According to new research, Body Scan Meditation is arguably the best meditation for dealing with strong emotions.

I don’t know about you, but the effects of the pandemic have started to affect my emotions. It doesn’t help that I’m thousands of miles away from my family, here in Canada, with no chance of safely returning to the UK anytime soon. The feeling of disconnectedness and isolation has been slowly creeping up on me, and it has begun to affect my feelings.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve experienced strong emotions like loneliness, sadness, and anxiety, and I have been trying to handle these emotions through meditation.

I usually use Anapanasati (mindfulness of breath) to relax my mind and regain emotional control. It usually works. Before the pandemic, if I felt sad or stressed, I would focus on my breathing for one mala (108 breaths), and I would feel much more relaxed. But for some obscure reason, mindful breathing hasn’t been as effective for me since isolation began. I honestly can’t tell you why that is the case, but it definitely is true.   And interestingly, a new study shows that Anapansati might not be as good as body scan.

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Research suggests it’s the best meditation for hard emotions

This morning I turned to my news sources, as I always do so I can write the news here on THE DAILY MEDITATION. There was one fascinating story, published by Berkley.

Catherine Juneau [Clermont Auvergne University, France] and a group of researchers conducted an experiment to see how the Body Scan Meditation technique devised by Jon Kabat Zinn compared to the traditional Buddhist meditation Anapansati.

The researchers asked Eighty-nine college students with next to no formal meditation experience to practice either Body Scan, Anapanasati, or to listen to poems. The participants practiced their method every day for a week and then went back to the university campus to do a 30-minute session. The participants completed tests at the beginning, middle, and end of the week.

The results suggest that the best meditation for difficult emotions is Body Scan.

Anapanasati and poetry did no have a significant effect on difficult emotions (which I personally find incredibly surprising because Anapanasati is generally regarded as one of the best meditations for relaxation). Body scan meditation, however, had a significant impact on emotions

The research reveals that body scan can provide quick relief from challenging feelings like stress, sadness, and feeling overwhelmed. The study also suggests that meditation offers long-term benefits for mental habits.

In a second study, Juneau investigated the effects of meditation on long-term practitioners. 106 adults with previous experience were asked questions about how much they practice and how often, and were then asked to complete a survey with questions like, “I’m not affected by surprised” or “I try to prolong pleasurable experiences”.

The research revealed that the more people meditated, the more mentally balanced they are. Plus, long-term meditators tend not to be so affected by strong emotions

So, there are two critical takeaways from this. Firstly, if you want to use meditation to handle complex emotions quickly, you will probably want to use Body Scan meditation. And secondly, if you want to achieve long term equanimity (calmness and a balanced mind), you will need to continue your meditation practice daily long-term (which most of THE DAILY MEDITATION’s readers do already).

What do you think about this research? Are you surprised that Body Scan is better than Mindful Breathing when it comes to challenging emotions? Leave a comment and remember to subscribe.

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Written by Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a qualified meditation teacher and writer with more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential through mindfulness, yoga and meditation.