Many people still have limiting beliefs around meditation. You may still think that meditation is something only monks would do. Or you may think that meditation takes a lot of time because experienced meditators spend many hours a day meditating, right?
That's all untrue.
Meditation can give you quick results if you apply the technique correctly. Meditation can also change your life. And with technology, you can get to these results even quicker.
You can simply compare meditation with changing your diet for the better. If you switch from a diet that's laden with junk food to a healthier one, you'll probably sleep better the following night.
Your gut health may also immediately improve, your joints may feel better, and your ability to think may be enhanced. You thus got some instant results by changing your life for the better.
So there's little downside to trying meditation because you might just change your life. What's even better is that some types of meditation - which are laid out in this article - have an immediate benefit.
I'll first talk about why meditation is important, and then cover several strategies to get the job done quickly.
Click HERE to immediately want to skip to these meditation techniques.
In the last part of this article, I cover technology that helps you put fuel on the fire for even quicker results.
You may still be thinking: "Meditation is not for me. I'm down to earth and not into fairytales".
If so, you're probably mistaken.
Let us look at 10 - scientifically backed - meditation benefit:
That's 10 different meditation benefits right there. Let's now look at how you can get these benefits as quickly as possible...
I hope you're now convinced that meditation is a potential game-changer.
Again, meditation is simply a gym workout for your mind.
And you probably know that I'm all for efficiency when training my body. For exercise, I've been using a 15 minutes per week approach for years now.
Many people don't know that by training less you can actually dramatically increase your results in the gym.
The same is true for meditation.
Just spending some time on meditation, as opposed to no time at all, can already dramatically change your life.
So let's go over these techniques one by one:
Mindfulness meditation is probably the most practiced type of meditation today.
One reason for that popularity is that mindfulness is easily practiced by yourself once you learn how to perform the technique.
And the easiest way to understand mindfulness is to envision yourself focusing on the present instead of the future or past - as I talked about before.
There are many ways to focus on the present instead of the past or future: you can focus on a candle in the room, your breath, or a body part.
For now, let's pick your breath. With mindfulness, you're turning your mind's attention continually towards that breath.
The problem is that this attention does not come naturally to many people. In fact, the human mind naturally wanders to all kinds of topics that have nothing to do with your breath, such as:
Your mind focuses on almost anything except what it needs to focus on: your breath. Your goal is to bring your attention back to that breath once your mind gets distracted.
Many people make the mistake of thinking they've made an error when their mind gets distracted. But the careful observer sees that I wrote "when" and not "if". The reason is that even the most experienced meditator gets distracted during their meditation.
Distraction from what you're focusing on is thus fully expected. You therefore don't need to beat yourself down when you lose focus - the entire goal is to re-direct your focus at your breath whenever you do get distracted.
Again, meditating is just like spending time in the gym: every time you direct your attention back to your breath is like squatting for one repetition in the gym.
The goal is to get as many repetitions as possible.
The bright side about mindfulness is that it already works in a few minutes. Heck, even spending 5-seconds focusing on your breath already makes you more relaxed.
Don't believe me?
Check the video below:
Takeaway: practice mindfulness meditation for 20 minutes every day. If you're short on time, meditate for 5 minutes. If you've got even less time, do it for 5 seconds.
Box breathing is very, very simple (33).
During box breathing, you're spending an equal amount of time 1) breathing in, 2) pausing, 3) breathing out, and 4) pausing again.
So if you're box breathing for 4 seconds, that means you're slowly breathing in for 4 seconds, pausing for 4 seconds, breathing out for 4 seconds, and pausing again for 4 seconds.
By slowing down your breathing you're getting really relaxed (35. 36. 37).
Just look at people who hyperventilate: they're really stressed and anxious. Slow breathing brings you into a state that's the opposite of hyperventilation: calm and relaxed.
Make sure you're breathing through your lower belly as much as possible when box breathing--not your chest (38; 39).
The more you practice box breathing, the better the results will be. Over time, you'll be more calm and relaxed no matter what activity you're in.
So if you're practicing box breathing a week before an important presentation, chances are high that you're also breathing more calmly during that peak moment.
Another simple biohack: alternating between the nostril you're breathing through.
