An intriguing study recently posted online by Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, suggests that new meditators are most likely to stick with the practice and reap its healthful benefits if they select methods with which they are most comfortable, rather than those that are most popular.
In one of the first studies to compare meditation techniques head-to-head, author Adam Burke, a professor of health education at San Francisco State University and the director of its Institute for Holistic Health Studies, taught 247 participants four popular methods—mantra, mindfulness, Zen and qigong visualization. He asked them to choose which they preferred to practice at home for six weeks before techniques were evaluated.
The simpler methods, mantra and mindfulness, each were preferred by 31 percent of study participants. Zen and qigong were selected by about 22 percent and 15 percent, respectively.
Burke says the results showed the value of providing people new to meditation simpler and more accessible methods, and also emphasized that no one technique is best for everyone. He hopes to see more comparative meditation studies, especially to determine if particular methods are better at addressing specific health issues such as addiction.
“If that’s the case,” he advises, “healthcare professionals would be able to guide patients toward techniques that will be most effective for them. Additional studies are also needed to determine if there is a way to predict which method will be best suited for any particular individual.”