Managing Mental Health Through Mindfulness Meditation

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated April 18, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Meditation can be a powerful tool to support and manage your mental health. While there may not be a type of meditation to “control mind functions completely” or something else far-fetched, meditation can provide many tangible and effective benefits. Understanding the different types of meditation and the support they can offer can help you to attain a higher overall quality of life and experience more balance in your mental health and wellness.

What is meditation?

Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines meditation as follows: “to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one's breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.”

However, there are many different interpretations about what meditation is and how it influences the mind, body, emotion, and spirit. A general understanding of meditation is that it is a practice where one attempts to create focus and concentration while training to clear the mind. This task is done in order to facilitate emotion control or achieve higher states of consciousness. Because of this, meditation can be a deeply personal experience.

The history of meditation in the west

Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, but it didn’t become well-known in the West until the 20th century. In the 1960s, researchers at Harvard and MIT began to study the benefits of meditation, including the biological and health benefits. Also, meditation became popular in the 1960s when the Beatles took an interest in the practice; the band traveled to India and began studying with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the originator of transcendental meditation. 

More recent teachers, such as Deepak Chopra, Joseph Goldstein, Pema Chodron, and Thich Nhat Hanh, have discussed the psychological, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of meditation in depth, the teachings of which inspired several niche movements in the West around mental and physical wellness.

For example, many have heard about meditation as a new productivity trend as high-powered CEOs, celebrities, and engineers practice meditation in Silicon Valley, embracing mindfulness and meditation to improve their ability to work, produce, and heighten their creativity. Others may have a rich history with meditation as a source of comfort rooted in cultural or personal identity. For many people in the world, meditation is simply a normal part of their everyday life. 

There are many forms of meditation that can offer benefits to those looking for relief from stress. One such form is mindfulness meditation.

Mindfulness meditation 

Experiencing mental health concerns?

Many of us may have grown up learning how to compare, categorize, compete, and assign judgements to things and experiences that we encounter. We may also do this within ourselves.

One form of meditation, known as mindfulness meditation, can control and reduce stress caused by cyclical or negative thinking. Practicing this form of meditation generally involves staying still, becoming observant of one’s mind, and trying to notice each thought, emotion, and sensation without judgment.

By learning to stay with and observe various thoughts and emotions as they arise, we may not only become aware of unconscious scripts that play in our minds but also learn to identify negative or false beliefs about ourselves and the world. Meditators may also become more compassionate and at peace with their own emotions.

When someone practices meditation and cultivates sensitivity toward their subjective experiences, they may find the answer to important internal questions, become more self-aware, and develop a tolerant attitude towards themselves and others.

Jiddu Krishnamurti, a 19th century philosopher, once said: "Meditation is to be aware of every thought and of every feeling, never to say it is right or wrong, but just to watch it and move with it. In that watching, you begin to understand the whole movement of thought and feeling. And out of this awareness comes silence.”

Mindfulness meditation for beginners

As mentioned earlier, there are many different techniques and practices that fall under the general umbrella of meditation. Some involve guided meditation, where a person leads you through the practice. Others focus on taking slow breaths, directing intentional action or energy through the body, or reflecting on the true nature of reality or compassion.


One of the simplest forms of meditation that has been created is mindfulness meditation, which typically involves becoming aware of one's thoughts, images, sensations, and emotions as they arise in the present moment. Allowing these to flow through you may empower you with self-compassion and radical acceptance.

How to start a mindfulness meditation session

To start a mindfulness meditation session, you might try to find a quiet place where you can take a break and spend 15-20 minutes without interruption. If you are having a busy week and finding 15-20 minutes isn’t possible, it's important to know that any amount of time spent engaged in meditation can be helpful, even if the conditions aren’t optimal. Additionally, if you don't have a completely quiet space, you can choose to incorporate surrounding noises as part of the meditation practice.

After you’ve found your meditation location, you may choose to remain cross-legged on the floor or sit comfortably on a chair with your feet on the ground. You might try to sit with your spine and back as straight as possible, with your chin pointed slightly downward so that your neck is straightened.

Once you’ve aligned your posture, you can then relax the muscles in your jaw, shoulders, and stomach. Then, you can begin settling into your space and bringing awareness to your breath while you breathe naturally.

As you bring awareness to your breath, you may find that it becomes deeper and more relaxed. Consider beginning to observe the thoughts that arise within your mind, as well as any physical sensations or emotions associated with certain thoughts.

Becoming aware of how thoughts arise and fade away, almost as if you are watching clouds roll by or different images on a movie screen, may help you to feel empowered and release related emotion and strain.

With this mindfulness of your thoughts and head space, you may also try to become aware of the things that truly matter in your life, as well as the value judgments you place on people, places, things, or events. After you meditate, you may want to write down thoughts or insights that were noteworthy.

What other types of meditation are there?

There are also other forms of meditation beyond mindfulness meditation. Each type can have different benefits and effects. Other types include:

As you try different meditation techniques, consider observing the type that seems to have the most profound effect on you. If you find that you don’t necessarily identify with a specific type of meditation, you can develop your own natural and personalized practice. Even simply closing your eyes for a few minutes at your desk, saying a prayer or mantra, and breathing deeply (without completing formal meditation) can help you gain clarity and a sense of calm.

Possible benefits and risks of meditation

Many studies have demonstrated the benefits of meditation, including:

  • Stress and anxiety reduction
  • Improved emotional health
  • Enhanced self-awareness
  • Reduced feelings of loneliness
  • Increased attention span and memory
  • Increased feelings of compassion toward oneself and others
  • Improved sleep
  • Improved job performance
  • Reduction in cravings related to addiction
  • Improved ability to manage pain
  • Decreased blood pressure

Other benefits can include improved decision-making abilities, a reduction in negative emotions, and increased creativity and patience. Research has also indicated that meditation can help reduce symptoms associated with depression, anxiety, and chronic pain for many.

Meditation may also positively affect various brain regions like the hippocampus and the gray matter of the cerebral cortex. One study found that those who engaged in meditation long-term had significantly greater cortical thickness in areas of association cortex distributed throughout the brain, an attribute that may correlate to general intelligence.

However, for some individuals with a history of trauma, hallucinations, psychosis, or dissociative symptoms, meditation has the capacity to trigger certain symptoms. Meditation can also bring up repressed thoughts or feelings, such as anger, jealousy, or fear, which may be unpleasant to experience. While meditation can be helpful, it is not meant to be a substitute for traditional medical or psychological treatment. Formal therapeutic treatment can be helpful to those experiencing mental health challenges.

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

How can therapy help those living with mental health problems?

If you’re experiencing mental health challenges, you may benefit from speaking with a counselor in addition to trying mindfulness meditation. If you’re not feeling well enough to seek support outside of the home or to put yourself in a therapeutic environment, you might try online therapy, which research has shown to be as effective as in-office therapy. 

A recent meta-analysis involving 17 studies found that online cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) was shown to be more effective than in-person CBT for treating depression. 

With BetterHelp, you can connect with a therapist via audio or video chat from the comfort of your home or anywhere you have an internet connection. Also, you can reach out to your counselor through in-app messaging, and they’ll get back to you as soon as they can.

Getty/Daniel Allan
Experiencing mental health concerns?


Meditation can be a helpful form of support for individuals experiencing mental health challenges and those who want to ground and center themselves more. Online therapy may complement meditation and support those experiencing mental health concerns. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a licensed therapist with experience in mindfulness meditation and any mental health challenges you might be facing. Take the first step toward greater mindfulness and reach out to BetterHelp.
Learn to strengthen your mental health
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet started