Different forms of meditation have different effects on your brain, a new study has revealed.
This means that you might not be getting what you want out of daily breathing practices, because not all routines are one-size-fits-all.
Researchers who worked on the new report from Science Advances found that practicing a form of meditation that corresponds to the character traits you want to focus on is crucial for maximizing its benefits.
Their study looked at medication practices that were breathing-based, reflection-based and relationship-based, and found that each resulted in different behavioral changes.
Here, we’ve provided a guide based on the study’s results that lets you know what to do if you want to be a better friend, more patient or more focused, among other things.
The study’s researchers observed 332 people for the experiment, and more than 95 percent of them were white. Eligible participants were chosen after they completed mental health questionnaires.
Participants were divided up into three groups: the presence group, the affect group and the perspective group.
BEST FOR… IF YOU HAVE A SHORT ATTENTION SPAN
Participants in this group focused on meditation practices that included breathing and ‘body scan’ exercises.
The study explained: ‘The basic instruction for Breathing Meditation was to focus attention on sensations of breathing and to refocus attention whenever it wandered.’
For the body scan practices, participants were instructed to dedicate their attention to their body one section at a time, and they were told to notice the sensations they felt in each part while doing so.
These participants also practiced meditation that focused on vision, walking, tasting and hearing.
‘These practices require a deliberate focus of attention on certain aspects of present moment-to-moment experience, monitoring of distractions and reorienting toward the object of attention in the meditation, be it the breath, a sound or a visual object,’ the report said.
Researchers found that participants in this group were better able to pay attention following the study.
Their work concluded that if you turn to meditation so that you can focus or hone in on complex subjects without becoming distracted, breathing-based meditation might work best for you.
BEST FOR… PEOPLE WHO STRUGGLE WITH RELATIONSHIPS
Members in this group focused on healthy relations during their meditation practices, which were referred to as ‘loving-kindness’ practices. They were instructed to imagine things such as cute animals and babies while meditating.
They were also encouraged to focus on safe places, comforting places and warm feelings during the practices. At the root of their meditation was an emphasis on healthy relationships.
‘The typical instruction for the Loving-Kindness Meditation was to start with imagining oneself and then a benefactor, where these feelings might arise naturally, and then to extend feelings of loving-kindness and good wishes to self and then the benefactor,’ the study read.
Participants were told to repeat certain phrases that stressed these topics within their own minds. Among the phrases were ‘May you be happy’, ‘May you be healthy’, ‘May you be safe’ and ‘May you live with ease’.
This group’s members thought about relational aspects such as care and acceptance.
The affect group’s participants were found to have a heightened awareness of emotion regulation and empathy.
The researcher’s findings prompted the conclusion that, if you meditate with the hope of becoming more welcoming or a better conversationalist, loving-kindness practices could help you with this goal.
BEST FOR… IMPATIENCE
Perspective participants mainly focused on reflection during the experiment, and they were encouraged to do so without analyzing their lives.
The study said: ‘Participants were instructed to just observe the coming and going of thoughts without getting involved in them.’
During some of the practices, participants were told to think about their own lives but through the lenses of others who they struggle to get along with.
The meditation training taught them the difference between understanding others’ motives and approving of their behavior.
And people in this group experienced changes in their ability to monitor whether or not their opinions were necessary.
They also saw changes in their need to express themselves, and the results lead to the notion that if you meditate with the hope of becoming more tolerant, patient or self-assured, reflection-based practices could be right for you.