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New to meditation and already thinking about quitting? You may have simply chosen the wrong method.

A study published in EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing highlights the importance of ensuring that new meditators select methods with which they are most comfortable, rather than those that are most popular. If they do, they are likely to stick with it, says Adam Burke, study author, and professor of Health Education at San Francisco State. If not, they may abandon meditation altogether, losing out on its myriad personal and medical benefits.

One size doesn’t fit all

Burke compared four popular methods - Mantra, Mindfulness, Zen and Qigong Visualisation - to see if novice practitioners favoured one over the others. The study's 247 participants were taught each method and asked to practise at home and, at the end of the study, evaluate which they preferred. The results showed that the two simpler methods, Mantra and Mindfulness, were preferred by 31 percent of study participants, suggesting there is value in providing new practitioners a simpler, more accessible method of meditation.

"It was interesting that Mantra and Mindfulness were found to be equally compelling by participants despite the fact that they are fundamentally different techniques," Burke said. Mindfulness is the most recent meditation technique to gain widespread popularity, he added, and is often the only one with which a novice practitioner or health professional is familiar. Not surprisingly, Mindfulness was preferred by the youngest participants.

"If someone is exposed to a particular technique through the media or a healthcare provider, they might assume because it's popular it's the best for everyone," Burke said. "But that's like saying because a pink dress or a blue coat is popular this year, it's going to look good on everybody. In truth, different people like different things. One size does not fit all."

Burke 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 said, healthcare professionals would be able to guide patients toward techniques that will be most effective for them.

This Nature & Health natural health news item was sourced from materials provided by San Francisco State University.