Meditation is one of the most powerful ways to achieve a deep level of relaxation - and meditative relaxation techniques have become incredibly popular over the last few years.
From self-development books by the Dalai Lama, to meditation apps that get millions of downloads, meditation is incredibly empowering.
In fact, look at any health blog and meditation seems to be the buzzword of the moment.
But how can you begin using this practice? And is meditative relaxation right for you?
This actionable guide will teach you everything you need to know - including a look at the pros and cons of this technique...
1. What Is Meditative Relaxation?
1.1. How Meditative Relaxation Works
So what is meditation?
Meditation is a way of concentrating your awareness and focus in the present moment.
Whilst it sounds very spiritual, it’s basically a concentration technique.
Practiced for thousands of years, meditative relaxation is an ancient practice.
When we think of meditation, we often have a picture of someone sitting on the floor in the lotus position looking off into the sunset.
Yet meditation doesn’t have to be a particularly religious or spiritual practice.
This is something anyone can do - and anyone can benefit from it.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, how bad your stress is or what you’re worrying about.
And the truth is, we can turn anything into meditation.
1.2. Examples Of Meditative Relaxation Techniques
Here’s a few examples of meditative relaxation techniques:
Walking in the countryside, whilst being aware of every step, sound, and sight you see
Eating chocolate and savoring the flavours patiently and slowly
Listening to a meditation audiotape
Mindfully doing the washing up
Counting your breath, from 1 - 10, concentrating on the feeling of breathing
1.3. Negative Thinking
As is the human nature of the mind, a lot of us are addicted to thinking.
You might call it overthinking, worrying or feeling like you’re being overwhelmed.
But the truth is, this is just the nature of the mind.
If we live a busy life, our minds are often clouded with busy thoughts.
And most of these thoughts aren’t particularly valuable.
So how can we stop feeling so attached to our thoughts?
Well, with meditation, you become less attached to your thoughts.
In fact, you’ll learn how to neutrally watch your thoughts without being attached to them.
Let me explain...
2. Why Is Meditation Important?
Sometimes, doesn’t it seem like everyone is fighting a battle?
Like we’re all on some never-ending voyage where we’re constantly challenged by day to day life?
For example, you or someone you know is probably struggling with issues such as:
General depression or anxiety
Worries about losing weight or dieting
Tiredness or fatigue
A lack of time
As humans, we always feel like we have to improve ourselves - like something is missing.
And whilst that creates the motivation for us to positively develop ourselves, it can also lead to mental health problems. In fact, over 1 in 4 of us will struggle with mental health problems at one point during our lives.
So why is that?
Well, Buddhists who regularly meditate reason this down to the nature of the human mind, as I’ll explain later.
2.1. How Mindfulness Helps Us Relax
In today’s busy world, our minds are frantic.
We’re bombarded with information. We always feel like we don’t have enough time. And we often overload ourselves with commitments or just work too many hours.
So why is meditative relaxation a potential solution?
Well, meditation calms the mind. It creates a certain level of ‘Headspace’ between our frantic minds - and who we actually are.
And that space leads to a more comfortable, relaxed and positive state of mind that’s no longer occupied by the worrying thoughts we’re often overloaded with.
In a way, it lowers the intensity of our busy minds.
But that’s not all. ..
2.2. Understanding The Nature Of The Mind
You see, if you don’t take any time out to meditate, then you’re unlikely to ever step back and see the true nature of your mind.
Instead you’re locked inside the cycle of a busy, frantic mind - without even realising it.
And the problem is, a mind that’s racing out of control can impact every area of your life, such as:
- Your energy levels and physical health
- Your stress levels and mental health
- Your friendships and family relationships
- Your career and how you perform
- Plus much, much more
So how would your life change if you could finally reduce your stress levels and gain a consistent level of positivity on a daily basis?
Well, that’s how meditative relaxation can help you.
It’s not the perfect antidote - but meditation does offer value for anyone who’s serious about pursuing it.
2.3. Facts About Meditative Relaxation
So there are several studies analysing the benefits of meditative relaxation.
Let’s look at a few:
NCIH: Using MRI scans, the NCIH team discovered improvements from mindfulness based meditations linked to improvements in mental health.
This study discovered more grey matter developed in certain parts of the brain associated with mental health.
Max Planck Institute of Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences:
During a 9 month meditation study, researchers discovered significant changes during their participants neurology.
Practices included meditations to improve compassion, concentration and focus.
The neurological improvements were formed after just 30 minutes of meditation a day, which highlights just how powerful this technique can be.
So whilst most meditation teachers recommend longer periods of time, but just 30 minutes can still be beneficial to your health.
University of Kentucky
Relaxation is linked heavily to our physical health.
The University of Kentucky discovered in their study that meditation can reduce blood pressure.
But isn’t there already medication for this?
Well, medication does help reduce blood pressure, but it also comes with side effects too. And some of them can be rather nasty.