Normally, your body closes off one nostril while the other one opens. That opening up and closing cycles over time. So one hour, your left nostril might be opened while your right one is closed. The next hour that situation may have reversed.
As a human, you can also intentionally control your breathing: that's where alternating nostril breathing comes in:
As a result, you'll feel more calm and relaxed (40; 41). Your nervous system literally moves into a more serene state.
Some limited evidence also exists that alternating nostril breathing lowers anxiety (42). This breathing style may thus be perfect for the current stress-ridden society.
The best part?
Just practicing for a few minutes, up to 15, already gives results. You can do this meditative breathing anywhere, whether you're sitting on the bus, watching television, or waiting in the doctor's office.
Mantra meditation comes by different names, such as "Transcendental Meditation", "Vedic Meditation", or "Ziva Meditation".
The technique is really simple: you're allowing a meaningless sound to repeat in your head which brings you to progressively deeper states of relaxation.
The key to correctly practicing mantra meditation is to let the mantra do what it naturally does--without interference.
Don't try to interfere with the rhythm of the mantra, or it's loudness or the way it sounds. In other words, it's fully expected that the mantra changes over time - you don't have to control anything.
Traditionally, this meditation style is practiced twice a day for 15-20 minutes.
The benefits of mantra meditation are astounding, because it lowers stress and anxiety, improves quality of life, boosts cognitive performance, improves sleep quality, and more (46, 47, 48, 49, 50).
Try this meditation style - it's free!
Once you become more adept, just meditating for a couple of minutes already has good effects.
Make sure to sit comfortably in a chair that has back support. No need to sit in a difficult meditation position.
Sometimes you find out society has it all wrong on a certain topic. A couple of years ago, I found out that most of the dietary advice out there is plain wrong.
I had been taught that eating fat was bad, that polyunsaturated fatty acids are healthy (independent of their sourcing), and that counting calories are all there is to it when it comes to fat loss.
Later on, I found out that some fats are not only healthy but even necessary. I also found out that vegetable oils are one of the most toxic foods in existence (if not the most) and that fat loss is more complex than counting calories. Talk about a wakeup call...
Breathing is similar.
You're meant to breathe through your nose almost 24-7. Only during very intense exercise is it required that you breathe through your mouth.
Your mouth is for eating and speaking--your nose is meant for breathing. And yet, many people in today's society are breathing through their mouth.
There's lots of evidence that mouth breathing is wrong. Just take a simple look in nature: almost all animals are breathing through their nose all the time.
Just look at the following quote:
"Mouth breathing in cats is not normal and may be a sign of a serious medical condition." (Source)
Mouth breathing in humans is not normal either but we've gotten used to it.
So why change? The reason for nasal breathing is that your body retains CO2 much better. CO2 is not just a waste product but is essential to take up the oxygen into your cells (43, 44, 45).
You'll often also start breathing quicker and quicker if you're mouth breathing. The downside of breathing quicker is that you're expelling even more CO2 that way, lowering the amount of oxygen your body absorbs.
The counter-intuitive lesson is that you need to breathe more slowly and through your nose to improve oxygenation.
The best part is that nasal breathing won't take any time at all once you get used to it. In fact, nasal-only breathing saves you lots of time.
This is also why I recommend mouth taping at night to reduce mouth breathing whilst sleeping.
Body awareness is somewhat similar to mindfulness in that you're directing your body's focus.
The difference is that during body-awareness meditation, you're directing the focus to different body parts.
Many people don't know that they hold tension in different parts of their bodies. By becoming aware of that tension it becomes easier to let it go.
During body awareness-meditation, you're slowly progressing through all parts of your body and learning to fully relax that body part.
You may start, for instance, with your toes. For 30 seconds, you'll become fully aware of those toes and focus on the emerging sensations from those toes. You then try to fully relax your toes.
Next, you'll move to your feet, lower legs, tights, glutes, and so forth. If you practice this meditation style more frequently, you'll learn which places of your body naturally become tenser (due to sitting all day, for example).
You can then easily focus on that body part, such as your neck or middle back, and let the tension go during your day. Again, this meditation form can save you time as well because you're simply less tense throughout the day and learn to relax.
This meditation technique is a bit more "woo woo", but it might help in certain circumstances.
