How to Get Started with Meditation

Meditation is the Fastest Growing Health Trend in the Country

Meditation is fast becoming a practice essential to overall well-being for many Americans. Researchers recently concluded a five-year study on the three most popular “complementary therapies” in the U.S. – yoga, meditation and chiropractic care – and found that the practice of meditation had experienced a three-fold increase among study participants.

More people are looking for healthy ways to control stress, improve sleep, remove distractions and adopt a more positive outlook. They’re finding that meditation can promote a sense of calm while you’re practicing, and may provide a sense of improved well-being long after your meditation session ends.

 

Why Practice Meditation?

There are dozens of reasons to try meditation, and everyone’s experience is different. The Mayo Clinic details the multiple emotional benefits of meditation on their website, including:

  • Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
  • Building skills to manage stress
  • Increasing self-awareness
  • Focusing on the present
  • Reducing negative emotions
  • Increasing imagination and creativity
  • Increasing patience and tolerance

 

Who Practices Meditation?

The practice of meditation is truly mainstream these days, with practitioners of all ages looking to benefit from self-reflection and mindfulness, and to bring a sense of balance to their day. Meditation techniques are commonly taught in school classrooms, healthcare settings, and workplaces of all sizes.  Anyone desiring a little more peace can practice meditation to feel calmer and more relaxed.

 

Getting Started with Meditation

If you’ve never tried meditation before, there are many ways to practice, but all involve the same core principles:

  • Focused attention, often on a specific object or image
  • Relaxed breathing from the diaphragm, allowing you to take in more oxygen and relax your neck and shoulders
  • A quiet setting, away from distractions
  • A comfortable position, but also being mindful of posture
  • An open mind. Being open to the possibility of relaxation ultimately makes it easier to relax.

It may feel odd or silly at first, but like most new endeavors, practice makes perfect.

 

How to Meditate

There are lots of resources to use when you’re ready to try meditation. Look for apps like Headspace that offer free and paid subscriptions with practices of different lengths, for different end results like stress reduction or better sleep.

There are countless audio programs, DVDs and YouTube channels where you can follow a guided practice along with a leader. Finally, check out meditation websites for newsletters, videos, and podcasts organized in a central location. Mindful.org is one of the best, with comprehensive, engaging information and articles that provide a well-rounded approach to complementary therapies and practices that contribute to a healthy mind and healthy life.

Mindful.org offers this helpful 8-step “How to Meditate” guide:

  1. Take a seat. Find a place to sit that feels calm and quiet to you.
  2. Set a time limit. If you’re just beginning, it can help to choose a short time, such as five or 10 minutes.
  3. Notice your body. You can sit in a chair with your feet on the floor, you can sit loosely cross-legged, you can kneel—all are fine. Just make sure you are stable and in a position you can stay in for a while.
  4. Feel your breath. Follow the sensation of your breath as it goes in and as it goes out.
  5. Notice when your mind has wandered. Inevitably, your attention will leave the breath and wander to other places. When you get around to noticing that your mind has wandered—in a few seconds, a minute, five minutes—simply return your attention to the breath.
  6. Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself or obsess over the content of the thoughts you find yourself lost in. Just come back.
  7. That’s it! That’s the practice. You go away, you come back, and you try to do it as kindly as possible.
  8. Close with kindness. When you’re ready, gently lift your gaze (if your eyes are closed, open them). Take a moment and notice any sounds in the environment. Notice how your body feels right now. Notice your thoughts and emotions.

If you’re short on time, the below video illustrates the recommended amount of time to focus on your breathing and clearing of the mind.

meditation breathing exercise gif