Winding down in the chaos of life has become quite a challenge. It is but natural to crave balance in your life – between work & life, activity & rest, or mind & body. But let’s face it, the balance remains elusive; and that’s where meditation comes to the rescue. Meditation can benefit your long-term physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
How Guided Meditation Relaxes the Mind from Anxiety and Stress
Experienced meditators agree that guided meditation can be quite valuable for beginners for calming the mind and helping to focus. As a beginner, it may be overwhelming to undertake the path of meditation all by yourself. For a newbie, practicing meditation under guidance, with either a teacher or using technology is beneficial. Guided meditation allows you to experience the steps of meditation to get the most of the practice. Different techniques are available for guided meditation. While the exact steps may vary, most of these techniques train you to direct your focus towards your inner self.
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What is Meditation?
Meditation is the practice of using a technique (called meditation technique) to focus the mind on a particular activity, thought or object to achieve clarity, increase awareness and achieve a state of calm or peace.
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History of Meditation
Since ancient times, meditation has been practiced in many religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism – with the practice associated with the aspect of gaining better understanding the religion, one’s faith and self, and connecting with God (or spiritually with a higher power). For example, in Buddhism, meditation is a means of attaining enlightenment.
Origin of Meditation
Meditation originated in the east, with the earliest mentions being in the Vedic texts of Hinduism and as the spiritual path of The Buddha achieving enlightenment and awakening through mindful awareness. Meditation eventually spread throughout Asia with the spread of Buddhism and increased trade in the Silk Route.
Meditation in Western Culture
The practice moved to the west somewhere around the 17th century as religious eastern texts were translated and began to be popularized into western culture. Meditation gurus from the east began to travel to the west and shared their knowledge with those interested in the mysticism associated with eastern religions such as Buddhism. As Buddhism spread to the west, the practice of mindful meditation spread as well.
In the 1960s, scientific research began on the use of meditation in a clinical environment to help people suffering from a number of mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia, among others. The concept of modern mindful meditation led to the development of mindfulness based therapies.
One of most influential outcomes of the scientific research of meditation techniques was the clinically-approved Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MSBR) program by Jon Kabat-Zinn, which used mindfulness techniques to deal with physiological conditions such as addiction, insomnia, etc. MSBR inspired another mindfulness-based therapy called Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which was the combined use of mindfulness and cognitive therapy to treat major depressive disorder.
Meditation can vary based on different teachings – each using its own technique to immerse the body and mind into a deep meditative state of focus, awareness and clarity.
List of Guided Meditation Techniques
Meditation is a way of training your mind to maintain attention and focus. When practicing for the first time, you will notice your mind wandering. This is perfectly normal. Guided meditation allows you the freedom to sit back and relax your mind as a novice. The guide will help you meditate in a step-by-step process using a series of steps and instructions.
Here are 10 types of guided meditation techniques:
This is one of the simplest forms of guided meditation that is often used for relieving anxiety. In breath meditation, the focus is on your breathing – the rate of breathing, how deeply you breathe and the various body parts you use for breathing. Anxiety can make your breathing shallow and rapid. Breathing meditation allows your body to relax and make you feel calmer.
This form of meditation links breathing with cognitive awareness. When you are focused on your breathing, despite breathing being an involuntary mechanism, you tend to gain control on your emotions. A relaxing meditation – guided through focusing on your breath – can give you a sense of relaxation and awareness like none other.
Also called guided imagery, this technique is helpful if you face challenges with traditional meditation guidance. Visualization meditation can be a rewarding experience. In visualization meditation, your guide will direct you to imagine pictures, helping you create a vivid imagination to help see yourself in a new light. This technique is a powerful tool to improve your self-image and drawing positivity. Practicing visualization meditation on a regular basis can help heal many psychological conditions like panic attacks and agoraphobia.
Concentration meditation aims in developing ‘Ekagra’ under guidance. ‘Ekagra’ refers to a calm, attentive and tranquil mind. This meditation involves focusing on a specific thing that can stimulate the senses – a flower, a candle or even a phrase. As you meditate, your guide will direct you to examine the details of the specific thing you chose as your point of focus. It enables you to detach your awareness from the surroundings. It improves mindfulness and improves your attention span and focus.
Guided Vipassana meditation has many advantages. Regular practice of this type of meditation technique can reduce stress, improving emotions and efficiency. Based on Buddhist teachings, Vipassana meditation develops your memory, awareness and perception. The word Vipassana itself means insight. Non-reaction is one of the learnings you gain through vipassana meditation. It involves observing reality and accepting it as it is. It allows the meditator to manage their emotions and teaches co-existence rather than suppressing them altogether.
Body Scan Meditation can help relieve physical tension and discomfort. Often, stress can affect the harmony between the mind and body. Body scanning helps promote body awareness. Under this meditation guidance, you can sync your body and mind. You begin the meditation by bringing awareness to the different areas of the body. You maintain your attention on specific body areas until they soften and become relaxed before moving on to another part.
Resting Awareness Meditation
Resting Awareness meditation is a guided meditation practiced through mindfulness. In the practice of resting awareness meditation, you do not allow the mind to focus on any specific thing. Instead, you intentionally cultivate awareness by relaxing your mind. The awareness you develop through meditation helps you to empathize with those around you. You can suspend your viewpoint and shift your perspective to a better understanding of the body and mind.
Guided Reflection meditation is a technique where your teacher will inspire you to question yourself. You can recognize your thoughts, values and belief systems with a practice of reflection meditation. By questioning your experience and future aspirations, you can re-evaluate your priorities. Reflection meditation can discover your talents, strengths and interests – things you had let go of as you got busy with everyday life. It improves self-awareness and positively influences you to pursue a better and happier life.
