Deep breathing is a great stress reliever, and the technique called mindfulness meditation is a helpful way to use breathing to get more in touch with your inner self.
Quiet your mind.
Practice mindfulness—be present in the moment and let go. “It’s one of the skills I sometimes teach patients who are having a lot of racing thoughts,” Spectrum Health clinical psychologist Leisha Cuddihy, PhD, said.
“Instead of honing in on those thoughts and following them where they go, separate yourself from them and focus internally on your breathing.”
People who meditate say they feel more positive, and have more energy and better concentration.
There’s more than one way to tap meditation’s benefits—through variations in technique. A study published in the journal Mindfulness looked at what can be gained from a few popular approaches.
- Body scan. With body scan meditation, you focus on each body part, one at a time, from your head to your feet. When paired with focused breathing, study participants sharply reduced their number of negative thoughts, and thoughts about the future and the past. Body scan can help you feel more centered and focused on the “now.”
- Loving-kindness. This type of meditation helps you deepen positive feelings for a loved one as well as for yourself, your extended social circle, and beyond. This type of meditation led to the greatest boost in participants’ feelings of warm, positive thoughts about others. It can be a good approach if you’re facing interpersonal conflicts.
- Observing-thought. This type of meditation teaches you to recognize and define thoughts—as negative or positive, for instance—without becoming absorbed in them. This practice helped participants become more aware of both thoughts and judgmental attitudes they held toward others. It also can stop rumination—the habit of repetitively going over distressing situations in your mind.
While meditation in general can help you feel more relaxed, different types offer additional benefits. Experiment to find those that bring you closer to your personal improvement goals.