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Crystals are definitely having a moment. If you’re into meditation, you’ve probably seen all kinds of crystals and sound bowls popping up regularly on your Instagram feed.
Before we delve into the mysterious world of crystals and crystal meditation, let’s look at meditation on its own. Meditation is a Buddhist practice that uses the breath as a grounding technique. It also makes you aware of the connection between mind and body, helps with concentration, and teaches the basics of awareness that you can apply in complex (and stressful) situations.
There are many different kinds of meditation, including focused attention meditation, mindfulness meditation, and loving-kindness meditation (Hoffmann, 2011). Many people also incorporate crystals into their routine, which can act as a point of focus during meditation.
While some claim that crystals have healing powers and can be used for things like love, wealth, and good fortune, there isn’t any science to verify this.
A deep archive of research has linked meditation and mindfulness to positive mental health, especially in people who have anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. So crystals or not, meditation is a very healthy practice with centuries of documented benefits to back it up (Chen, 2018).
Are crystals useful for meditation?
Some people believe stones––like amethyst, black tourmaline, selenite, labradorite, clear quartz, rose quartz, and citrine, to name a few––can boost wellness and clear negative energy.
They use these so-called healing crystals during meditation sessions. Some also correlate the colors of different crystals with the colors that correlate to the chakras, as taught in Hinduism and Tantric Buddhism.
There is no scientific evidence suggesting that crystals provide any particular benefits to your energy levels or health. But a few researchers have documented a placebo effect among those who meditated with crystals, especially if they believe crystals possess certain healing powers.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, English anomalistic psychologists (who study human behavior in connection to spiritual or paranormal experiences) asked participants to meditate for five minutes holding a crystal. Half received real quartz crystals while the others unknowingly got a look-alike.
Regardless of who was holding fake or real crystals, each group reported feeling a warm sensation in the hand holding the crystal and an increased sense of well-being. The studies also found participants who believed in the power of crystals were twice as likely to experience such sensations (again, regardless of holding real or fake crystals) than non-believers (French, 1999; French, 2001).
A meta-analysis published years later emphasized that past studies suggest someone who believes they’re being treated for an illness can experience tangible benefits from placebo alone. Even if the interventions aren’t real, patients improve simply because they believe they’re doing or taking something to help (Miller, 2009).
Meditation for stress: a 5-minute antidote?
So, if you believe crystals will heighten happiness or bring feelings of calm or courage, those things may follow simply because you believe it––which isn’t a bad thing.
Meditating with crystals isn’t dangerous for your health, but it’s important to be aware that the power of your mind may be stronger than any crystal healing powers. Bottom line: if you believe it helps your practice, go ahead and use crystals.
How to meditate using crystals
Magical healing powers aside, crystals are a great tool for focus during meditation.
One study found a person’s meditation skill matters more than the time they spend meditating. Luckily, using an object like this to narrow focus is one of the easiest ways to hone your meditation skills (Basso, 2019).
Research has shown that fixating on an object can be an effective way to help quiet the mind. This is a technique called object-focused meditation or focused attention meditation, which can be particularly helpful in reaching a meditative state for people who are just starting a meditation practice (Irrmischer, 2018; Lippelt, 2014).
Here are some simple steps on how to practice focused attention meditation with crystals (Irrmischer, 2018; Lippelt, 2014):
- Pick a crystal and hold it in your hand. You can also place it on your body or put it in a place where you can easily see it.
- Take some grounding breaths, and focus your gaze on your crystal of choice.
- If your mind begins to wander (it will, that’s normal), bring your attention back to the crystal.
With practice, you’ll get accustomed to controlling your attention and may not need a crystal to focus on anymore, although it’s perfectly fine to continue using them (Irrmischer, 2018) (Lippelt, 2014).
As is the case with any meditation practice, you’ll get more out of it the more frequently you do it. Making a daily habit out of meditating even for 10 minutes can produce results (Lacaille, 2017; Basso, 2019).
- Basso, J. C., McHale, A., Ende, V., Oberlin, D. J., & Suzuki, W. A. (2019). Brief, daily meditation enhances attention, memory, mood, and emotional regulation in non-experienced meditators. Behavioural Brain Research, 356, 208-220. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2018.08.023. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30153464/
- Chen, C., Chen, Y. C., Chen, K. L., & Cheng, Y. (2018). Atypical Anxiety-Related Amygdala Reactivity and Functional Connectivity in Sant Mat Meditation. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 12, 298. doi:10.3389/fnbeh.2018.00298. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6288484/
- French, C. C., & Williams, L. (1999). Crystal clear: Paranormal powers, placebo, or priming? Sixth European Congress of Psychology, Rome, 4-9. July, 1999.
- French, C.C., & Williams, L. (2001). Hypnotic susceptibility, paranormal belief and reports of ‘crystal power.’ Eighth European Congress of Psychology, Glasgow, 6-10. March, 2001.
- Hofmann, S. G., Grossman, P., & Hinton, D. E. (2011). Loving-kindness and compassion meditation: Potential for psychological interventions. Clinical Psychology Review, 31(7), 1126-1132. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2011.07.003. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3176989/
- Irrmischer, M., Houtman, S. J., Mansvelder, H. D., Tremmel, M., Ott, U., & Linkenkaer‐Hansen, K. (2018). Controlling the temporal structure of brain oscillations by focused attention meditation. Human Brain Mapping, 39(4), 1825-1838. doi: 10.1002/hbm.23971. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6585826/
- Lacaille, J., Sadikaj, G., Nishioka, M., Carrière, K., Flanders, J., & Knäuper, B. (2017). Daily mindful responding mediates the effect of meditation practice on stress and mood: The role of practice duration and adherence. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 74(1), 109-122. doi: 10.1002/jclp.22489. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28759111/.
- Lippelt, D. P., Hommel, B., & Colzato, L. S. (2014). Focused attention, open monitoring and loving kindness meditation: Effects on attention, conflict monitoring, and creativity: A review. Frontiers in Psychology, 5. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01083. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25295025/.
- Miller, F. G., Colloca, L., & Kaptchuk, T. J. (2009). The placebo effect: Illness and interpersonal healing. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 52(4), 518-539. doi: 10.1353/pbm.0.0115. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2814126/
Yael Cooperman is a physician and works as a Senior Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.