Do Guided Meditations Work? Exploring the Benefits of Guided vs. Silent Meditation




Do Guided Meditations Work. A beautiful mediation scene in the woods.

As someone who has struggled with anxiety for years, I was intrigued when my therapist suggested I try guided meditation back in the early 2000s. “It can help relieve stress and quiet your mind,” she told me. But do guided meditations really work? Yes, Guided meditations can effectively work with consistent practice, but silent meditation cultivates deeper stillness over time and is considered the “gold standard.”

In this article, I’ll share my experiences using guided meditations over the past several years. You’ll learn the basics of guided meditation, the proven benefits, how to create effective recordings, and tips to get the most out of your practice. I’ve structured this piece into easy-to-navigate sections to help you dip your toes into the practice of guided mindfulness meditation as a powerful tool to reduce anxiety, depression, pain and more while improving your overall mental and physical wellbeing. Let’s dive in!

Here are the key tips I’ve learned along my journey for meditation beginners:

  • Start small – 5 or 10 minutes per day is enough initially
  • Getting distracted is normal – gently bring your attention back
  • Find teachers and tracks that truly resonate
  • Mix up techniques like mantras, body scans and visualization
  • Stick with it – the more you practice, the easier it gets

Beginner Guided Meditation

Here are key points of the video meditation for your reference:

  • 00:00 🧘 Find a comfortable position and relax, tuning into your breath and body.
  • Accept yourself as you are in the present moment.
  • Allow gravity to help you relax your muscles.
  • 02:19 🌟 Focus on the space just behind your sternum and visualize a soft bluish-green orb of light, representing your higher self.
  • Connect with your higher self, the aspect of you that knows who you are across all timelines.
  • Feel the presence of your higher self hovering above you.
  • 06:01 🤝 Imagine your higher self lowering down and connecting with your high heart.
  • Experience the connection between your physical self and your higher self in your high heart.
  • Feel the yes energy in your high heart as you interlock with your higher self.
  • 08:01 🎚️ Activate the link between you and your higher self by pressing a glowing button in your high heart.
  • Practice finding compromise between what you want and what your higher self wants.
  • Celebrate the connection and cooperation with your higher self in your high heart chakra.

A Brief Background on Meditation

For those completely new to meditation like I was at first, let’s start with a quick primer. Meditation is the practice of quieting your mind and focusing your awareness. Mindfulness meditation specifically refers to focusing your attention on the present moment.

There are many different types of meditations, but guided meditations involve listening to a teacher lead you through visualizations, mantras, body scans or other relaxing techniques. The teacher’s voice guides your focus, attention, and breathing. Most guided meditations range from 5 to 30 minutes.

The Berkeley Well-Being Institute: Combining meditation with positive affirmations can elevate mood and improve self-esteem. Guided meditations tailored for different times of the day, like morning or night, can set the tone for calmness and lower anxiety levels​​.

When I decided to try meditation to help relieve some personal anxiety triggers and stresses in my life, I discovered apps like Calm, Headspace and Insight Timer that offered thousands of free guided meditation recordings. But I wondered, do these guided mindfulness meditations actually help reduce anxiety?

My Experience as a Guided Meditation Beginner

As a writer who works from home, I often battle “monkey mind”, intrusive thoughts and focus issues throughout my workday. I was hopeful that beginning a guided meditation practice could help quiet this chatter, lower my stress, and increase my creativity and productivity.

But learning meditation isn’t always easy.

Staying Focused is Tough at First

I started by downloading the Calm app and doing their introductory 7 Days of Calm series. The first session was a simple body scan meditation, where the teacher guides you to relax each part of your body one by one from head to toe.

Seems easy enough, right?

Well, I was astonished by how difficult it was to keep my focus for even five minutes! As soon as the teacher guided my attention to relaxing my toes, my mind raced off:

“I wonder if we’re out of eggs. Didn’t I mean to call Mom today? Oops, I forgot to email that client back…”

And suddenly the body scan had moved up to my knees without me even noticing!

Tip: It’s completely normal for your attention to wander when you’re first getting started with meditation. Don’t get frustrated with yourself. Just gently guide your focus back to the present.

With regular practice, it started getting easier and easier to keep my attention centered, relax into the meditation teacher’s soothing voice during guided visualization meditations, and fully reap the anxiety-lowering benefits mindfulness meditation can offer.

Adjusting the Length to Fit My Schedule

Person meditating at the beach at sunset.

I learned quickly that less is more when you’re just ramping up a meditation habit. I began with just 5 or 10 minutes per day rather than trying to shoehorn a 30-minute session into my packed schedule.

There are so many guided meditations out there with varying time lengths. I decided to filter my Insight Timer app library to highlight 5 to 15 minute long guided meditations so I could choose an option that fit my current energy and schedule.

Knowing I only had to commit to 10 minutes made it so much easier to actually sit down to meditate daily rather than procrastinating.

Over time, as meditation got more comfortable, I was able to extend to 20+ minute sessions without even noticing because I was so immersed in that state of guided relaxation.

Choosing Meditations That Resonate with Me

There are literally endless varieties of guided meditations out there – and that can feel overwhelming as a beginner!

