Meditation has been huge in the health and wellness space lately— and it’s for good reason. Recent research has shown that starting a regular meditation practice (even if it’s just 10-20 minutes a day!) can help sharpen brain function, improve focus and memory, and decrease your overall stress levels.
That all sounds great, but if you’re brand new to the world of meditation, it might be difficult to know exactly where to start. What’s the difference between all the varying types of meditation out there, and how do you know which one will work best for you?
If you’re looking for a new regimen to help you get into a healthy headspace, here are a few of the most popular types of meditation to try:
Particularly useful for beginners navigating the ins and outs of meditation for the first time, guided meditation is exactly what it sounds like: a meditation practice where a teacher guides you through your experience step by step. This can either be in-person or even on a meditation app like Headspace, Calm, or Breethe.
According to Headspace, most guided meditations follow a similar format: the teacher explains how the mind behaves during meditation, leads you through a particular technique, and then suggests how to integrate the practice into your everyday life.
By definition, mindfulness is “the act of being conscious or aware of something,” but in the context of meditation, mindfulness is more of an ongoing mental state— and mindfulness meditation is what helps us achieve it.
One of today’s most popular meditation styles, mindfulness meditation encourages you to be present in the current moment by taking a mental inventory of your surroundings. No matter where you are, simply focusing on what’s in front of or around you has the power to snap you back to the present and prevent you from dwelling on the past or dreading the future.
You don’t need any special tools or accessories for mindfulness meditation, and it can be done virtually anywhere. Check out this guide to mindfulness meditation for helpful tips and more information.
Similarly, visualization meditation encourages you to focus on specific images, details, or landscapes that create a particular feeling or quality.
Simply put: visualize yourself in your happy place, wherever that may be. Research shows that it can help distance yourself from overwhelming and overstimulating mental activity while simultaneously calming you down and bringing a sense of peace.
Visualization meditation can be more than just a brief escape from reality, though. Olympic athletes frequently use this technique in preparation for a big game, race, or event by mentally rehearsing every last detail of the event and visualizing themselves winning. It might seem silly, but because the brain responds well to visual stimuli, you can actually teach it familiarity and ease your performance anxiety through visualization practices.
Mantra meditation is very similar to visualization meditation, but instead of focusing on a familiar image, you focus on a positive mantra, which can be a specific statement, phrase, or word. Once you choose a mantra that works for you, the idea is to continually repeat it to refocus or clear your mind in stressful situations or whenever you might need it.
Personally, I’ve found mantra meditation to be helpful for me as a writer, especially if I get a bad bout of writer’s block. “Don’t overthink it” is my mantra, and repeating it to myself when I feel creatively paralyzed helps remind me to just get something down, even when it feels impossible, because I can always go back and edit rough drafts later.
What Form of Meditation Will You Try?Of course there are many more types of meditation out there than just these four, but if you’ve been toying with the idea of daily meditation for the first time, this is a great place to start. And if you find that one doesn’t work for you, don’t get discouraged! Everyone’s different, and you may need to experiment with a couple different methods before you find the perfect fit.