Meditation is an age-old Eastern practice that has gone mainstream, and for good reason: Scientists are finding that its healing powers go way beyond helping you chill, like helping you eat more mindfully, improving your cognition, and even reducing your disease risk.
But with all the good it does, meditation has built up a reputation for being a bit too complicated or designed for only one type of person. There are misconceptions abound, so below, we bust the myths surrounding this tried-and-true healthful habit.
Myth #1: You need to sit in a special position to meditate.
You can be on the floor, in a chair, lying down, standing up, or even moving. You simply want to be comfortable and not slumped over while you focus on your breath and, when your mind wanders, bring yourself back to the moment. While it’s ideal to have a dedicated area for meditating—or at least one without distractions—you can take advantage of meditation’s restorative powers almost anywhere, including while walking, commuting, or showering. Loads of apps offer how-tos and guided meditations you can listen to with headphones when you can’t be in a quiet place.
Myth #2: Meditation takes too much time.
Actually, research shows that 10-minute sessions can improve focus and memory and that even ultra-short meditation breaks can train your brain to cope better with everyday life. A regular practice may make you more patient, less compulsive about checking your phone, and less likely to lie awake in the middle of the night, says Dr Michael Irwin, world-renowned expert in researching pathways and behavioural factors that influence health and disease. “It’s like exercise—short sessions can be effective. The benefits start accruing after minutes, not hours,” he says.
Myth #3: If you’re not into the spiritual stuff, meditation is not for you.
People wrongly categorise meditation as “woo-woo” because of its association with some religious practices, but for many it’s simply a way to find focus and calmness by taking time to breathe and quiet the mind. (Candles, chanting, and incense are totally optional.) Over the long term, it improves your overall health by helping you deal better with stress. Scientific evidence supports its benefits for conditions such as migraines, inflammatory bowel disease, and heart disease, but it also helps to reduce the body-wide inflammation involved in many common health problems.
Myth #4: Some people are just bad at meditation.
This misconception comes from the belief that you must be able to make your mind blank, but you don’t need to do that. You literally can’t mess up—thoughts are part of the process. “Don’t fight against your thoughts,” says meditation teacher Dean Sluyter, author of Natural Meditation: A Guide to Effortless Meditative Practice. “Let them be part of your background experience, like diners at another table in a restaurant.” If you get distracted, acknowledge it, then shift the focus back to your body and breath by noticing what you’re feeling.
Myth #5: There’s one right way to meditate.
There are lots of styles, so experiment to find one that gives you the desired calming results. You can have a teacher (live or recorded) guide you through visualisations or affirmations, or you can repeat a word or phrase—called a mantra—silently or aloud to find your inward focus. There are also practices in which you follow your breathing or incorporate movement as in tai chi and yoga. Whatever type of meditation you choose, the intention is the same: to be present. To try out styles and guided meditations of various lengths, download the free app InsightTimer and see what feels best to you.
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This article originally appeared on Prevention USA.