Loving-Kindness Meditation focuses on developing positive feelings in the meditator. The meditation directs your attention towards others. Your teacher guides you to cultivate positive emotions of goodwill and gratitude within yourself and expand these feelings to people surrounding you. Loving-kindness meditation is helpful for people who wish to overcome unhappy feelings.
Chakra meditation originated in ancient India. According to the Vedic texts, chakras are energy centers located in our bodies. When these focal energy points are blocked, they can affect physical well-being. Guided meditation for chakras can be a spiritual experience to relax and find balance in your energy cores. It can also help you harness your inner energy to promote a healthier mind and body connection.
Transcendental meditation is a simple and natural form of meditation. It aims to have the meditator transcend above the current state of awareness. A teacher will choose a specific mantra or a set of words. These chosen words resonate with both the teacher and the meditator. You will silently repeat these words to allow your body to settle into a deeper meditative state. This form of meditation enables you to enter a profound state of relaxation.
Benefits of Guided Meditation for People with Anxiety
The practice of meditation benefits your emotional health. Several studies prove the efficacy of meditating in improving anxiety, depression, pain, and insomnia. It can help relieve psychological stress and improve the body’s ability to handle stressful and anxious situations arising in the future. Guided meditation for anxiety prompts you to organize, slow down your racing thoughts, and disrupts the negative thought process. Meditation is also beneficial as an adjunct for the treatment of panic disorders and generalized anxiety disorders. Here are the benefits of meditation to ease anxiety:
Detaching from Stress-Inducing Thoughts
Meditation teaches you to detach and analyze your thoughts by taking a step back and analyzing your present state and situation. Although detachment may sound cold, even unfeeling. However, this is not necessarily true. Overthinking can give rise to anxious feelings. With guided anxiety meditation, you get to examine these thoughts objectively. You can comprehend your feelings and emotions without letting them affect you. Acknowledging them instead of allowing them to foster can allow your emotional health to thrive and improve.
When you meditate, you increase your ability to focus on your feelings and increase awareness. It helps you to become more conscious of yourself. Self-knowledge is a crucial element of emotional and mental well-being. Also, most guided meditations promote awareness about the way you breathe. Focusing on breathing allows relaxation and reduces anxiety. It also oxygenates your body, thus helping provide better clarity of mind. With self-awareness, you can develop positive changes in your relationships and make vital connections.
Understanding the Brain’s Thinking Process
When we face any situation, our mind is hard-wired to react spontaneously. As anxiety can be an involuntary reaction of fight-and-flight responses, fear can control our lives without allowing us the freedom of choosing an appropriate reaction. Meditation teaches you to listen to your emotions. Welcoming all types of emotions, positive or negative, enables you to achieve a perspective to handle the situation. Guided meditation and mindfulness provides you with an understanding of why you react to anxious situations and the ability to change the pattern.
Teaching You to Deal with Difficult Emotions
Emotions can hold us hostage to situations forcing us to react rather than respond. Moreover, emotions can also interfere with our physical health by mediating various hormonal releases. It can be tedious to deal with strong emotions, such as anger and fear. The mindfulness that you experience with meditation can create magical consequences. It provides you with emotional resilience, preventing emotions from affecting your daily living.
Promoting an Improved Self-Image
Through social media, the make-pretend world instills in us the belief that we’re not good enough. The barrage of constant feedback leaves us vulnerable and feeling inadequate, giving rise to body-image and other such issues. Meditation helps to build self-awareness and allows us to discern our self-worth. When we meditate, we become more accepting and centered. By improving our self-image, it liberates our mind from the constraints of social media.
How Meditation Reduces Stress
Meditation has earned a well-deserved reputation for stress reduction. Nature has programmed our body to react to situations automatically using the ‘flight or fight’ response. Although helpful in situations that pose a threat, a prolonged state of such stress can impact our physical and mental health.
Both physical and mental stress can increase the levels of cortisol hormones in the body. These hormones in excess can produce harmful effects in the body. Excess cortisol can contribute to inflammation, sleep disturbance, increased blood pressure, fatigue and impaired judgment. Meditation can have a positive impact by reducing cortisol levels, which in excess, cause stress.
Meditation recovers your body’s calm state and reverses the effects of stress. Physically it allows you to recover from the changes produced in response to stress and re-energizes you.
This is how guided meditation reduces stress:
1. Oxygenates the body
2. Reduces Breathing Rate
3. Normalizes Blood Pressure and Heart Rate
4. Improves Immune Functioning
5. Decreases Cortisol Production
6. Reduces Sweating
7. Clarifies and Declutters the mind
Physical manifestations such as irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia and post-traumatic stress disorder are also believed to be relieved with daily meditation practice. Mentally it silences the noisy stress-induced thoughts and feelings. Meditation teaches how to deal with negative emotions, to accept them and become more emotionally resilient. It guides you to cultivate a deep state of relaxation and tranquility – allowing your attention to become focused and eliminating the crowding of emotions. Just like any other exercise, regular practice of meditation promotes your ability to enter deeper state of relaxation.
Listen to Guided Meditation Online
Digitalization has its perks – you can relax and meditate, all the while being guided with the use of online meditation guides and apps. If you are a beginner, experimenting through various online services to find the right technique suited for you is a wise choice. You can listen to online meditation guidance using:
- Online streaming services
- Guided meditation apps
- Meditation podcasts
- Guided meditations available on video websites
- Online studios and group chats
Set aside some time for guided meditation. Even 10 minute guided meditations in a routine can be sufficient for de-stressing.