It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and we’re taking a look at a popular practice to treat stress and anxiety: meditation. Countless studies have shown that the mind-calming practice has the ability to improve overall mental health, and the popularity of meditation apps has brought it even more into the mainstream. With the energy that goes into politics, social media and every day stresses of life, people are looking for a way to clear their minds. Meditation may be the perfect place to start.
According to Ava Johanna, a yoga and meditation instructor, and host of the wellness podcast The Alchemized Life, meditation not only helps manage stress and anxiety, but enhances energy and vitality.
“Meditation is a tool for self-compassion, awareness, and presence that is necessary in our fast-moving digital world. Often we can get caught up in mental time travel by replaying the past or worrying about the future in our minds and meditation acts as an anchor to the present moment — which is all we truly have.”
There are many forms of the practice: Transcendental, visualization and body scan to name a few. It can be difficult to find the the right one for yourself.
Dr. Kim Peirano, DACM, LAc, the owner and acupuncturist behind Lion’s Heart, encourages people to seek out a form of meditation with curiosity. “No kind is ‘better’ than another, but what’s best for you is what works for you. So if something catches your attention, try it! And if you think it’s the most awful thing you’ve ever done, try something new.”
A program-based option that could work for beginners looking to hone in on the practice is Access Meditation. “It’s an effortless form of meditation that’s practiced while sitting very comfortably with your back supported and your eyes closed,” says Ben Turshen, owner of Ben Turshen Meditation. “It does not require focus or concentration, nor does it require trying to suppress thoughts or control the mind.”
One of the reasons why meditation is experiencing such growth is because of apps that are introducing tons of people to its benefits. It’s almost impossible to talk about meditation without hearing about the different ones that are out there. While they each offer different things, they all promise to make getting into the practice easier.
Headspace and Calm are arguably two of the most popular options for those wanting to dip their toes into some peace and serenity. Not only are both options user-friendly, Turshen says they deliver positive results for users.
While using an app offers a completely different experience from working with an expert teacher, it can be a good place to start. “With regular daily practice, the right meditation, even learned through an app, can help relieve stress and anxiety,” says Turshen. “Remember, the best form of meditation and similarly, the best app is going to be the one you find returning to every day.”
Ready to give it a try? There’s one important thing to remember: You may not ever experience a state of having no thoughts at all, but don’t get frustrated. “Rather than getting upset about the thoughts that come up, witness them as they arise and come back to the breath,” says Johanna. “The breath is your best friend in your meditation and every time you do this, you strengthen your ability to remain in the present moment.”