So, you’ve been thinking about meditation and have decided to give it a whirl. Maybe you have anxiety or you struggle with paying attention. Or perhaps you’re looking to reduce stress, fall asleep faster, and take care of your brain health. Whatever your reason, you’ve decided to start. But where should you start? What are the best meditation techniques for beginners?
The best advice we can give is to start slow and be patient. Find a consistent time of day that works best for you, sit down in a comfortable place, close your eyes and breathe.
You can do this for as little as 5 minutes to start and work your way up to an hour if you desire. There really isn’t a right or wrong way to practice mindfulness meditation, you just need to do it. And you need to stick with it. The longer you practice, the more benefit you will get. Just like that old adage, “practice makes perfect”.
What if I can’t clear my mind?
It’s hard to clear your mind. Your mind is anything but quiet. So don’t really even try.
Don’t practice mindfulness in a way to clear your mind, but instead to focus the mind:
Focus on breathing.
Focus on an idea.
Focus on the emotion you are feeling at the moment.
Focus on coming to terms with it uncomfortable or painful thought.
Don’t meditate to think of “nothing”, but to ponder something. Meditate to relieve stress and anxiety that is brought about by an overactive mind.
We live in a world that makes money off of boredom. Every notion we could conceive of has already become an app we could download to alleviate any and all opportunities to be bored.
And while that may be nice on occasion, it certainly isn’t good all the time. Studies have shown that boredom fosters creativity. But being bored is uncomfortable.
From young ages, we have been taught to circumvent boredom by filling it with something: television, games, social media, more work, going out to eat, anything but accepting boredom. And our overall mental health has suffered for it.
Studies have shown that social media in excess can promote anxiety, depression, and isolation. So what do we do? We embrace it. We grab hold of boredom and make it useful. Instead of grabbing our phones to scroll through memes, we can sit quietly and ponder. We can daydream. We can give our minds the rest is so desperately requires.
Simple meditation tips for beginners
Decide to do it and decide that it will be refreshing. In the 25 Health Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation and we touched on the power of belief.
Everything that we do and everything that we are is because of the belief that we have. If we decide meditation won’t work, then it won’t. It is very hard to change a mind that is made up. (If you have kids, you know what I’m talking about.)
Sit comfortably with your back straight, practicing good posture. You can sit on a chair or sit on the floor using a meditation cushion or yoga mat.
Ever heard of the phrase “you dress for success”? It’s the same understanding here with meditation. If you sit like you are expecting something good, rather than slouching in your seat, you’ll get a better result.
Focus your attention. You can focus on breathing techniques, even counting your breaths, if you desire. Some recommend focusing on your body, one part at a time starting at your toes and working your way up to the top of your head like your body is being scanned. Not to be weird, but to give yourself something tangible to think of to help train your focus. Or you can focus on a Bible verse, you can repeat an affirmation, you can focus on your heartbeat. Whatever makes you comfortable. Beginning meditation should be a pleasant experience if it’s something that you want to make a habit of. If your mind wanders, that’s okay, bring it back to what you were trying to focus on and keep going for the time you allotted.
Start slow and be consistent: Start with an easy 10-15 minutes of daily meditation. Wake up, eat your breakfast, meditate for 15 minutes, ease back into reality, and get ready for the day. If you start off by forcing yourself to sit and meditate for an hour, you’re going to quit before you get any real benefit out of it. It’s hard to carve out an hour of your day every day before you’ve built up a habit and notice a benefit from regular meditation. It’s like going on a diet. Suddenly changing everything about your eating habits is difficult to maintain long term, but if you ease your way into it, you’re more likely to stick with it, getting better results.
I’m not comfortable with the religion associated with meditation
Contrary to popular belief, meditation isn’t inherently religious. The word meditation literally means, “to ponder”. The Latin word for "ponder," meditari, is the root of meditating. You can make meditation religious if you desire, but the practice itself is not religion-based. It is a skill of calming and focusing the mind, whatever you choose to focus on during your quiet meditative time is entirely up to you. Some topics you can choose to focus on during your mindfulness meditation practice are:
Breathing (mentioned above)
Body scan (mentioned above)
Words of affirmation (about yourself or others)
Emotions- you can ponder happiness, sadness, anger, disappointment (this may help you work through how you handle these emotions in the future if you become familiar with them)
Healthy fantasies or daydreams (travel, healthy relationships, healthy body, healthy mind, healthy emotions)
Focus on sequences
Listening - you can focus on all the sounds around you
Something that brings you peace and comfort- If you like cooking, think about recipes and flavors.
Walking meditations - go outside for a walk. Consider the physical sensations of your steps as you take them or pay close attention to the nature you are surrounded by. Try the body scan meditation technique while you are walking.
It’s called the practice of meditation because it really does take practice. It's hard to return your attention because your mind has wandered to all the things you need to do later in the day or conversations you’ve had.
But don’t get frustrated with yourself when you notice that your mind has wandered, calmly bring it back to attention. That’s what minds do. The mind is designed to think of things. But that’s also why it is so important to take the time to meditate, practice deep breathing, training the mind to work for you instead of just remaining on autopilot. The goal of meditation is to understand your mind and get to know yourself on a deeper level.
Additional meditation tips
Guided meditations, meditation teachers, and meditation apps are all useful tools to help you reach your meditation goals. Playing soft music in the background or tuning on nature sounds can help you set a calming mood for your meditation session. Remember to focus meditation rather than willing your mind to be blank, observing your breath, enjoying your time.