There doesn’t seem to be one kind of meditation that’s uniquely suited to improving mental health. Rather, it appears that different meditation practices can have similarly positive psychological effects.
That’s what researchers in Poland discovered by studying people who regularly engaged in two different kinds of meditation: Zazen and Tai Chi. The researchers chose these two types of meditation to focus on because of how different they are. While Zazen is a kind of meditation that is performed sitting down, Tai Chi is a martial art and a kind of meditation that involves movement.
To learn more about the psychological benefits of these two different styles of meditation, the researchers recruited 16 middle-aged adults who regularly practiced Zazen, 16 who practiced Tai Chi, and 16 who didn’t meditate.
The 48 participants then completed a series of questionnaires looking at their personalities and how they reacted to stressful situations.
What emerged was that practicing either Zazen or Tai Chi meditation was associated with being more open to experiences.
Moreover, this increased openness influenced how those who practiced meditation tended to respond to stress. Overall, the meditators relied less on avoidance in dealing with stress and had more effective coping techniques for stressful situations. They also tended to have higher mood on average.
The upshot, then, is that the link between meditation and improved mental health seems to hold for a range of meditation styles – the fact that you meditate in the first place seems to be more important than the exact kind of meditation you practice.
As the authors of the paper wrote, even “diametrically different types of meditation” like Zazen and Tai Chi seem to have mental health benefits that involve “[improving] general well-being, counteracting stress, and leading to a better vigor of spirit.”
Image: Flickr/Marco Conti