If you've tried mediation and don't think it's your cup of tea, you might want to test out another technique before giving up on the practice entirely, advocates say.
That's because there are different meditation methods, and the one best suited for you might not be the most popular or the one you've tried, said Adam Burke, director of San Francisco State University's Institute for Holistic Health Studies.
"If someone is exposed to a particular technique through the media or a health care provider, they might assume because it's popular, it's the best for everyone," Burke said. "In truth, different people like different things. One size does not fit all."
Burke and colleagues recently conducted a study involving college students that examined people's preferences among several mediation techniques. Future research may reveal whether there is a way to predict which mediation method is best suited for a particular person, he said in a statement.
The results of the study appear in the July 7 issue of the journal EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing.
Mediation is practiced for many reasons, including to increase calmness and physical relaxation, but it is not known whether the practice can influence health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Meditation and you
Participants in the study, many of whom had not practiced mediation before, learned four mediation techniques: Mantra, Mindfulness, Zen and Qigong Visualization. When they were asked to rate which one they liked best, Mantra and Mindfulness each received 31 percent of the vote. But 22 percent said Zen was their favorite, and 15 percent selected Qigong.
Mindfulness mediation attempts to make participants more aware of the present moment, and has them focus on their breathing. Mantra mediation involves the repetition of a word or sound; in the study, participants imagined a ball of light in the area of their heart.
Participants who voted for one of these two techniques said they were easier to practice, more enjoyable and more calming than either the Zen or Qigong visualization methods. Mindfulness and Mantra techniques are also, in general, less complex than the other two, and may be more suited for mediation novices, the researchers said.
Zen is similar to mindfulness in its focus on presence of mind, but it involves a more general awareness, rather than a focus on something specific, like breathing. Some participants said they were less able to maintain their meditative focus with Zen, the researchers said.
Qigong is similar to mantra meditation, but rather than chanting repeatedly, participants focus on a visualization, such as a beam of light running along the spine.
Age may make a difference
The researchers found that the preferred mediation technique often depended on age, with older participants preferring Zen and younger participants preferring Mindfulness. The researchers noted that Zen was one of the first mediation techniques to gain attention in the United States and therefore may have more cultural relevance for older individuals, while Mindfulness came in favor more recently.
"With the transitory popularity of any method … it is useful for researchers, teachers and practitioners to recognize that there may be differences in individual preference for meditation techniques," the researchers wrote in EXPLORE. "Proper fit between the individual and the method may help to increase comfort with the method, perceived self-efficacy and, consequently, maintenance of practice over time," the researchers said.
According to the CDC, research is now under way to learn more about mediation's effects and what conditions, if any, it may be helpful for.
Pass it on: The meditation technique that best suits a person may not be the most popular one.