Today, one of my students in my online meditation lessons asked me a question: What’s the most helpful meditation for mental health?
I was tempted to just say, “It depends”. Because… well, it does. It depends on who you are, which (if any) mental health condition you suffer from, how that condition is experienced symptomatically, and so on.
But instead of my usual, “It depends” response, I paused for a moment and then said, “Let me show you in our next session”. And then I set myself a challenge, to create the best guided meditation session to help with holistic mental wellbeing, based on my more than twenty years of experience. And I am delighted to present this meditation to you today.
You can find the meditation below, along with its script and a technical explanation. And after that, a selection of further meditations for you to try.
Meditation For Mental Wellbeing
- Sit comfortably with good posture and close your eyes.
- [3-5 Minutes] Take a deep breath in through your nose to a count of four. Pause for four. Breathe out for four. Pause for four. Repeat. While performing this cyclic breathing pattern, observe your breath moving through your body. If thoughts or feelings enter your mind, remind yourself that they are just thoughts and feeling, that they are temporary and unimportant. Continue to observe your breath.
- [5 Minutes] You begin to notice that beside you is tall green grass. You look outwards and you realise that you are sitting in a beautiful park. Tall trees rise over your head. A rabbit is jumping playfully around the trees. You hear the sound of birdsong all around you. There is the trickling of water in the distance, and as you gaze outwards you see a beautiful lake for clear blue water, and a waterfall on the far side. It is a warm but comfortable day. You feel the sun lightly warming your skin and you follow the sensation of the heat.
- [5 Minutes] The sun touches your head and lightly warms it. You notice the energy around your head, and observe the sensations taking place there. As the sun warms your head your head begins to relax, and tension melting away to nothing. You follow the sun down your to your neck, and again observe the sensations here. Your neck relaxes and any tension melts away… (continue down your entire body).
- [5 Minutes] You gaze back out across the park. In the distance you see a silhouette of a person. They come close and you realise that it’s a very familiar face. It’s someone you love very dearly. Who is it? You can decide. Perhaps your mom or dad, brother or sister, significant other, or a very dear friend. They smile at you warmly, and as you look in their eyes, you see how much they love you can care for you. They whisper to you, “May you have love, kindness, happiness, and health. I love you.” And you whisper those very same words back to them. They turn and gradually fade into the distance. But another silhouette emerges… (repeat the process with three people).
- [1 Minute] Spend the final minute simply sitting and breathing before once again opening your eyes.
Why It Works
Every step of my guided meditation above has been created based on scientific research. Here is an explanation of each step in the process and why it matters.
Step 1 is essentially mindful breathing mixed with Box Breathing. Studies show that mindful breathing promotes activity of the parasympathetic nervous system while also balancing neurochemicals like dopamine, which helps with anxiety and stress. Box Breathing helps to calm the mind. 
Step 2 is a simple guided visualization in which we are visualizing a picturesque park. Studies show that visualizing natural scenes produces many of the same benefits as actually being out in nature (and those benefits are plentiful).  This is particularly helpful for anyone who is bedbound / housebound.
Step 3 is basically a quick Body Scan meditation. Significant scientific research has shown that Body Scan helps with stress, anxiety and other conditions . Much psychological distress is caused by incorrectly interpreting bodily signals—for instance, thinking that when we feel tense in the chest something must be wrong. Body Scan trains the mind to not be so reactive to bodily sensations, and this helps to reduce reactivity.
Step 4 is essentially Loving Kindness meditation (Buddhist Meta). Research shows that this meditation helps with depression and anxiety. It primarily helps by making us feel more connected to other people, and by making us aware of the support system that we have in our lives. 
More Recommended Meditations
This meditation for anxiety uses a combination of mindful breathing and body scan to promote calmness and reduce reactivity. Learn more about meditation for anxiety here.
This meditation uses traditional Anapanasati (Mindful Breathing) to promote inner peace. Learn more about meditation and depression.
For OCD / Intrusive Thoughts
This meditation uses cognitive behavioral therapy and Vipassana to help with OCD. Learn more about meditation and OCD intrustive thoughts.
For Borderline Personality Disorder
This meditation uses visualization to help with the self identity distortion of BPD. Learn more about meditation for BPD.
Giving Is Caring
Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations and is the author of four books on meditation. He has been featured in Psychology Today, Breathe Magazine, Healthline, Psych Central and Lion’s Roar.
Paul studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
Paul’s biggest inspirations include Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Jack Kornfield.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison