Meditation is a well-known practice that people value for self-improvement. Millions, if not billions, of people practice it often so that they can find peace, happiness, and improved overall well-being in this chaotic world.
However, research has found that it can also worsen the same health issues it is known to help with, like anxiety and depression. And while this is true, the answer to why this happens may lie within ourselves and how we engage in meditation practice.
Here, we will be taking a deeper look at the some of the negative effects of meditation and the important things to keep in mind and work with to reduce the chances of having bad experiences with it.
Brief Overview of How Meditation Can Worsen Depression and Anxiety
There have been numerous studies on meditation and how it influences various areas of life, from mental health to physical and emotional health. Most of these studies have shown that meditation has positive effects on most of these areas. However, some studies fail to mention that the practice also comes with adverse effects on some occasions.
Several reasons exist why this small but crucial aspect of meditation is overlooked. One is that the number of people who experience negative effects of meditation is small. A systematic review of the effects of meditation has revealed that around 8% of people who meditate don’t always get the results they hoped for. Instead, their condition gets worse than before they started.
There are several explanations as to why these unwanted effects might occur, and they can be largely categorized into three groups:
First, they could be due to an individual’s health status. If someone decides to meditate to reduce anxiety and depression when she has an underlying medical condition, meditation probably won’t help her get better.
Also, the person’s mental state and preparedness for meditation as she goes to do it matter a lot.
Second, the unwanted effects could be due to the style of meditation a person chooses. There are many meditation techniques out there designed for various benefits. For instance, mindfulness meditation is aimed at grounding the practitioner in the present moment. Loving-kindness meditation helps people build the virtues of genuine love, kindness, and concern for other people.
If someone chooses to work with a certain meditation style because it is trendy or looks stylish without first understanding it well, he is bound to have problems along the way.
Third, it could be that meditation might not be for you, and you are better off with other self-improvement techniques. Although different meditation styles have been created for almost anyone in rare cases, meditation may not sit well with you.
We all have different brain and body chemistry, and what might work for someone else may not work for you. Consider medication or even food. Some people get allergic reactions to certain foods that others find fulfillment in eating.
This doesn’t mean you must push meditation to the side without having given it a go. You should try out several meditation styles first and give them time, or even consult with meditation teachers and experts of various styles before concluding it is not for you.
As for the people who fall into the first two categories, here are some practical solutions that may help you improve your chances of getting good results from meditation.
Practical Solutions to Get Health-Improving Benefits from Meditation
1. Have the right expectations from meditation
People get to know about meditation from different sources that say varying things about the practice in general. Some sources praise meditation to the skies, some give a clear picture of it, and others paint a bad picture. This gives newcomers different perspectives and expectations. If these expectations are not met when they begin meditation, they can get discouraged.
If you are looking at a specific type of meditation you want to try, you should first learn all there is to know about it from credible sources. Make an effort to understand its benefits and downsides and how you are supposed to go about it.
For instance, your mind wanders a lot during meditation (this goes for all meditation styles). This can increase your anxiety, especially if your attention wanders to thoughts that increase your anxiety.
Also, expecting quick results from meditation can throw you off balance. If unreliable sources led you to believe it would solve all your problems by the first session, you are bound to be disappointed.
After checking with some trustworthy sources, compare what you learned and see if these sources over-hyped it, under-hyped it, or gave a balanced view. You should then decide if you still want to do it after this discovery.
Having a clear understanding of the practice you are about to do is important to help you have the right expectations and avoid feeling let down if things don’t work out.
2. Choose the right meditation style for you
Before trying meditation, define what you hope to get from it and be sure it is possible to get the hoped-for benefits. Then choose a meditation style that aligns with your personal beliefs, traditions, and perspectives about life and which you feel certain can bring the benefits you are seeking.
Don’t go for meditation rooted in deep Buddhist practices if you are of a different religious group with conflicting beliefs. Many meditation styles have been designed and modernized to be a good fit for all people as they don’t have any religious or spiritual aspects to them. They are meant for self-development for everyone. You can work with those instead.
Don’t choose a particular style because it is the trending topic of the moment. Don’t begin vipassana meditation because your favorite celebrity mentioned it. Instead, work with it because you know it fits you best.
3. Always have your purpose for meditation before you begin every session
This might seem to trivial, but it goes a long way. Consider a scenario where you’ve just come from a hectic day at work, and you still have a lot you need to do. You are already under pressure, and if you meditate without having the purpose of meditation in mind, chances are you will do it because you have to, not because you want to.
You will do it to complete a tedious task and not to ground yourself well in terms of an attribute you want to build in your life. As you meditate, your mind will wander away to all the work you must do after the session. Your stress and anxiety will increase, your meditation practice will lose meaning, and you will come out of the session more anxious, worried, and stressed than you went in.
However, if beforehand you remember that meditation will help you relax, refresh and become calmer and more awake, you will long to do it. This will help you fully immerse in the session and have a rewarding experience instead of stressing over things.
4. Take things slowly
Many people want to get into meditation today, for the first time, and meditate for hours. This is not the correct approach, and doing that will wear you down and overwhelm you. The best approach as a beginner is to meditate for 1 to 2 minutes for the first couple of weeks and then increase the length of the sessions as you get comfortable.
As a beginner, don’t do many meditation techniques all at once. You should begin with a guided meditation for your chosen meditation style. After you have had a good experience and learned how it is done, you can start doing it on your own.
The idea here is to take one step at a time so that you can experience meditation benefits and ground yourself in them.
5. Learn meditation only from experts
To build on the previous point, when you are still learning and using guided meditation resources, ensure that you pick resources from qualified, experienced, credible trainers and sources.
Before using a meditation video from YouTube or a particular meditation training website, do a background check on those involved. Do your due diligence and make sure you know the history of the people who are walking you through the meditation sessions. Confirm if they are qualified experts.
Not all meditation videos or training sessions are credible and appropriately designed, which could lead to bad experiences and unwanted effects. If you work with resources from well-known experts, you are on the right path and have more chances of benefiting from meditation than if you use the wrong resources made by profit-driven individuals whose goal is just to make a buck.
Transcendental meditation (TM), for example, should be given to you by someone who is trained, qualified, and experienced in it, and it is always given one on one. You get such a person assigned to you from their main website. Never use videos that claim to walk you through TM without a meditation teacher.
6. Regulate your practice of meditation
Make sure that you measure yourself according to your meditation experience and adjust things to make them go smoothly for you.
If you meditate and feel overwhelmed for many days consecutively, take a break and figure out why you are feeling overwhelmed. If it is a personal issue in your life, think it through, solve it, and then go back to meditation to see if there is a positive change.
If it is a medical issue, visit a doctor and get checked. If it is a meditation-related issue, seek advice from meditation teachers and experts. Ideally, if it is an issue that’s not related to your way of doing meditation, solve it first.
Meditation often helps with some health conditions and personal issues. It also gives you mental space to solve your personal problems, but it is up to you to reason and come up with ideas and solutions and put effort into making the change.
By being sensitive to how you feel as you meditate and adjusting things so that you are still benefiting from it, you get the motivation to do it in the long term and see positive change in your life.
7. Warm yourself up for meditation
If you come from an overwhelming task and want to meditate, but your mind doesn’t make a quick switch to the practice, you can try warming up exercises. For example, thinking about meditation first before you do it and getting into your meditation attire.
Also, preparing your meditation space to make it “meditation friendly,” watching meditation videos and lectures from meditation experts and teachers, and reading meditation books about your type of meditation and meditation in general help as well.
These activities will get you into the mood of meditation, which can reduce the mental baggage that will keep you from directing all your attention to the practice. They help your mind open up to meditation and make your sessions more fulfilling.
In summary, success in meditation is all about working with a style that best resonates with you and understanding it well in terms of its benefits and limitations. It is also about knowing your health status well and why you are meditating, and getting your mind and body ready for meditation a few minutes before you begin your session.
You should work with it in a way that flows well with your mind and body, adjusting yourself and tweaking your approach and how you practice it so that you don’t do too little and fail to find value in it, and also not doing so much that you strain your mind and body. Avoiding both extremes will help keep you in good balance.
Keeping these takeaways in mind will help you improve your odds of gaining value from your meditation practice.
About the Author: David Oscar is a huge meditation and mindfulness enthusiast. He is also a mental health researcher and the editor of Improve Your Brain Power (IYBP), a website that shares the legitimate and effective ways to improve the power and function of the brain.
Photo by Jordan Sanchez on Unsplash
The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.
Recommended for You
- Mental Health Disparities among College Students of Color - March 20, 2023
- How to Deal with Different Emotions in a Range of Environments - March 16, 2023
- 8 Easy Life Hacks To Improve Your Quality Of Sleep - March 13, 2023