A NO-FUSS MEDITATION GUIDE: 8 STEPS TO KICK START YOUR PRACTICE
What can meditation do for us?
From ancient practice to modern mainstream -- many of the world’s most successful people swear by meditation as a key daily habit to help them survive and thrive in their busy modern lives.
I’ve personally felt the benefits too! Over the years that I’ve been meditating: my mind-chatter has significantly decreased; I’m calmer, less reactive and more grounded; and I generally feel happier, able to make better decisions, and to manage life’s ups and downs.
Like “exercise,” “meditation” is an umbrella term for many different practices, but it can generally be defined as deliberately changing our normal waking state of consciousness by focusing inwardly for an intentional period of time. Meditation is a type of mindfulness -- the latter can also be practiced during outward-facing activities, by actively applying higher levels of presence and awareness to them (e.g. by taking our time and noticing how we feel through each of our five senses when we eat a meal).
Modern scientific research increasingly supports the benefits of meditation that many of us experience after we practice. Studies suggest that regular meditation can have positive effects on many areas that hectic, smartphone-filled modern life often disrupts, including:
Helping us get to, and improving the quality of, our sleep;
Reducing feelings of stress and anxiety;
Boosting our levels of focus and creativity; and
Improving our emotional well-being.
Many of us think our lives or minds are “too busy” to meditate, but often this is a sign that we could benefit most from a few minutes of quiet time to ourselves.
Here are eight steps to kick-start a meditation habit that works for you:
1. Get clear on your motivation
Why do you want to meditate? How could sleeping better, responding more calmly to stress, or boosting your focus improve your life?
2. Find a calm, quiet time and place
Put your phone on silent and minimise any other external distractions before you start. Commit to a regular session that works for your schedule.
3. Choose a meditation spot you enjoy going back to
Make a place inviting (e.g. with a cosy blanket, houseplant or candle) and reduce the number of decisions you need to make beforehand; it will reduce any resistance you feel to keep going back.
4. Keep your posture relaxed but aware
Sit upright (with back support if you need it) on a comfortable cushion or chair, rest your hands on your lap or knees. Keep your legs, shoulders and face relaxed, and gently close your eyes.
4. Find a type you enjoy
Try new meditation styles to find out what works for you and to keep things interesting with apps (like Calm, Insight Timer or Headspace), online courses (like Mind: Unlocked’s 21 day course), YouTube videos, or even in-person classes (my favourites include London’s Re:Mind, LA’s Unplug, or New York’s MNDFL).
5. Know it’s normal for thoughts to come up
You can gently acknowledge intrusive thoughts by silently saying “thank you, I will look at this later,” or by treating them like clouds gently going past in your mind -- observing without needing to react to them. Once you’ve noticed you’re lost in thoughts, you can bring your focus back to meditating. You don’t need to keep your mind “empty” to meditate, but racing thoughts usually slow down with regular practice.
7. Dealing with distractions
Calmly notice external distractions (like unexpected noises), thoughts or feelings, and keep bringing your attention back to your meditation -- this is great practice for reacting more calmly to events in everyday life.
8. Track your progress
Start with a few minutes a day at a regular time and “attach” meditating to an existing habit (like brushing your teeth) to get into a routine. Use a notebook, calendar, habit tracker, meditation app, or even an accountability buddy, to stay on track.
Finally, think of meditation as quality “you” time
Most of all, there is no need to stress about doing it “right.” As with exercise, different methods suit different people, and our experience can vary each time. Start with a few minutes at a regular time that works for your schedule and work up from there. Know that whatever happens during your practice is what needed to happen -- whether that’s a few minutes of perfect calm, a quick nap, or an impromptu problem-solving session.
As you start noticing the benefits, you might even begin looking forward to your meditation sessions as calm, useful time to yourself during a hectic day!
Jessica is Co-Founder of Mind: Unlocked. To keep up with mental well-being events in London and free resources for coping better with modern life, sign up to their three-bullet weekly emails here. Or, if you're ready to dive deeper into discovering the benefits of meditation, check out Mind: Unlocked's practical 21-day online course here.
To view related posts, click on the relevant hashtags below: