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Meditation is a coping strategy with an impressive amount of benefits - and anyone can learn how to do it!

Teen girl meditating

What is meditation?

Meditation is the act of focusing your attention to bring about an altered state of consciousness (i.e., calm and totally Zen feels). There are lots of different types of meditation with many benefits.

Side note: Meditation isn’t necessarily the same as mindfulness, because mindfulness requires being in the present moment (which isn’t always necessary for meditation).

How does meditation work?

When lots of brain cells communicate with each other at the same time, they create electrical 'brainwaves'. Brainwaves have different speeds or 'frequencies' and help us do different things.

  • Rest & de-stress: alpha brainwaves – mindfulness and light meditation bring about this mental state – so if you want to chill out fast, these should be your go-to.
  • Deep relaxation: theta brainwaves – prayer, daydreaming and more involved meditation strategies help you relax deeply (that kind of relaxation where you’re just so damn comfortable, you don’t want to move).
  • Focused & in the zone: gamma brainwaves - ‘flow’ (a type of involved concentration, like when you’re playing sport, reading a book, listening to music, or gaming) is actually a form of meditation! Slay! This is the state you naturally go into when you hyperfocus on your latest obsession – and is the elusive state you want to be in when you study.
  • Awake, alert & social: beta brainwaves – this is where we spend most of our time. It’s also the mental state we go into when we feel anxious and stressed. Meditation can help make our beta state more positive (feeling connected, excited, curious and interested) and less stressed/anxious.
  • Deep healing for your body and brain: delta brainwaves – these happen when you’re in a deep, REM sleep – so make sure you get your zzz’s.

How do I meditate?

Quick and easy meditations for beginners:

Breathing exercises

Breathing is a really underrated way to quickly and easily change your mental state. Added bonus – you can do it literally anywhere!

Wanna know something really cool? Humans have a unique ability to control our breath. Some anthropologists think that this skill is actually what made us the top of the food chain when we were hunter-gatherers – controlling our breath gave us endurance when running, which allowed us to outlast animals we were hunting (they were fast but would overheat and get exhausted easily). It also allowed us to do things like dive underwater (which gave us more food options – hello seafood!)

Some breathing exercises to try:

  • Abdomen breathing: Inhale through your nose slowly. Breathe deep into your abdomen, so your belly button rises and falls with each breath (this means you’re using your whole lungs to breathe). Breathe out slowly through your mouth.
  • Counting breaths: Breathe in through your nose (slowly and evenly) for four counts (you don’t need to breathe deeply!) Hold your breath for four counts. Breathe out through your nose for four counts. Hold for four counts.


This is where you imagine something in your mind’s eye. You can link simple visualisation to your breathing. For example, you might picture a beach. As the waves come into shore, you breathe in. As the waves go back out to sea, you breathe out. Visualisation also features in other types of meditation, like guided meditations (see below).

Did you know? Not everyone has a mind’s eye! People who can’t see pictures in their mind have something called ‘aphantasia’. It’s not a ‘bad’ thing, just an individual difference – and it affects about 3-4% of people. If you have aphantasia, give this technique a miss and try one of the other meditation techniques instead!

Sensory deprivation

Our brain is constantly receiving sensory input (info from our eight senses – yes, there are actually eight, not five senses – mindblowing!) Sensory deprivation works by reducing or stopping info from one or more senses. It sounds fancy, but closing your eyes is a form of sensory deprivation. Blocking your ears is another one. Here’s a quick form of sensory deprivation that can help you feel calmer in seconds!

Sit comfortably. Close your eyes. Block your ears with your fingers or ear plugs. Breathe in slowly through your nose. On your exhalation, hum in your throat (or buzz like a bee). Repeat and see how it makes you feel.

Going deeper in meditation:

Guided meditation

This is where someone talks you through the meditation. It can include visualisations (getting you to imagine things with your mind’s eye), affirmations (positive statements), instructions (such as breath work or progressive muscle relaxation), or even imaginative or spiritual work, (such as clearing spiritual energy, or engaging with a spirit or higher being).

There are plenty of services and apps that offer guided meditations. Choose one that is a good length for you and suits your vibe. You can definitely start small (two-five mins) and slowly increase this over time (ok Zen master!) Start off with once or twice a week and see how you go. Studies have found that as little as 12 minutes of meditation a week over eight weeks have huge benefits!

Sound meditations

There are many different types of chanting or sound meditations. ‘Transcendental meditation’ uses chants or mantras (words, sounds or phrases that you repeat out loud over and over again). Kirtan is a type of call and response meditation, where a leader says words, phrases or sounds, and you/other people repeat them. You can also use sounds for meditation, such as a Tibetan singing bowl, or drumbeats (side note: certain drumbeats per minute remind us of when we were in the womb and could hear out mother’s heartbeat - and our heart will even try to mimic certain beats, which can be either relaxing or energising). According to research, meditations using sound are some of the easiest and most effective to do.

Moving meditations

Hate sitting still? DW, we get it – the good news is you can totally meditate while moving! Many cultures have moving meditations that are also religious and spiritual in nature. Trance dance has roots going back thousands of years in Northern Africa and the Middle East. Meanwhile, in Asia, practices like yoga and Tai Chi are a type of moving meditation. You can learn traditional moving meditation practices in a way that’s respectful towards the culture it comes from, or you can do something physical you enjoy, like putting on your favourite music and having a dance. 

If you’re struggling to cope, talking to a counsellor can really help!

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This content was last reviewed 19/12/2023

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