So meditation is a healthy, natural alternative you can use to relax and reduce your blood pressure, without worrying about relying on drugs to help you.
Plus medicines cost money and time to arrange, so meditation is potentially more convenient.
3. How Can Meditation Help You Relax?
Meditation is rated so highly because it’s designed to help you overcome the constant flow of thoughts and feeling in your mind.
When you meditate, you still have thoughts - and they’re not going away!
However, meditative relaxation gives you a break from your thoughts, so that you’re no longer attached to them.
Like watching the clouds flow through a blue sky, meditation let’s you step away from your thoughts and all the tension they created.
It basically creates a heightened stream of consciousness.
Whilst some people see meditative relaxation as an easy to fall asleep, if you’re doing it properly you should feel more awake and alert during the exercise.
4. How Meditative Relaxation Improves The Quality Of Your Life
When you’re worrying about the future, or feeling depressed about the past, you have to realise that you’re not living in the moment.
You might be physically in the present, but your mind isn’t.
And if you’re not enjoying the present, how can you truly enjoy life?
When we’re distracted about the past or present, we’re like a feather in a breeze - being blown from place to place without ever really having control of our emotions.
With meditation, you’re not trying to get anywhere.
You’re not trying to improve your life or become a better person.
You’re already there - and everything is already perfect.
You begin to understand that life is a series of moments, and you’re present for every single one.
This creates a sense of connectedness to the quality of your life - allowing you to appreciate every step of the way.
Can you imagine how much more relaxed you’d be if you were no longer worrying or stressed about things that aren’t actually happening right now?
That’s the magic of meditative relaxation - it empowers you with a totally new perspective on life.
5. The Pros And Cons Of Meditative Relaxation.
5.1. What Are The Benefits Of Meditative Relaxation?
Meditation helps you to increase your concentration
It’s proven to boost your awareness and concentration
There’s a lot of information and resources available to learn meditation
It’s an exercise designed to improve your spiritual, emotional and physical wellbeing
It’s been proven to aid depression and anxiety
You can actually download meditation audios for relaxation online
Meditative relaxation is so mobile! You can practice it anytime, anyplace anywhere
5.2. What Are The Disadvantages Of Meditative Relaxation?
It’s quite easy to form bad habits during meditation - such as overthinking or over-analysing
You might need a guide to help you along the way
You need to dedicate some time to meditating if you truly want to benefit from it
Meditative relaxation should be a period of no-distractions - so make you find a quiet space and put away your phone!
Meditation might feel too spiritual for some people
To truly see the benefits of meditation, it should be a daily practice that you adopt as part of your lifestyle
6. Why Meditation Over Other Forms Of Relaxation?
There are hundreds of ways to relax….so why choose meditation?
And how does it compare against deep breathing, yoga stretching and progressive muscle relaxation?
Well, all of these exercises are very powerful ways to relax.
However, meditation doesn’t require any physical strength - unlike some forms of yoga for example.
Plus you can practice forms of meditation - like mindfulness - anywhere.
...Even whilst you’re stuck in traffic or waiting for a train!
7. Common Pitfalls When It Comes To Meditation
Meditative relaxation offers some amazing benefits.
But the thing is, you can’t just do this once or twice and expect to cure your anxiety forever.
Instead, you have to turn meditation into a habit. Why?
Because the more you practice meditation, the more you’ll improve your concentration and discover deeper levels of awareness in the present moment.
Think of it like brushing your teeth:
If you brush your teeth once a week, you won’t see much of a benefit. It’s definitely better than never brushing your teeth - but you need to make it more consistent.
And it’s the same with meditative relaxation. You have to practice meditation every single day to truly gain the long term benefits. Plus, this creates a snowball effect:
So the more you meditate, the more you’ll see the benefits. And the more you see the benefits, the more you’ll enjoy and reap the rewards of meditative practice.
8. Guided Meditation For Relaxation
So why do I love guided meditations? And why do I think you’re going to seriously benefit from them?
Here’s of the best reasons to listen to guided meditations:
If you’re new to meditative relaxation, it’s easy to get distracted and lost in your thoughts
A guided meditation keeps you focused and on the right track
Listening to someone else’s voice often heightens your level of awareness
A guided meditation only lasts a certain amount of time, so you know when to start/stop
It’s always better to learn from an expert - so why not download a guided meditation from monk with years of meditation experience?
I’ve included some of my favourite guided meditations for relaxation below.
Just sit back, listen and enjoy some of these amazing tracks.
Tips for making the most from meditative relaxation audios:
Remove all distractions from your room - that means no phone, no laptop etc.
Try to practice guided meditations daily so that listening to them becomes a habit
Enjoy the process - don’t think of it as work or a chore
Focus completely on the guided meditation instructions
The best times to meditate are usually when first thing in the morning, when you’re feeling stress or last thing at night...or if you’re feeling dedicated, all three!