What’s the difference between guided and unguided meditation?

By Kate Norris,
updated on Jan 23, 2024

What’s the difference between guided and unguided meditation?

Meditation has grown in popularity as a powerful tool for reducing stress and anxiety, improving focus, and developing self-awareness. With various techniques at hand, we explore the difference between guided and unguided meditation and what you can expect from each

What is meditation?

Put simply, the term ‘meditation’ refers to a body-mind practice that involves building a sense of awareness of your body and thoughts. The technique involves focusing or clearing your mind by combining mental and physical techniques to promote relaxation and reduce stress and anxiety. Some types of meditation techniques include practising mindfulness, deep breathing exercises, guided imagery and visualisation. 

What is guided meditation?

As the name implies, guided meditation is a form of meditative exercise that's led by a qualified teacher or experienced practitioner. The technique involves listening to someone’s voice, and following their directions as they guide you into a meditative state. This structured approach can be especially useful for beginners who may require guidance and support as they become familiar with the practice of meditation.

Instructions may include:

  • Breathing exercises: Simple techniques that focus on specific breathing patterns or methods to promote relaxation. 
  • Visualisation: Imagining calming scenarios or mental images to help you observe thoughts, and focus the mind. 
  • Mantras: Repeating specific phrases or sounds to encourage self-awareness and concentration during the meditation session.

Guided meditation is a powerful technique to promote overall wellness and is useful to help you ease into the practice of meditation, particularly for those who struggle to focus and relax on their own. Guided meditation videos are a great tool to integrate meditation into our day-to-day lives. Head over to the Happiful YouTube channel where you can find a selection of guided meditation videos to help you slow down and reconnect with the present moment.

What is unguided meditation?

Unguided meditation, also known as 'silent’ or ‘independent' meditation, is the practice of meditating without external guidance. Individuals who practise unguided meditation develop their own techniques for focus and relaxation. This type of meditation provides you with the freedom to explore your own unique meditation practice and experiment with different methods that are tailored to your specific preferences and needs.

Unguided meditation approaches may include:

  • Mindfulness: Paying attention and focusing on what you’re feeling and sensing in the present moment without judgement or interpretation. 
  • Concentration: Maintaining mental stillness by focusing on a specific object, thought, or activity.
  • Loving-kindness: Practising compassion and gratitude to help reduce self-critical thoughts and behaviours.

Which approach is better?

There is no evidence to suggest that one form is more effective than the other and the choice between guided and unguided meditation depends on individual preferences, needs, and experience levels. Guided meditation provides a structured and directed approach to meditation, making it easier for beginners. Whereas, unguided meditation, offers more freedom and self-exploration, allowing you to create your own unique meditation practice tailored to your specific needs. 

If you’re interested in giving meditation a go, connect with a professional on Therapy Directory to find out more and book a session

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