There is consistent evidence that regular meditation can bring many health and wellbeing benefits, including inner peace and a deeper level of relaxation. It can also help improve our attention, focus and memory. With a current global pandemic, developing this is skill is more important than ever.
With so many great reasons to meditate, often the hardest part is getting started.
Want to get started but are not sure how?
These 5 tips can help.
1. Make time
Firstly, decide that you will give meditation a go. Once you have made the commitment, block out some uninterrupted time and start in small increments. Initially, this may be 2 or 5 minutes a day and then build from there.
You may decide to try meditating first thing in the morning before breakfast, or right before you go to bed at night. Alternatively, lunch time may be the best time for you. Find a time and quiet place that suits you.
If you’re not able to find a quiet place and it’s noisy, accept this, and continue with your meditation. Don’t let a noisy environment (children playing, dogs barking, TV in the back room, neighbours arguing etc) be the reason you don’t meditate.
2. Find the right posture for you
Meditation can either be practiced seated with feet firmly on the ground and spine erect, or lying flat on your back. Either way, make sure you’re comfortable and not feeling cold.
Whatever your posture, try and remain alert without falling asleep.
3. Be still
For a few moments, allow yourself the time to fully relax by being still.
You may be distracted by thoughts and sensations, which is a normal part of meditating.
You may also be feeling restless and thinking about the things that you ‘should’ be doing. Acknowledge this and continue to remain still.
Observe your thoughts and emotions, without judgement, as you would observe a passing car – letting it pass you by…
4. Focus on your breath
Start focusing on your breath. Give your full attention to the inhaling and exhaling sensations you’re experiencing.
Notice the breath moving in and out of your nostrils; notice your body’s movement. Do not try to change your breathing pattern, just allow it to be.
Your mind WILL wander. You may have thoughts and feelings that are both pleasant and unpleasant. Allow them to come and go without pondering over them or resisting them.
When you have noticed that your mind has wandered away from focusing on your breath, bring it back. Once again focus on your breathing.
To help with the mind wandering, some people like to breathe in and out to a count of 4 or 5, and others like to chant a mantra or repeat a word, like ‘peace’.
Experiment with various options and find what works for you.
5. Bring yourself back
At the end of your meditation practice, bring your attention back to your surroundings and take a few moments to stretch.
When you are ready, open your eyes, sit up or stand slowly – there is no rush, enjoy this moment of ‘me’ time.
Acknowledge and thank yourself for giving yourself permission to take some time out and for doing something good for yourself.
Want some additional help?
There are a range of meditation apps available online that range from breathing to visualisation to chanting mantras. Some are available free of charge and others are available for a small cost. If you prefer to be guided by an online app, some of the well known (and evidence-based) ones, include Smiling Mind and Headspace…
Practice, practice, practice
Learning to meditate is no different from learning any other skill.
Practicing meditation takes time and perseverance. The key is to practice every day until it becomes part of your daily routine. For most people, the breathing meditation is often the easiest way to get started. It helps bring your attention to your breath and allows the mind to settle… It’s important however, to find what works for you and give it a go.