I found it most impactful to try out a wide variety and take notes on which teachers, voices, backgrounds or content I responded to best. For example warmer, deeper voices kept my focus better than brighter tones. I also particularly loved forest or nature sound effects rather than music.

Everyone will find some teachers and audio journeys resonate more than others. Make your own “favorites” list of what really clicks for you. Having go-to tracks that you already know you’ll enjoy removes the decision fatigue from starting a session.

I have about five 10-minute favorites on repeat these days when I’m feeling stressed or need to refocus. Finding those tried-and-true options can go a long way in building consistency.

The Science-Backed Benefits

Now that you know a bit about my personal experiences dipping my toes into guided meditation as a beginner, let’s explore some of the research-proven benefits. Studies demonstrate that regular guided mindfulness meditation practice helps:

  • Relieve anxiety, depression and pain
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce chronic stress
  • Improve sleep quality
  • Enhance focus, memory and creativity
  • Boost immunity and cellular health
  • Increase positive emotions like compassion and joy

For example, a pivotal 2003 study on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) founded by Jon Kabat-Zinn found that after 8 weeks of guided meditation, participants experienced significant reductions in anxiety, depression, pain levels and low-grade inflammation. Brain scans also showed changes in areas related to positive emotions, self-awareness and introspection.

Additionally, a 2012 examination of MBSR for anxiety disorders concluded guided mindfulness meditation can reduce anxiety, boost stress resilience and help many wean off anti-anxiety medications and therapy.

The MBSR program involves eight weekly skill-building classes to teach beginners core concepts of mindfulness while leading them through guided sitting, walking and body scan meditations.

So while listening to a quick 10-minute guided meditation is helpful, structured programs with deeper training and learning of mindful principles over 2 months may explain the powerful mental health improvements certain studies showcase.

Of course, meditation is not a panacea and should be combined with proper nutrition, exercise, sleep, social connection and conventional care. But adding just 10 minutes of guided meditation already makes a noticeable difference for me!

Creating Your Own Guided Meditations

Man practicing buddhist meditation for peace.

Once I got into the swing of my guided meditation habit, I started getting curious… What goes into making these recordings? Can I create my own?

I did some digging into script writing for guided meditations and found some helpful tips from teachers.

First, follow this general structure when writing a script:

  • Opening – Help them relax and set an intention
  • Body – Guide them through visualization, mantra, etc
  • Close – Wrap up and invite back to the present

Then, here are some key principles to make it effective:

  • Use language simply, slowly and clearly
  • Weave in depth psychology insights
  • Evoke sensory experience with visual details
  • Speak rhythmically with good pacing
  • End by summarizing key learning

I also utilized my learnings from consuming so many guided meditations to emulate what worked for me:

  • Warm, steady tone of voice
  • Inviting language
  • Immersive natural background sounds
  • Neither too fast nor too slow pacing

After scripting a 5 minute guided visualization, I recorded myself guiding through relaxing imagery on my back porch on a calm summer night (one of my happy places).

The process of scripting and recording my own mini-meditation was incredibly powerful! Reviewing helped me refine and improve without getting discouraged. It also let me customize recordings perfectly fitted for me.

So if you feel called to create guided meditations or try a course in becoming a meditation teacher yourself, I highly recommend it. Teaching meditation leads to your own learning and growth exponential benefits. But no pressure – even just passively listening helps more than you know!

FAQ on Guided vs Unguided Meditation

How Often Should You Practice Guided Meditation to See Benefits?

Research on guided mindfulness meditation suggests:

  • 5-10 minutes per day to start experiencing basic stress relief
  • 10-15 minutes daily to reduce anxiety, depression, pain
  • 15-30 minutes daily to alter brain structure long-term

Ideally, make guided meditation a consistent daily habit. But any frequency helps!

What Makes Someone an Effective Meditation Teacher or Guide?

The best-guided meditation teachers have these qualities:

  • Warm, calming voice
  • Clear guidance and pacing
  • Insightful and uplifting wisdom
  • Inviting and compassionate language
  • Knowledge of mindfulness principles

Look for teachers whose style resonates with you personally by listening across apps and podcasts. When their voice, content and background sounds “click” with you intuitively, you’ve likely found a guide you can stick with long term.

Should Beginners Start with Guided or Silent Meditation?

As a novice, guided meditations are more user-friendly to learn proper breathing techniques, mentalities, postures and more compared to attempting silent meditation on your own. Silent meditation takes more skill once you’ve built focus muscles and mindfulness through guided practice.

Think of guided sessions like training wheels that help form life-long meditation habits with positive transformation. Over time you may incorporate more unguided, silent meditation into your practice too.

Conclusion on Do Guided Meditations Work

In the past two months since beginning a regular guided mindfulness meditation practice as part of my anxiety self-care routine, I’ve seen tremendous mental and physical benefits. My mood, sleep and ability to manage everyday stresses have markedly improved.

Consistent guided meditation, even as little as 10 minutes daily, can help you tap into a sense of inner peace and emotional stability during tumultuous times.

While by no means a quick fix or cure-all, I believe guided meditation makes an invaluable addition to any self-care or mental health regimen for its profound centeredness and anxiety relief.

I hope hearing about my first-hand guided meditation experiences inspires you in your own mindfulness journey. Feel free to download my free introductory sample pack to get started!

Wishing you clarity, calm and joy.

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