Elliott Counseling Group

Meditation: It’s Not What You Think

Jolie Carsten, LCSW
Clinical Director
Elliott Counseling Group

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What is meditation:
  • Intentional focus to increase feelings of peace and decrease feelings of stress.
  • Exercise for the brain to reduce atrophy and improve neurological functioning.
  • Attention - intentionally focusing on something for even one minute is meditation.
  • Concentration - intentionally focusing on a word, a phrase, an object, a sound, or an image.
  • Awareness - intentionally focusing on the present moment as it comes without judgment.

What meditation is not:

  • Not a relaxation technique: meditation can lead to relaxation, but it is not the goal.
  • Not emptying the mind: meditation is developing awareness of thoughts.
  • Not a goal to achieve: meditation is focusing on the present rather than the past or future.
Benefits of meditation:
  • Reduce feelings of stress and increase feelings of mental preparedness.
  • Decrease negative health issues:
    • Hypertension
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Irritable bowel syndrome
    • Chronic pain
    • Addiction
    • Insomnia
  • Positive effects on brain:
    • Increased gray-matter density in various areas of brain associated with learning, attention, concentration, memory, empathy, and self-reflection.
    • Reduce or even reverse effects of aging on brain, such as mind-wandering and decreased senses.
    • Decreased amygdala area – less anxiety, fear, and stress

Simple ways to practice meditation:

  • Eating: try to sit alone and focus on enjoying your food with all of your senses and gratitude.
  • Breath awareness: focus on breathing fully and deeply, from your belly rather than your chest.
  • Body scan: focus on each part of your body, from your head to your feet, noticing any tension.
  • Rainbow Walk: focus on things around you that match each color of the rainbow.
  • Perspective: focus on at least one positive quality within each person you encounter for a day.