Have you made a pledge to do more meditation, but have no idea where to start?
Don’t despair! We wanted to take a moment to point out that it’s completely normal for beginners to experience some frustration when starting out - however, it’s absolutely worth committing to the practice because the benefits are pretty amazing.
It can improve memory and concentration, reduce stress levels and promote happiness. Research has even suggested that it may be effective at decreasing the risk of certain medical conditions like age-related memory loss.
That all sounds well and good, but exactly how do you master this mindful technique? This World Meditation Day, we’re here to provide basic meditation tips to get you started on a path toward greater clarity, acceptance and joy. Sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.
Before we get to grips with the ‘how’, we first need to understand the ‘what’.
The idea of meditation is to calm your mind, and in doing so, your body. This is typically achieved by learning how to pay attention to the breath, and notice when the mind wanders from doing this.
When we pay attention to our breath, we are learning how to return to, and remain in, the present moment - to anchor ourselves in the here and now on purpose, without judgement.
This practice takes patience, but the payoff is worth tenfold.
HOW TO MEDITATE: THE BASICS, EXPLAINED
Set aside time to meditate that works for you and your lifestyle. This will help you to establish a routine and get comfortable with the practice. Even just a few minutes a day can make a big difference, but we recommend 15 to 30 minutes.
Find a quiet place where you know you won’t be disturbed. Sit down and get yourself comfortable. Forget the stereotypical images of people sitting cross-legged, find a position that’s most comfortable for you - and if that just so happens to be sitting cross-legged, then of course that’s perfectly fine.
Start to focus on the breath, breathing deep into the ribcage, maybe placing your hands on your ribcage to connect and feel them expand as you inhale. This may take some getting used to, but try not to alter your breath in any way. Simply allow things to unfold naturally.
When your mind wanders, take a moment to acknowledge your thoughts and pause. You don’t need to pull your attention right back to the breath. Instead, let go of whatever it was you were thinking about, then gently guide your attention back to the breath, being present for each inhalation and exhalation.
When you’re ready, and in your own time, calmly expand your attention back to your surroundings.
The benefits of meditation are numerous, varied and backed by science, too. Many people start meditating to manage stress, reduce anxiety and to cultivate peace of mind. But what many don’t know is that the benefits of meditation go far beyond feeling more calm.
Regular meditation can help to:
- Improve sleep;
- Enhance focus;
- Promote empathy;
- Lower blood pressure;
- Improve listening skills;
- Boost self-confidence;
- Reduce brain chatter;
- Feel more connected to others.
TOP MEDITATION TIPS
Meditation requires commitment, discipline, and perseverance if you are to reap the full benefits - there is no quick fix! The following meditation tips will help you establish a strong foundation for your practice, and more importantly, stick at it!
1. Don’t judge! It may be tempting to judge each practice as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and, once you’ve been doing it for a while, to wonder if you are ‘improving.’ Try to resist this urge to analyse your progress. Meditation isn’t something we ever expect to excel at, rather, it’s a long-term skill we are constantly working on day by day.
4. Set the mood! Now we’re not saying you need to dig out your entire candle collection - although, if this helps, you do you - but creating a relaxing environment can really help your practice. You could listen to some calming music or scatter some cushions and throws on the floor. The most important thing is to create an environment that is comfortable for you.
READ MORE: Your 5-Minute Mental Health Check Up
Just as you would with lifting weights or running 10k, don’t expect to master meditation the first time you try it. You have to keep going back to your practice every day.
You may experience restlessness or irritation, but the key is to get comfortable with discomfort. Rather than trying to resist these emotions, give them your full attention and allow them to come and go. Gradually, your mind will learn to recognise these emotions without getting caught up in negative patterns of thought - a skill that can be enormously beneficial not only during meditation, but everyday life.