Meditation “keeps our minds and hearts calm, peaceful, and loving, i.e., in the right place,” a casual practicant of mindfulness and meditation told Medical News Today.
Indeed, most people who become interested in meditation are drawn to it thanks to the widespread notion that it will help them feel calmer, more balanced, and less exposed to the effects of daily stress.
Meditation is by no means a new practice. In fact, it has been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years and a part of diverse cultures. Originally, meditation had strong ties with religion — not just Buddhism, with which people usually associate it — but also with Christian practices.
Indeed, many people today with different religious beliefs like to incorporate meditation as a spiritual practice.
One person even told us that, for her, meditation amounts to a “combination of focused thought and conversation with God,” while also providing a set “[t]ime to listen for the ‘still, small voice’ of calm.”
Mostly, however, and especially in Western countries, meditation has moved away from its spiritual and devotional roots, becoming more of a straightforward practice for mental health and general well-being.
There are many types, including loving-kindness meditation, mindfulness meditation, and transcendental meditation.
Mindfulness has also branched out as a series of practices involving focusing on small details in the present moment. The aim is to help a person stay rooted in the here and now and de-escalate unwelcome feelings or moods, such as episodes of anxiety.
People who engage with mindfulness techniques and meditation often allege that these practices allow them to boost or maintain various aspects of their well-being. But what has research found about the effects of meditation on the mind and the body, and are there any potential harms involved? In this Spotlight feature, we investigate.