Focused Meditation and its Benefits
Focused meditation contributes to our internal arsenal of meditation techniques, that can help us in so many ways during our journey of addiction recovery.
The art of meditation has been practised for thousands of years. Today, it serves as a form of alternative healing and its benefits are seemingly endless.
Focused meditation helps to build more awareness of our thought patterns and come to understand that they do not define us. It can help us relax in moments of chaos.
The ability to observe our own thoughts is a major catalyst for increased growth during the recovery process. For instance, building ‘focused awareness’ can help us acknowledge the kinds of thoughts we have that trigger cravings.
By discovering what our thought patterns and internal monologues are, we can even step outside of ourselves and learn how to stop reacting to internal and external triggers. This is just one of the many benefits focused meditation offers when practised consistently.
What Is Focused Meditation?
Focused meditation is a type of meditation in which you place your focus on one particular sensory stimuli. Whether that be an object, sensation, or sound.
Traditionally, when we think of what it means to meditate, we think of clearing our minds. With focused meditation, there is less focus on clearing the mind, and more focus on, well, focusing !
This form of meditation is great for beginners because it isn’t guided and doesn’t require facilitation. It also serves as a perfect introduction into meditation as it helps to slow down the mind with the assistance of a focal point, rather than having nothing to anchor on to.
You can practise this form of meditation at home, at work, at the park, and truly anywhere that isn’t overly crowded or noisy. It will be much easier to practise focused meditation in a place that is quiet and still.
This particular meditation can be practised for as long as you can maintain, or for as little as a few minutes. It is truly a highly adaptable form of meditation.
The Benefits of Focused Meditation
There are many benefits of this type of mindful meditation for the brain and the body. Research shows that focused meditation helps to reduce stress. One study even indicated that practising focused meditation was able to help relieve pain in patients experiencing chronic lower back pain
Another study showed that university students who practised focused meditation for six weeks experienced a decrease in symptoms of anxiety and depression. A follow-up conducted 6 months after the conclusion of the study revealed that the students who continued to practise the meditation continued to experience a decrease in symptoms.
After 12 months, students still engaging in the practice were observed to have a continued reduction in their symptoms of anxiety and depression. The study concluded that focused meditation is a formidable psychosocial tool that can benefit university students greatly
Focused meditation does wonders for the brain, and has the ability to rewire neural networks. Over time, it also actually causes areas of the brain to thicken, including the mid-prefrontal cortex and the mid-insular part of the brain. This can be invaluable for us as we work to heal our brains from the long-term effects of substance abuse and prolonged exposure to stress .
The benefits of focused meditation:
- Great for beginners
- Can be practised without an instructor
- Can be practised anywhere
- Rewires neural networks in the brain
- Increased concentration levels
- Helps increase patience
- Fosters mindfulness
- Reduces stress
- Relieves pain
- Decreases symptoms of anxiety
- Decreases symptoms of depression
Step-By-Step Focused Meditation for Beginners
Are you ready to give focused meditation a try? Below is a step-by-step outline to help get you started.
Before the Meditation
In order to prepare for a focused meditation, be sure that you are in a calm environment, as it will be more difficult to practise focused meditation in loud or over-stimulating surroundings.
Remove any distractions, such as the sound of the television, and switch your phone to silent. Wear comfortable clothing to encourage relaxation.
During the Meditation
1. Select a focus object.
Many practitioners suggest starting with your breath as your initial focus object. If you would like to focus on something external, you can select a candle flame or a sound bowl. You can choose anything that engages your senses.
2. Sit or lay in a comfortable position.
If you choose to sit for your meditation, you can sit on the floor or on the edge of a chair. Keep your back straight to maintain posture. Rest your hands wherever they naturally fall and feel comfortable. If you prefer to lay down, you can do this as well. Just be sure that you don't try this when you are feeling extra tired, or you may run the risk of falling asleep mid-meditation!
3. Relax your body.
Once you find yourself in a comfortable position either sitting or laying down, close your eyes. Do a brief body scan to relax the muscles in your body. Start from the top of your body and work your way down, observing each body part, such as your arms and fingers, and releasing any tension you may feel. Drop your shoulders if they are raised and drop your tongue from the roof of your mouth. Do this for your entire body.
