Meditation as a tool for improving mental health

13 marraskuu 2022 | By Anna-Mari Pentikäinen

Do you know that mindfulness and meditation can have positive effects on our mental health? And that we can alter our mood with meditation? Meditation also teaches us something profound that can be very transformative and shift our way of being.

Coping with life's ups and downs through mindfulness

In the news, we hear about global pandemics, conflicts, environmental crises and wars. The stories we read or hear on the news feed our minds with fear and anxiety and we wander away by stressing about the future or dwelling in the past. It’s only human. Yet it's also an evolutionary fact that we tend to focus on the possible threats rather than what’s good and pleasurable in our lives.

We can’t run away from adversity but we can learn to adjust to it by practicing mindfulness and meditation. I experienced this strongly during the hardships of last summer when I had a miscarriage and my partner got a cancer diagnosis.

Mindfulness – the art of observing

Research shows that people are the happiest when they live in the moment. Jon Kabat-Zinn (the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) describes mindfulness as awareness that arises through purposefully paid attention to the present moment, without any judgement.

According to the University of California–Berkeley mindfulness is “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.”

In my experience, the thought of a threat is often more painful than the threat itself. Even in the midst of a health crisis or grieving and loss, when we mindfully bring our awareness to this very moment – which can happen by simply observing our natural breath – we can bring a sense of safety, roundedness and stability into the now, no matter what we're experiencing in our inner landscape or what the outer circumstances are.

Meditation and mental health

Researchers have also found a link between mental health and wellbeing and mindfulness practices like meditation. Studies show that mindfulness and meditation can improve our mental health and that even the people who are not naturally mindful can acquire these benefits through cultivating meditation and mindfulness.

Studies also prove that mindfulness practices, such as meditation, improve attentiveness, emotional stability, compassion, social skills and happiness, even in the face of adversity.

When I talk about meditation I don't mean only sitting meditation but also movement meditation or yin yoga done in meditative way. Explore different meditation techniques and choose the meditation style that resonates with you.

The mental health benefits of meditation

  • Develop emotion regulation skills: According to many studies, meditation can develop our emotion regulation skills. Emotion regulation means recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing and regulating our emotions. These skills develop naturally but studies show that we can improve them by practicing mindfulness and meditation.
  • We can tame negative feelings: Researchers from Michigan State University have found neural evidence that mindfulness helps to control negative feelings.
  • Become calmer: Meditation helps us to stay centered and keep our inner peace and calmness – despite the external circumstances.
  • Be aware of what we think and do: Meditation helps us to notice and change harmful thinking and behavioral patterns.
  • More positivity and happiness: We can linger in the positive and empowering feelings and emotions with meditation and through that, bring more happiness, hope and meaning into our lives.
  • Nothing lasts forever: Last but not least, in my experience the most transformational effect of regular meditation practice – it helps us realize that we are not our social roles, age, feelings, emotions, thoughts or actions. All emotions and thoughts are fleeting, even the most difficult ones. Nothing lasts forever.

In short, we can say that mindfulness and meditation can improve our mental health and that emotional skills are also part of mental health skills.

When we dedicate time to meditation we improve our wellbeing and mental health. In my experience, even 10 minutes of meditation each day can help us to create a significant change to the tone of the day – no matter where you are and what you are going through.

Practical tips for meditation

  • Invite an attitude of curiosity. It will help you to sustain your meditation practice when your mind is busy, restless or frustrated.
  • Try Metta ”Loving Kindness” meditation to change your negative self–talk. It’s one of my favorites and is suitable for anyone.
  • Try mantra meditation to create stability and inner safety. There's a lot of transformational power in words.  Repeat "I am safe" mantra silently to yourself for 5–10 minutes whenever you feel anxious or worried. Imagine that the words are like honey drops melting into your heart space and softening it.
  • Explore our online video library and find your favorite style of meditation. Try this playlist to get started.

Further readings about meditation

Meditate with Anna-Mari & others

In the library you can find:

30 min

Meditoi with

Connect with your body as you rotate all your joints and relieving tension.

15 min

Meditoi with

Lempeä meditaatio sopii hetkiin, jolloin tunnet pelkoa tai ahdistusta ja tarvitset elinvoimaa ja valoa.

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Anna-Mari Pentikäinen

Anna-Mari is an Embodied Flow-inspired yoga teacher, as well as a writer. She loves movement, music, travel, nature and the sea. Anna-Mari practices classical tantra (non-dual shaivatantra) and her qualities as a yoga teacher are to teach in a gentle and intuitive way.

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