You may have heard about meditating as a way to help quiet your mind and ease stress. But who has time to add one more “thing” to their already busy routine?
The good news is that many of the meditation benefits you’ve heard about are backed by science. So, there’s no need to worry about wasting your time on a “fad” that might not work for you. The even better news is that meditation doesn’t really require much more than a few minutes of your time. There’s no need to buy expensive equipment or pay for meditation sessions if you don’t want to. You can practice quieting your mind and controlling your breath in the comfort of your own home in as little as five minutes.
Ready to give it a try? Continue reading for some great beginner tips.
What Is Meditation?
If you’re not sure what meditation actually is, here’s a quick definition. Meditation is the process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. You can use meditation to increase awareness of yourself and your surroundings. This increased awareness is known as mindfulness. Meditation and mindfulness go hand-in-hand.1
Why Should You Meditate? Potential Benefits Of Meditation
Meditation may help support the following:
- Healthy stress levels
- A positive mood
- Positive thought patterns
- Attention span
- A good sense of control over your life2,3,4,5,6,7
How To Meditate: Tips For Beginners
The beauty of this practice is that you can meditate whenever and wherever you’d like. Here are basic instructions on learning to meditate.
Mediation Basics: Getting Started
- Decide on a set amount of time for your session. That way, you don’t have to be thinking about when you should stop. If you’re a beginner, choose a shorter time, like 5-10 minutes.
- Find a comfortable, distraction-free spot and sit down. You can lower the lights or sit outside if you’d like.
- Straighten, but don’t stiffen, your body. If you’re on a cushion or bare floor, criss-cross your legs comfortably and straighten your back. If you’re in a chair, put both feet on the floor with your hands in your lap.
- Drop your chin and let your gaze fall gently forward. You can close your eyes or keep them open – just try not to focus too hard on anything in your field of vision.8
Bring Your Attention To Your Breath
- Focus your thoughts on your breath – in and out, in and out.
- Follow the physical sensations of your breath. Feel the air moving through your nose and mouth. Notice the rise and fall of your belly or chest. Pick one of these physical sensations as a touchpoint to focus your thoughts.9
Be Mindful Of Your Thoughts
You don’t want to let your thoughts wander wildly. But you also don’t need to empty your mind of all thoughts.
When thoughts or feelings arise, try to notice them and sit with them for a moment rather than clear them from your mind. When you meditate, the idea is to notice your own thoughts, emotions, and sensations.10
When Your Mind Wanders
Your mind will inevitably wander. This is part of the process. When you notice it wandering, take a moment, acknowledge the thought, and then gently return your attention to your breath.
After a few breaths, your mind will likely wander again. Try not to get frustrated with yourself. Every time your mind wanders, acknowledge the thought for a moment, and then come back to the present.
This process of returning to the breath is where you build your mindfulness skills. You are actively training your brain.11
Scan Your Body For Progressive Relaxation
Instead of focusing your attention on the breath, you may practice a “body scan,” which involves noticing sensations up and down your body. Here’s how:
- If your mind has wandered, first bring your attention back to your breath.
- Bring awareness to your feet. Focus on how they feel. If there’s pain, notice any thoughts or emotions that come up and continue breathing.
- Continue this practice with each area of your body, moving your way up toward the crown of your head.
- If you notice any tightness, pain, or pressure, breathe into it. Try to visualize releasing tension in all of these areas.12
How Long Does Meditation Take To Work?
When you try something new, it’s natural to wonder how long it will take before you see results. Focusing too much on results may increase anxiety (perhaps the very thing you were looking to decrease). Meditation is a process-oriented task that aims to train your mind, not get you to the finish line.
That said, you might still want an answer to this question. Well, many of the studies that have been done on meditation follow participants for weeks or months, not years. There’s reason to believe that you will see results relatively quickly if you stick with it.13,14
Find The Meditation Technique That Works For You
Does the thought of sitting and breathing silently while you meditate make you feel antsy? You may seek out a different form of meditation. Here are a few different techniques to consider trying.
With sound meditation, you focus your awareness on sounds or music rather than your own breath. A popular version of this is called a “sound bath” – where you sit or lie down and focus on Tibetan singing bowls, quartz bowls, and bells.
Sound-based treatments may support healthy:
- Muscle relaxation and recovery
- Blood circulation14
Prefer to focus more on your goals while you meditate? Affirmations might be for you. An affirmation is a powerful, positive statement that aims to challenge negative thoughts. When you meditate, repeat this positive thought in your head.15
Here are a few sample affirmations:
- I choose to be happy.
- I’m fine with who I am, and I love who I am becoming.
- I am unique and beautiful.16
Research suggests that affirmations may help increase self-compassion, feelings of worth, sympathy, and trust.17
Walking meditation is another way to cultivate the benefits of mindfulness. It works by bringing your focus to the physical experience of walking. Through this, you can develop an appreciation for your physical body. To try it:
- Pick a peaceful area that will allow you to walk 10-15 paces while meditating.
- Walk in the area you’ve chosen, pausing at each end to focus on your breathing.
- Focus your mind on each physical step as you go: the lifting of each foot, the shifting of your weight, the placing of your feet back down, and your breath as you walk.18
How To Create A Meditation Practice You’ll Stick To
Once you’ve decided on the way you’d like to meditate, it’s time to turn it into a habit. To make this easier, following these tips and tricks.
Rather than overwhelm yourself with a new time-consuming habit, why not commit to only five minutes a day? Starting with a small commitment can make it much easier to actually get down to business. Your mind will still benefit from only a few minutes of meditation.19
Schedule Time To Meditate
If you’d like to improve your mindfulness, you’ll need to make it a priority. It may help to schedule a regular time and place to meditate, just like you’d do for a work meeting. That way, you’ll be much more likely to stick to it.20
Download A Meditation App
There are many different meditation apps currently available that can help strengthen your new habit. These apps can guide you through a meditation session, which will make the experience easier. Most meditation apps will also provide a timer and a way to keep track of your sessions.21
Practice In The Morning
Consider taking a moment in the morning to meditate. Many people choose to adopt new habits first thing in the morning simply because there are fewer distractions. Meditation can help start the day on a positive note.22
Once you experience the feel-good effects, you just may start to look forward to it (right after you’ve had your morning cup of coffee, of course).
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