More and more therapists are now including meditation in their patients’ treatment plans. Engaging in regular meditation offers relaxation and heightened awareness in this chaotic world. But what people don’t know is that not all types of meditation can be useful. Even if there is no “right way” of meditation, you still have to explore the different forms until you find the perfect fit for your personality and lifestyle.
Progressive relaxation, also called body scan, is a type of meditation which enables individuals to touch their bodies and search areas for tension. The goal is to know these spots so the stress in these areas can be released. “Practicing PMR [Progressive muscle relaxation] helps reduce tension and stress, and will help you relax when you feel anxious,” Jon Reeves, Ph.D. added.
To start the body scan, therapists begin at the feet of their client and work towards the top until they reach the head. Some require their patients to alternately relax and tense their muscles so that they can slowly release the stresses and tension inside their body. Other people also use this exercise to calm themselves down and help them sleep.
This meditation method requires the therapist to encourage his or her client to visualize objects or scenarios which please them. However, for this to work, the therapist should first know the history, lifestyle, behavior, and personality of their client, so that he or she will know which images to focus on.
For example, the therapist will ask the patient to visualize a beach on a sunny day. From here, he or she can conjure the sense of touch by asking what the sand feels like on the body or how hot the sun is. Next, they can explore the sensory impressions when the client describes the food aroma which surrounds the beach. They can also touch on the sounds they hear from the people and animals lurking around.
Once this exercise begins, the therapist should observe the transition signs of contentment from the client. This change can be in the form of a change in voice tone, posture, or facial expression.
Bolette Daniels Beck, PhD and collaborators, discuss the findings in the study they conducted, “The results indicate that GIM [Guided Imagery and Music] is a promising treatment for work-related chronic stress, and further studies are recommended.”
Breath Awareness Meditation
This type of meditation revolves around mindful breathing. Therapists guide their clients in breathing deeply and slowly while counting their breaths. The goal is for them to reach the state of mind where their focus is only on their breathing instead of entertaining other thoughts. “Mindful breath awareness involves paying attention to the breath and observing thoughts, feelings, sensations and other experiences that arise without becoming fixated on them,” Grace Bullock Ph.D. added.
Breath awareness meditation has many benefits. These include reduced anxiety, better emotional stability, and improved concentration.
Hypnosis is almost similar to that of guided imagery. However, instead of using sensory engagement, hypnosis uses verbal suggestions. The process starts with the therapist leading the client into a hypnotic trance. This trance is an intense phase of relaxation. Once they reach this stage, the client receives specific and goal-oriented suggestions which can help them change behaviors, adopt new habits, and improve their mindset.
For example, a client is having a difficult time quitting smoking. What the therapist can do is put the client into the said hypnotic trance and suggest that this habit is no longer healthy and enjoyable. He or she can also plant the idea that whenever the client sees or touches a cigarette, the desire to smoke disappears.
Zen meditation or Zazen is a type of meditation which is part of the practices of Buddhism. A critical aspect of this exercise is the presence of a teacher or a coach since this involves specific steps and postures.
The goal of Zen meditation is to come up with the most comfortable position, focus on the breathing, and erase other thoughts circling in your mind. Most people would think that this is a simple exercise, but what’s difficult with it is finding the position which you can bear for several hours. Hence, Zen meditation requires focus and practice.
Kundalini yoga is perhaps the most complicated meditation form. It requires a physically active process combined with deep breathing and mantras. These mantras are pre-determined mantras, whose goal is to improve the mental health of the patient and put additional positive reinforcement to his or her mind. Some individuals compare Kundalini to the typical yoga minus the mantras.
Aside from these six meditation forms, there are still a dozen more out there. It only shows how meditation is not as simple as everyone thinks. It requires patience, practice, and focus to achieve mastery.
Regular meditation prompts a whole-body relaxation response. It relaxes muscles, lowers blood pressure, slows breathing and heart rate, and focuses the mind. Aside from these, meditation also helps clients manage their emotions well, which enables them to make better decisions in their lives.