people that meditate use meditation for stress. Meditators continue this practice, across a range of meditation types, because it’s able to reduce the stress that they’re experiencing.
Review of 200+ Studies of Mindfulness
Mindfulness meditation for stress was one of the most promising and well-studied benefits. Researchers found that people suffering from stress relating to chronic pain were able to reduce their stress.
A 2014 study on psychological stress found that meditation can reduce multiple dimensions of stress at least moderately. The analysis examined over 3,500 participants across multiple trials and found that in low-to-moderate stress relief occurred.
Meditation for Depression
Depression impacts over 60% of the adult population. Meditation may be one of the easiest ways to help break the grip of depression on the general population. A few of study on meditation for depression include:
A 2019 study on meditation, mindfulness, and yoga analyzed 11,936 articles, 24 clinical studies, and 181 full-texts. The researchers found that many of the articles were of poor quality, but noted that there were moderate effects for reducing depression.
2015 Systematic Review
A 2015 systematic review was performed on the efficacy of meditation to help with depressive disorders. The review included 1,173 total participants and found that meditation can help with both acute and subacute depressive disorders.
While the review does note that meditation does seem to provide a moderate-to-high level of efficacy for helping with depression, there is some concern that there aren’t enough large-scale, long-term studies in the field.
2018 Harvard Study
Harvard researchers conducted studies on the brains of depressed patients and analyzed how the brain can change with mindfulness meditation. The study examined participants’ brains over the course of a two-month period and found that people that meditate are able to hold what they call “steady” brain patterns.
Changes occurred from the beginning to the end of the study, particularly in brain activation patterns.
Meditation for Relaxation
Meditation is one of the main relaxation techniques used by athletes worldwide. The NIH suggests that meditation may be able to:
- Reduce a person’s sympathetic nervous system activity
- Increase parasympathetic nervous system activity
What this means is that meditation may be able to increase relaxation while also reducing arousal.
The term “relaxation” is wide-ranging, and in this article alone, we examine multiple studies on how meditation can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression to relax a person. Additional studies that show the effects of meditation for relaxation include:
A 2013 study on meditation found that in an 8-week period, it was possible to reduce anxiety symptoms. Stress reactivity was also improved as well as the participants’ ability to cope with stress and anxiety.
Meditation for anxiety, stress, relaxation, and depression shows promising results. Multiple types of meditation can be used to help promote these benefits, but consistency is key. When combined with other forms of therapy, exercise, or natural supplements, the impact of meditation can be further improved.