With its rising popularity, you’ve probably heard a little bit about the practice of meditation. You might’ve even considered trying it yourself, but were too intimidated to start. And while a fear of the unknown is completely reasonable, there’s absolutely no reason to shy away from meditation. It’s actually really easy to start on your own. And if you do, you might just find that you are not only more productive at work and at home, but you also have a much clearer mind and better focus throughout the day.
Here are some of the benefits of meditation, as well as 10 simple steps to starting a meditation habit.
What is Meditation, Anyway?
Meditation involves focusing on the present in order to help quiet your mind and find serenity.
If your mind wanders, meditation can help bring your thoughts back in focus. When you meditate, you’re not merely staring blankly at a wall, or a piece of furniture, with a totally blank mind. The purpose of meditation is to establish a relationship with your thoughts. You’ll learn more about where your feelings come from, and you’ll gain a better understanding of how your mind works.1
A great deal of scientific research has gone into determining how starting a meditation habit can benefit both the mind as well as the body.
Meditation may help you…
· Stop Smoking
Smoking is obviously not good for your health, but it can be incredibly difficult to stop. If you’ve tried to either go the “cold turkey” route, or tried medications or patches without much success, you might want to consider meditation. According to a recent study, starting a meditation habit could give you as much as a 90 percent chance of kicking the habit for good.2
· Improve Your Quality of Life
Meditation can help people cope with everyday stress. Nearly 300 people participated in a two-month meditation program. According to the researchers who performed the study, the participants showed changes in spirituality that had a substantial connection to an improvement in their overall mental health.3
· Reduce Pain
Opioid medications can lead to dangerous – possibly even fatal – side effects, along with a major risk of addiction. Research indicates that meditation can help reduce chronic pain without the need for powerful drugs.4
· Lower Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can contribute to potentially deadly cardiovascular problems. Meditation could play a role in helping to keep your blood pressure at a safe level.5
· Ease Anxiety
Scientists have extensively researched whether meditation can help relieve anxiety issues. The indications are that starting a meditation practice could be effective.6
10 Tips to Get Started
You really don’t have to do any extensive preparation in order to begin meditating. Even if you’re a driven perfectionist, you can easily learn how to start a meditation habit. Here are 10 tips to get you going:
1. Know Why You Want to Meditate
In order for you to be able to get in touch with your mind, you should first determine you intentions. Do you want to reduce your stress? Do you have a hard time keeping your mind on the task at hand? It’s important to identify why you want to meditate. At the same time, however, it’s even more important to not let that reason dominate your meditation practice. The key to finding peace is to stay in the now – not to focus on the past or the future.7
2. Get Comfortable
When you think of someone meditating, the first picture in your mind might be of someone sitting cross-legged on the floor, or maybe on a yoga mat. But you can meditate in just about any position you find comfortable. As long as you’re sitting in an upright position, you’ll be able to meditate just fine. That being said, reclining isn’t recommended, because you might fall asleep. You should also be in a quiet place, so your mind can focus more easily. It’s important that you stay still once you find your best position. If you move your body too much, your thoughts may tend to wander.8
3. Focus on Your Breath
Your breathing is one of the most important aspects of your meditation. Focus on the quiet around you and on each breath you take. Pay attention to your body and the movement of your breath through your stomach, chest, throat, and nose.9
4. Baby Steps
Don’t expect to be able to meditate effectively for 20 minutes straight as soon as you start. While 20 minutes might not seem like a long time, it will seem like forever when you first start to meditate. Start out slowly, with a three- to five-minute session. Then, gradually increase the time when you feel comfortable enough to do so.10
5. Establish a Daily Schedule and Stick to it
Try to commit to a regular meditation schedule… whatever works with your daily routine. Some people like to meditate right before breakfast. Others prefer to perform their meditation at night. There’s no right or wrong time. Find the time of day when your thoughts are at their clearest. No matter when you choose to meditate, make sure you turn off all electronic devices, so you won’t be distracted.11
6. Find Someone to Meditate With You
You might get more from your meditation practice if you have someone with you to share your experience. You could either meditate in person with your “meditation buddy,” or you could simply call them after your sessions to discuss your progress and insights.12
7. You Can Meditate Almost Anywhere
It would probably be more productive if you could meditate at the same spot every day. But if that’s not possible because of your hectic schedule, don’t worry. You can meditate on the subway, or when taking a break off from work outside in the sunshine. Yes, the optimum environment is a quiet, secluded spot. But if you can’t find that spot, you can meditate anywhere that you can focus on your thoughts.13
8. Selecting a Mantra is Key
A mantra is a phrase or a word that you repeat during your meditation session. It really doesn’t matter what your mantra is. Even a simple sound like “ommm” will work! Each breath you use to repeat the mantra will have a rhythm that will help you focus.14
9. Be Patient
If you are a perfectionist, you might find meditation to be quite frustrating at first. Your thoughts might be all over the place, and you could become frustrated and impatient. Remember that a meditation practice is no place to try to be perfect. There is no wrong or right way to do it. If you become distracted, or your thoughts wander, don’t get annoyed… and don’t try to fight it. Simply experience the thoughts, and allow them to occur. If you do find yourself drifting, go back to gently repeating your mantra.15
10. Don’t Punish Yourself if You Miss a Day
It would be great if you could carve out a certain amount of time each day in order to meditate. But sometimes, that’s just not possible. If you miss a couple of days, don’t worry. Just get back to your routine as soon as you can.
Wrapping it Up
As you can see, meditation doesn’t have to be complicated. It should actually be the exact opposite. Clearing your mind should be an enjoyable, easy experience. Whether you do it first thing in the morning, right before bedtime, or some time in-between, the point of meditation is to find peace and connect with yourself and the world around you. Have fun, and enjoy. You might just realize it’s one of the best things you’ve ever done for yourself.
For more health wisdom from Eastern philosophies, keep reading here:
What is Feng Shui? (and how to improve your life with it!)
Here’s Why You Should Try Tai Chi (meditation in motion!)
Chakras 101: What Are They And How Can You Use Them?