4. Begin to focus.
Now, we begin the focused aspect of the meditation. Let’s say you’ve decided to use your breath as your focus object. During the experience, you are observing your breath, how it feels when the air flows in through your nose, and how it feels when the air flows out of your nose. You can observe that your stomach rises and falls with each breath, that your chest rises and falls in the same fashion. It is important to not think about your breathing, but to simply be present and observe it.
5. Let your thoughts pass.
Whilst focusing on your breathing, you’ll undeniably begin to think about what you should eat for dinner tonight. Or maybe you’ll think about work, and an upcoming deadline that you have. This is completely normal! It isn’t easy to still the mind, even if there is a focus object involved. Thoughts will flow into your mind, and the important thing to do here is to acknowledge that that have happened. Acknowledging that you are experiencing a thought is a massive step, as it indicates that you’re practising mindfulness. Once you’ve observed the thought, let it go. You can place the thought on a cloud and watch it float away, and then continue to focus on your breathing. It is important to not feel resistance to thoughts coming in and out of your mind, but rather to acknowledge them, accept them, let them go, and continue focusing.
After the Meditation
Gently move your upper body, and then gently move your lower body. Gradually transition from an inward focus to an outward focus. Mindfully pay attention to how you feel after the meditation. Do you feel calmer? More relaxed?
While in this state, take time to reflect on what the experience of focused meditation was like.
Was it difficult to maintain focus? Was it easier than you imagined? What kinds of thoughts were coming in?
Whether you practised for 3 minutes, 10 minutes, or 30 minutes, you should commend yourself for doing it. The mind is like a muscle, and it will become easier to focus for longer intervals of time as you practise more.
Additional Tips for Practising Focused Meditation
- Begin with short sessions. Instead of diving in headfirst and trying to practise focused meditation for 30 minutes on the first go, try to practise it for 5 minutes instead. It is important to start with shorter sessions so as to not overwhelm yourself. Small steps are key when developing a long-term, enjoyable and sustainable meditation practice.
- Find a time of day that works best for you. Some people choose to practise meditation first thing in the morning before work or school. This helps set them up for the day with a clear and grounded mind. Others choose to practise at night in order to wind down and relax after a busy day. You can even have a pop-up, 5-minute focused meditation session in the middle of a hectic work day to re-center and slow down internally. This is one of the many positive benefits of focused meditation - it is completely flexible based upon you and your needs!
- Be gracious with yourself. Developing the meditation muscle takes time and practise. Don’t beat yourself up for having those thoughts coming in and out (just keep putting them on clouds!), and don’t beat yourself up if you’re having trouble focusing. The whole point is to use this form of meditation to develop that ability, among so many other things as we’ve discussed. Start with short sessions and a schedule that is feasible for you, feels realistic to maintain, and doesn’t feel overwhelming. Always give yourself loving words of positive encouragement after a session, even if you feel you couldn’t keep focus for more than a few seconds. It truly does get easier! You will be able to practise focused meditation for longer intervals and longer periods of time as long as you keep practising.
Sources for Accessing This Meditation Practise
Our Recoverlution Wellness hub is dedicated to increasing your wellbeing and offers many methods of mindfulness, breath work and meditation for you to use.
Remember, the beauty of focused meditation is that you can practise anywhere at any time, and it doesn’t have to be guided. As always, Recoverlution is here to help if you have any questions!
Author - Thurga
- How To Start A Focused Meditation Practise - https://www.verywellmind.com/practice-focused-meditation-3144785
- Science Direct - Effectiveness of Focused Meditation for Patients With Chronic Low Back Pain - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0965229916300358
- Science Direct - The Effect of a 6-week Focused Meditation Training on Depression and Anxiety Symptoms in Brazilian University Students with 6 and 12 months of Follow Up - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165032718310498
- Mindfulness Meditation and Addiction - https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-wise-open-mind/201004/mindfulness-meditation-addiction