Meditation. What a buzz word these days. Everyone keeps talking about how great it is for your mental clarity, concentration, happiness, sleep, weight loss, stress management, etc. And all those things are true! I personally have benefited so much from starting a meditation practice.
It has really helped me become a happier and calmer human and I know that sounds cheesy, but you do experience positive mental and physical shifts once you start meditating regularly. I have a type A personality and it’s easy for me to become a ball of stress with even the smallest frustrations, deadlines, and to-dos, and I love how meditating has helped me navigate myself through those times with much more ease. Plus, stress management is EVERYTHING if you want to improve your over health.
Some common questions I get asked about meditation are: How do I start? What do I think about? What do I physically do while meditating? All these questions are totally valid. It can be quite uncomfortable, and even scary, to be alone with your thoughts. It’s one thing to say you’ll meditate, but to actually start doing it can weird and awkward.
However, just like anything, you have to start somewhere! I am by no means a meditation specialist or an expert. These are just suggestions that personally helped me in starting a daily meditation practice that I hope will help you as well! Here are 7 of my top tips to start meditating:
1. Dedicate a quiet space and time.
It’s important that you feel comfortable in the space that you decide to meditate in. Choose a time and place without distractions. My meditation time is right after dinner in a room alone while C is doing the dishes, when I know there’s less chance of him interrupting me. My dogs seem to think that meditation time is play time, so if that’s the case for you, I recommend closing your door.
Other good times are in the morning when you wake up and/or right before going to sleep. I sleep much better when I meditate before bedtime. It helps calm the mind and quiet all the noises and stress from the day.
2. Use guided meditations.
It can feel uncomfortable to start with completely silent meditations. When I first started meditating, I was only able to sit with a voice telling what to do throughout the whole process. I absolutely recommend the Calm app (available both on iOS and Android) if you are looking for free guided meditations of differently lengths. This app also has some paid features inside but I never felt the need to purchase them.
It can also be helpful to just have calming music or white noise on. I actually really like Calm app’s different “scenes” you can choose from, which include the beach, the lake, and the rainfall (there are more that you can download). I usually turn on the sound for the beach, close my eyes, and imagine that I’m watching the ocean waves and breathing in salty air. That’s my happy place.
3. Make it a priority and be consistent.
It’s so much effective to meditate just 5 minutes every day than 1 hour of meditation once a week. Set a reminder or an alarm on your phone so you remember to do it. You’ll only see the benefit of mediation once you start doing it consistently.
I love creating lists for all my tasks so I put meditation as part of my to-dos with the checkbox next to it. Do what works best for you.
4. Make sure you have proper posture and breathe.
Meditation is all about breathing, and you can’t breathe properly if your back and neck aren’t straight. At the same time, make sure your shoulders and neck are relaxed and that you are comfortable. Once you have proper posture, devote yourself to deep inhalations and exhalations. Try to make them as long as you can while staying relaxed and comfortable.
Deep breathing is the easiest and fastest way to get your mind in a parasympathetic state, which means you are relaxed and ready to rest and digest. Optimal digestion and sleep only happen when you are in a relaxed state. This is why meditation is so effective for weight loss, and many of us can’t lose weight when we are chronically stressed.
Remember: relaxation and stress can’t live in the same place.
5. Don’t stress about “not thinking.”
One of the biggest misconceptions about meditating is that you have sit there and remind yourself, “Don’t think. Don’t think. Don’t think.” That will only stress you out more! It’s okay to have thoughts and emotions while meditating. The important thing is that you accept them and then let them pass by concentrating back on your breath.
One way to keep your mind focused is to count the lengths of your inhalations and exhalations. You can start with inhaling for 6 seconds and exhaling for 6 seconds (these numbers will go up as you practice regularly), while counting those seconds in your head.
Another popular method is the body scan. Starting from the top of your head to your toes, notice how you feel every inch of the way as you scan from the top to bottom. There are many guided meditations that talks you through this process
Lastly, my favorite way to focus my breath is something that helps me immensely, especially when I’m frustrated and/or emotional. As I inhale, I think of breathing in positive energies like gratitude, love, joy, kindness and compassion. I imagine those things coming into my body and healing me both physically and emotionally. Then, as I exhale, I imagine letting go of all the dark negative thoughts like anger, frustration, jealousy, insecurities, and guilt. I imagine these things leaving my body and floating away. This method has been incredible in helping me during my most difficult times in my life.
6. Start with just 2 minutes.
You don’t have to meditate for 30 minutes or longer to call it meditation. I know it sounds ridiculous but even just a few minutes helps. Start out with just 2 minutes each day and then work your way up. My daily meditations usually last 10-15 minutes. Trust me, if you have time to check Facebook and Instagram, or catch up on the latest episode of the Real Housewives, you definitely have time to meditate!
Think of it as eating vegetables or exercising. You do those things to stay healthy, lose weight, or to feel great. The same is true for meditation.
7. No, you are not doing it wrong.
Once you start worrying about the whys and the hows, the meditation process can become counterproductive. The important thing is to just do it in any way you can. While I devote a specific time of the day for meditation, I also work it in throughout the day: I take deep breaths while sitting in traffic, when something frustrating happens, and before meals for better digestion. It’s not always easy to remember, but always coming back to my breath has helped me to control my emotions better, especially with situations that are not within my control.
Just remember: there’s no wrong way to do it. If you don’t want to sit, you can stand or lay down. You can even practice deep breathing during a walk outside. As long as you devote a time to meditate in any way you can and you get something out of each practice, you’re nailing it!