Meditation for beginners
When was the last time you just sat –– no phone, no to-do list, no thinking about what’s for dinner? With so many distractions at the ready, doing nothing might seem next to impossible. This lack of activity, however, is the foundation for meditation, a practice that empowers people to be present and recharge.
While there are many different reasons for mindfulness and various ways to practice, the benefits are widespread. Practitioners often cite reduced stress, improved focus and a heightened ability to remain present.
Why should I meditate?
The benefits of meditation are far-reaching and sometimes unexpected. While you might carve out this time to improve your mood, you could end up noticing that you’re falling asleep sans sheep counting or that you’re having an easier time focusing on your work throughout the day. No matter your motive, meditation can support your daily endeavors.
How do I start meditating?
While meditation can seem intimidating for beginners, there’s really no wrong way to do it. It’s all about taking the time to slow down, be more present and recharge. How you get there is up to you. There are, however, some best practices to help you set yourself up for success.
Because meditation can be so open-ended, it’s helpful to explore different types, techniques and tips. Learning about this practice is a wonderful first step in your mindfulness journey, and there are plenty of resources online that can answer the questions you’ll likely have in taking these first steps.
Virtual meditation classes
Virtual classes are a wonderful way to dive in. Consider the Foundations of Mindfulness Class from Rice University that aims to give students a comprehensive understanding of the practice and provides guided meditations and discussions.
If you're looking for a more intellectually-charged approach, Yale University's The Science of Well-Being course is an alternative. These lessons tackle the subject of the mind-body connection from a more psychological slant and seek to understand the role our brains play in our attempt to be more mindful.
Should you want a more tactical approach, the Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly course gives students practical tips for achieving a meditative state. The course is complete with guided meditations that strip the practice of any confusion or daunting notions.
If you’re the type who likes to skip the directions and dive in head-first, you might be ready to meditate right this second. In that case, you can go ahead and get started. All you have to do is get comfortable, separate yourself from any potential distractions and breathe.
While you should aim to keep from thinking about anything other than what you’re doing, some wandering of the mind is inevitable. This is fine, as long as you’re aware of it and make an effort to refocus on your breathing and the current moment.
Setting a timer for a few minutes can help you resist the urge to check your phone and relieve the stressful thought of time slipping away without notice.
What kind of environment is best for meditating?
There is no one-size-fits-all guide to meditation spaces. The space you choose is up to you and your specific needs. Ultimately, you should create an environment that’s relaxing, comfortable and distraction-free.
For comfort, surround yourself with soft materials. If you opt to sit on the ground, you might want a meditation pillow to sit on. Sitting on a pillow will help you sit up straight and feel lifted. Pillows are also easier on the hips and hamstrings if those areas are tight for you. If you prefer to stay grounded, you can sit on a yoga mat. If you plan to begin a yoga practice alongside meditation, you can utilize the mat for both practices.
Lighting is also a factor here. You're more likely to reach a relaxed state when you're not under bright, interrogation-style lights. Try a Himalayan Salt Lamp for a natural, soft glow.
Candles are another great way to achieve soft lighting. This cedar, lavender and sage candle has an incredibly calming, earthy scent.
If you live in a city with a lot of background noise, consider using a white noise machine to drown it out. Calming rain or ocean sounds just might be a little more conducive to meditation than horns blaring or sirens going off.
What are the best guided meditations?
Self-guided meditations can be difficult for those who have a hard time slowing down their thoughts or people looking to remedy specific concerns through mindfulness. Guided meditations provide narration that walk you through breathing exercises and keep you focused.
Mindfulness cards are another option that give meditation prompts. These give a little extra guidance for solo meditations but are also fun and interactive if you're hosting a group meditation or looking to promote mindfulness practices at home or at work.
How often should I meditate?
Because meditation is not a regimented exercise, there is no prescribed frequency that dictates how often you should practice. It’s hard to overdo it, so aim to carve out a few minutes of quiet time each day.
How long should I meditate?
Even meditations as short as a couple of minutes have the power to positively impact your day and your state of well-being. You might not always have the luxury of setting aside longer chunks of time for meditating, and that’s fine.
While it has some intimidating connotations, meditation is really about reconnecting to the present moment and taking the time to breathe.
Mallory Pitts is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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