If you think that meditation is only for Buddhist monks… think again. Not only can anyone meditate, but in doing so you get to take in the multiple health and wellbeing benefits. For starters, meditation can decrease blood pressure as well as cortisol (a stress hormone) and cholesterol, increase creativity, reduce anxiety and strength your immune system. Not to mention it is a great way to get a little you time. So let’s look into your complete guide to start a meditation habit and you can thank us later.
Firstly, in case you haven’t read our article about how to build healthy habits; it is said that the best way to form a new habit is to tie it to an existing habit. Look for patterns in your day and think about how you can use existing habits to create new, positive ones. For many of us, our morning routine is our strongest routine, so that’s a great place to stack on a new habit.
Those who try meditation for the very first time usually have a specific goal in mind, to reduce stress and luckily meditation is great for that. Over time, you may notice that you see the ‘big picture’ of your life more clearly and are able to make better decisions about it. Meditation can also help you connect with your spiritual side and possibly to a higher power if your belief system includes that.
When beginning to meditate it is best to learn one simple technique and practice it every day. Whilst there are meditation apps available to you, if you’d rather stay away from your devices during meditation (which we recommend) then you can try this basic how-to technique, adapted from Meditation for Dummies by Stephan Bodian.
- Sit comfortably on a cushion or a chair. Don’t slouch, but your back doesn’t need to be ramrod-straight either. At first, you may want to try sitting against a wall to support your back. Use extra pillows under your knees or anywhere else to make you comfortable.
- Try lying down, if sitting to meditate is unappealing. Miriam Austin, author of Meditation for Wimps, recommends lying on the floor with your calves and feet resting on a chair seat.
- Put on music, if that helps to calm you before beginning to meditate. Turn it off once you begin.
- Set a digital (non-ticking) timer. Start with five minutes and work your way up to 10, then 15, and eventually 20. It will probably take weeks or months to lengthen the time you practice. Try not to put yourself on a schedule. Whatever your pace, it’s fine.
- Breathe normally through your nose, with your mouth closed. Your eyes can be open or closed. Focus on the breath moving in and out of your nostrils, or on the rise and fall of your belly.
- When you notice your mind wandering, bring it gently back to the breath. Be careful not to drift off; this will be tempting, especially if you’re lying down. While shutting off your mind is not the goal of meditation, neither is judging the meditative process. No matter what feelings or thoughts you have, simply bring your focus back to the breath again. And again.
As with anything new, once you’ve tried meditation, you’re bound to hit a snag or two. Common barriers in developing a regular meditation practice include “my mind just races”, “I fall asleep”, “I can’t sit still”, “My back hurts”, “I don’t have time” or “I don’t feel anything special”. If you encounter any of these, it is your decision whether or not you want to troubleshoot and push through. If your mind races, try counting your breaths. If you fall asleep, try sitting up. If you can’t sit still, try a walking meditation. If your back hurts, you just need to adjust your body. If you don’t have time, set your alarm clock to get up 15 minutes earlier. If you don’t feel anything special, try to avoid unrealistic expectations that something monumental is going to occur and just go with the flow.
The bottom line? No matter what you are feeling, you simply cannot do it wrong.
You might also like our article The benefits of meditation for weight loss.