The goal of loving-kindness meditation is to (eventually) develop compassion for all of humanity.
Some studies have actually shown that loving-kindness meditation can increase the number of positive emotions you're feeling, make you more loving towards yourself, and possible counter mental conditions (46, 47).
Usually, certain affirmations are used for this meditation type. Examples are "I'm worthy of happiness" and "I deserve to feel good".
That's right: loving-kindness meditation starts with yourself and then slowly moves to people around you.
Even if you don't practice this meditation, the principles used in this style are still worth remembering: self-compassion.
Being compassionate to yourself - and thus not too hard on yourself - can reduce stress and improve your overall well being (48, 49).
You may be thinking: "but I thought meditation was free and easy to use".
That's true, but modern technology can make your sessions even better. Just like better gym equipment can boost your gains in the gym, better meditation tools can make quick progress much easier.
So let's dig into two different devices that can take your meditation sessions to the next level:
Inner balance can be bought as an independent device as well as an extension for your phone (iPhone and Android).
The goal of inner balance is to lower your stress levels. Inner balance - just as all the earlier meditation forms - is practice-based.
Inner balance specifically uses "heart rate variability". Heart rate variability is the measurement of the interval between your heartbeats.
An interval that's dissimilar over time signifies lower stress levels, while it's an indication of stress if the interval is very regular. With the inner balance, you learn to increase that heart rate variability so that you're moving away from a stressful state.
The upside is that you only need to practice a couple of minutes a day. You already know I'm all in favor of efficiency, so check out the inner balance HERE.
The inner balance measures your heart rate variability through your ear. You have to clip on a device on your ear that is connected to your phone.
Read my previous article on heart rate variability if you'd like to learn more.
Now we're talking:
The Muse headband measures brainwaves through your skull. Your brain actually emits electromagnetic waves at certain frequencies. Those frequencies vary during different sleep stages and in wakefulness.
The bright side about the Muse headband is that it gives you immediate feedback on how well you're relaxing.
Getting immediate feedback is a huge benefit.
Let me give you an analogy. Assume that you're squatting in the gym, after seeing a couple of videos online on how to squat.
The problem with that approach is that if you don't have a personal trainer, problems with your technique are not going to be corrected and will become a bad habit. Back when I used to coach clients in the gym, many people thought they were exercising with perfect technique but few actually were.
That's why personal trainers get paid well: you'll get immediate feedback on any potential error you make. The Muse headband offers the same feature.
Furthermore, the feedback is offered in the form of a game. It thus becomes a challenge to improve your relaxation level as well as possible because a score is kept.
That score is saved after each session and compiled over time. You'll then be able to compare the outcome of that day with that of previous days and weeks - giving you an ability to track your progress over time.
The Muse headband costs $199 but is highly recommended if you'd like to upgrade your meditation sessions (and purchasing through THIS link will save you 15% on the price).
Read my extensive article about the Muse headband HERE.
The Oura Ring now has an inbuilt meditation feature called 'Moments'.
Moments allows the user to practice meditation or mindfulness with the help of the app (through guided meditations, and or background sounds).
Also, as the Oura Ring has a wide range of advanced sensors (learn more about the Oura Ring here or read my review here) you can also track your heart rate and heart rate variability through the app.
You can read my comprehensive review on the Oura Ring Moments feature here.
I'm just going to say it: everyone should meditate, just as everyone should exercise once in a while.
Keep in mind that I'm not saying that you should become a monk, disconnect from the world, and meditate 12 hours a day. Not at all.
What I'm saying instead is that if you don't do any meditation, and if you're never focusing on the way you're breathing, you're probably losing out BIG TIME!
Think about it. What if you never even thought about your diet or your exercise routine? Would those habits be developed as well compared to when you'd put some attention towards it? No!
So your breathing and meditation aren't going to be well developed either if you never spent any time improving them. That's where 5-minute meditations come in: massive results in a short amount of time.
This is a post by Bart Wolbers. Bart finished degrees in Physical Therapy (B), Philosophy (BA and MA), Philosophy of Science and Technology (MS - Cum Laude), and Clinical Health Science (MS), and is currently the chief science writer at Alexfergus.com.
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