Meditation For Beginners
A gift from the East, meditation is increasingly popular in the West and around the world. It’s a practice everyone can do but you must know where to begin. These meditation tips for beginners will help you get started.
What Are The Benefits Of Meditation?
Meditation stands the test of time because it works. You can meditate for either or both spiritual or personal reasons, enjoying the scientifically-backed benefits below:
- Reduced stress
- Reduced anxiety
- Decreased blood pressure
- Improved emotional health
- Enhanced self-awareness
- Improved focus and attention span
- Improved sleep
- Minimized pain
- Increased empathy
How Long, How Often, And When Should You Meditate?
Most people aim for 20 to 30 minutes of meditation, but as a beginner start with 10-minutes. As for how often to meditate, a daily practice delivers the most benefits, but some people only meditate a few days a week or when they are stressed. However, meditation is both proactive and reactive, so a daily practice is ideal. It takes 21 days to create a habit, so try at least 5 days per week for the first month or so. As for when to meditate, that is up to you.
One of the great things about meditation is that it can be done anytime anywhere. Create a routine by meditating first thing in the morning, at bedtime, or to transition from work to home. However, if you feel stress rise during the day or are having trouble focusing your attention you can do a mini-meditation at work or while on-the-go.
What If I Can’t Quiet My Mind While I Meditate?
It’s ok, even if you can’t quiet your mind you will still benefit from your meditation practice. Perfection is not the goal as even those who are tenured at meditation struggle to maintain focus. This is why there are a variety of meditation techniques and modalities to choose from. As a beginner, choose methods designed to quiet your mind by focusing your attention elsewhere. For example, in yoga you are focused on mastering and holding a pose. In a guided meditation you are focused on the instructor’s voice. You focus on counting during deep breathing exercises. Your mind may still wander, and you may become distracted, but don’t beat yourself up—as you will still benefit from your daily meditation.
How To Optimize Your Meditation Practice?
You can meditate anywhere, but optimize your daily at-home practice with these tips:
- Change into loose and comfortable clothing
- Sit or lay in a comfortable position
- Listen to soothing music
- Light an incense or use essential oils
- Dim the lights
- Go somewhere quiet or wear headphones
- Use hemp-derived CBD to help you relax and unwind
- Guided Meditation Services
Yoga is an excellent introduction to meditation because you will enjoy the physical benefits of stretching and strengthening your body, while calming your mind. You can practice yoga at home, but as a beginner it is best to take at least a few in-person or live-streamed classes. Not only will you benefit from the group setting, but you will have personalized direction from your yoga instructor.
During class you will work your way through a series of yoga poses, alternating on each side of the body. Some poses (asanas) are held for longer periods of time while others will be part of a fluid series (vinyasa flow) that is a bit faster.
There are multiple types of yoga to choose from, each teacher has a unique style, and your class may include chanting, gongs, chimes, and aromatherapy. What all yoga classes have in common is that they end in Shavasana, which is the ultimate relaxation and meditation pose.
Meditation apps such as Calm and Headspace are increasingly popular. The apps are similar but unique. Calm offers a daily 10-minute guided meditation to start your day off on a positive note, as well as sleep stories, wellness classes, ASMR, soothing music, and a variety of guided and goal-specific meditations. Headspace has hundreds of goal-specific guided meditations for kids, adults, and couples. This includes mindfulness exercises to improve athletic performance, self-esteem, productivity, sleep, and more. Calm’s meditations are guided, but have more talk-free time, while Headspace’s meditations are talk-heavy—try both to see which works best for you. You can download each app to Android or iOS and try them for 7 days for free. Both cost $70 per year.
Knowledge is power so YouTube is a perfect place to begin. They have countless guided meditations, music designed to enhance meditation, as well as videos that discuss the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. Be very specific about what you type into the search box, such as “10 minute meditation for beginners”. When you find a meditation video you enjoy add it to a private or shared meditation playlist.
What every yoga class, guided meditation, and meditation technique have in common is focused breathing. After just 2 minutes of deep breathing, you will feel reduced stress and anxiety as deep breathing aides your central nervous system in relaxation. Breathing also helps you focus your attention on something other than your racing mind, releases toxins from your body, and increases oxygen in your bloodstream. There are countless breathing exercises to choose from but let’s start with a few that are easy for beginners.
- Belly breathing—sit or lay in a comfortable position with your eyes closed. Inhale through your nose for a count of 5 while letting your belly fill up with air. Then exhale through your mouth for a count of 5, releasing the air from your belly. If it feels more comfortable, exhale a few counts longer than you inhale. As your mindful breathing improves work your way up to a count of 10. You can use this same technique to fill your lungs with air instead of your belly.
- Paused Breathing—use a similar technique as above but focus less on filling your belly or lungs. Instead, breathe comfortably, and after you inhale pause for a count of 5 before you exhale.
Affirmations are positive statements that declare what you want to achieve. Each affirmation should be phrased in the present, “I am” opposed to “I want” or “I will”. You can write your affirmations 10 times a day, repeat them throughout the day, or repeat them during your daily meditation. Repeating your affirmation not only provides something to focus on while you meditate, but it creates a positive pathway in your brain, and raises your energetic frequency. Here are a few examples from Louise Hay:
- I draw love and acceptance into my life, and I accept it now.
- I am unlimited in my wealth. All areas of my life are abundant and fulfilling.
- I experience love wherever I go. Loving people fill my life, and I find myself easily expressing love to others.
There are a variety of wellness practices that are similar to, complementary to, or can be used in conjunction with meditation. This includes but is not limited to:
- Sound baths
- Binaural beats
- Tai Chi
- Mindfulness coloring
- Listening to music
- Listening to sounds of nature
- Spending quiet time in nature
Here’s to balancing your mind, body, and spirit!