Meditation is a great way to boost your health, improve your mood, and feel more connected to those around you. But it can be difficult to figure out how to get started.
There are a few common excuses that might be preventing you from meditating, but in fact, these are just myths:
- Meditation is not something people like me do. Anyone can meditate. In fact, many business leaders meditate in order to keep their minds clear, improve productivity, and be a better leader for their companies.
- I don’t have the time to meditate. Meditating for just five to 10 minutes each day can help reduce stress. The most important thing is keeping up the habit of coming back every day so your brain can reap the benefits of meditation.
- I just can’t stop thinking. Meditation isn’t about not thinking. Your mind won’t automatically shut off and become thought-free. Instead, meditation can help you become more aware of your thoughts, and better regulate them over time.
It’s important to move past these ideas and understand that anyone — including yourself — has the time and ability to benefit from meditation. However, it can also be helpful to have some guidance. Here’s 12 tips to help you start meditating and keep your practice going.
1. Go into your meditation practice without expectations
Meditation is no instant quick-fix to solving all of life’s problems. As with any other form of exercise, meditation takes effort, and it takes time to reap the benefits. Try not to go into each meditation with expectations of how you will feel after, or how much better of a person you will become. Instead, approach each time to meditate as an opportunity to get to know your own mind better.
2. Choose a time to meditate, and stick to it
When you schedule a time of the day to meditate, it is easier to establish the practice as a habit, and you’ll be more likely to do it each day. For example, you may want to try pairing meditation with a daily habit you already have in place, like journaling before bed, or having a cup of coffee in the morning.
3. Create a designated space to meditate
Choosing a room or a space to meditate can help train the body and mind to feel more comfortable, and allow you to more easily transition into meditation. Think of it in the same way you’d only go to your home office to focus on work — it’s important to set a dedicated space to help you stay focused on meditation.
Creating a meditation space and keeping it clean and uncluttered can help make meditation feel special and important. It is also an opportunity to create a space that nourishes a more relaxed state of mind; for example, you could add plants, find a cool spot by a window, and keep it a phone-free zone in your home.
4. Take a couple moments to wind down and clear your mind
Jumping right into meditation after an intense work meeting may not be best. It might be harder to sit still and calm your mind after these stressful moments. So, try to take a few minutes to wind down, and then begin your meditation practice. This can help keep the mind from wandering back to something that was said during the meeting, and allow you to focus more clearly.
5. Start with a few deep breaths to calm the body
Taking a few deep breaths before you begin your meditation can trigger a relaxation response, which is essentially the opposite of your nervous system’s fight or flight response. When the fight or flight response is triggered, the body gets ready for danger, but when the relaxation response is stimulated, the body begins to feel safe and at ease. Then, as you start the meditation, your breathing should return to a normal rate. Paying attention to your breathing will be important throughout the meditation, and this type of mindful breathing can lower stress levels in the body.
6. Try not to fidget or move too much during meditation
It’s common to feel restless and want to change positions throughout your meditation. If it’s too distracting or you’re in pain, feel free to readjust. But try not to let your position become a distraction in itself. There are many different types of meditation that you can try, and some of them allow for postures other than sitting, such as lying down or walking.
7. Just breathe
Meditation does not have to be complicated. The essence of mindfulness meditation is simply about bringing your awareness back to your breath, over and over again. For example, whenever you notice a thought arising, you can acknowledge that thought by saying “thinking” or “thought,” and then come back to the feeling of yourself breathing. You can even label the breath “in” as you inhale, and “out” as you exhale, to help stay focused.
8. Be kind to yourself — some days will be easier than others
At its root, meditation is about learning how to treat yourself with kindness no matter what you may be experiencing at any given moment. Just like exercising, some days will feel easier than others. This could be due to the amount of sleep you had the night before, or the amount of stress you were under that week. Remember that it’s a meditation practice — it’s not always going to be perfect.
9. Slowly reintroduce movement after meditating
Once you’re getting to the end of your meditation, you can gently begin to move your fingers and your toes, and then you can move your hands and feet, and stretch your arms or legs. Meditating is about creating a pause in your day, so try to give yourself a few minutes before jumping into a stressful task. By easing into your next activity, it’ll make it easier to bring the skills you are learning through meditation into your daily life.
10. Acknowledge your emotions
It’s normal to feel happy after meditating, but it’s also normal to feel a bit down. Meditation brings up good emotions, as well as bad emotions, so we can better recognize what our emotions actually are — fleeting thoughts and feelings that come and go. Perhaps even take a moment to thank yourself for practicing self-care, and be proud of the effort you took to meditate.
11. Come back the next day, even if you don’t feel like it
The power of meditation comes in creating a routine and making it a daily practice. In fact, a 2018 study found that meditating for 15 minutes every day promoted positive well being and reduced stress levels. The study concluded that daily meditation had a similar effect on the body to taking a vacation.
So, even though meditation may not feel like a vacation when you have to do it everyday, remember that keeping up a routine is key to feeling these effects.
12. Try guided meditation apps or take a class
If it’s difficult for you to stick to a daily meditation practice on your own, you may want to try using an app or class for further accountability and guidance.
Our colleagues at Insider Reviews have compiled the best meditation apps, including:
- For daily use: Headspace
- For sleep: Calm
- For variety: Insight Timer
- For skeptics: Ten Percent Happier
- For newbies: Simple Habit