What are the best meditation tips for beginners out there? How long should you meditate for as a beginner? What happens if you start thinking while meditating? These are all great questions that anyone who is new to meditation thinks about.
Meditation is a simple practice that is available to you at any time and has remarkable effects on your brain and body. Studies have shown that regular meditation practice reduces stress, helps manage anxiety, increases calmness, and promotes happiness.
Moreover, meditation has been so effective that some doctors are even prescribing it to their patients in lieu of medication. The benefits include no negative side effects and long term health benefits.
Learning how to meditate is straightforward, and the benefits can come quickly. Whatever happens, don’t get disheartened when you first start.
Like anything, regular practice will strengthen your “meditation” muscles and you’ll get better at it.
In this article, I am going to offer you the best mediation tips for beginners and a step by step guide on how to begin a meditation practice. Take a deep breath, and get ready to relax and start a path towards self-care, balance, and wellness.
My daily meditation practice
You may be motivated to start meditating because you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Or you have read a lot about the benefits and want to try it as part of your self-care goal.
I wasn’t that familiar with meditation and wish I had known about it while I was in college since it would have positively changed the trajectory of my life.
Four years ago during a trip to visit my friend in Spain, my best friend and I talked about meditation. Eva Herber is a clinical psychologist who works full-time, has a private practice, teaches online courses, and has two young children.
While visiting Eva in Madrid, I was in awe of how relaxed and centered she was despite her numerous responsibilities.
I’ve known Eva for nearly 20 years and she’s a fairly calm and grounded person. Her regular meditation practice has further enhanced her disposition and she radiates this inner zen that I deeply craved.
I was convinced that if meditation has helped her, it would do wonders for me. Before getting started, I wish I had known what meditation tips for beginners were recommended.
To begin, I downloaded the Meditation Studio app and started with a 5-minute daily practice. I found a few teachers on the app that I liked and slowly increased the duration of my practice.
What I love about the Meditation Studio app is that there are guided meditations for everyone and everything from stress, anxiety, and work performance to grief, relationships, and first responders.
The results of my practice have been remarkable.
It’s been a little over four years now, and I feel so much calmer, relaxed, and centered. I have also noticed that I am not as reactive when I’m under pressure and most importantly, I sleep better.
I don’t like the person I become when I stop my regular meditation practice.
Just ask my loved ones, there’s definitely an edge that gets softened when I take a few minutes to breathe, meditate, and slow down.
I think of my daily morning 15-minute practice as an investment in myself. Every minute gets me closer to feeling more balanced, poised, and centered, which is something that I aim for in my life.
What should you be thinking about when meditating?
Contrary to what you may think, the purpose of meditation is not to “let your mind go blank”. In the book 10% Happier, Dan Harris shares that it’s impossible to not have any thoughts, otherwise you would be dead.
Therefore, when you first start, it’s normal for your mind to wander, for you to feel uncomfortable, or worry that you’re not “doing it correctly.”
“The purpose of mindfulness meditation is to become mindful throughout all parts of our life, so that we’re awake, present and openhearted in everything we do, not just when we’re sitting on the cushion.”Tara Brach, Psychologist and Meditation Teacher
Here’s the good news, the moment you notice that your mind has wandered off, is a moment of mindfulness.
With regular practice, you will train your brain to bring your attention to the present moment. You will learn to be gentle with yourself when your thoughts wander and recenter yourself by bringing your attention back to your breath, again and again.
5 essential meditation tips for beginners
1. Find a space to meditate
Find a quiet comfortable space where you won’t be disturbed for the duration of the session. You can sit or lie down, whichever is more comfortable for you.
If you’re concerned that you might fall asleep, then it’s better if you are sitting on a chair, couch, or cushion.
2. Set aside time for meditation
Set aside time every day for meditation. Establishing a routine will get you more comfortable with the habit.
Even just a few minutes a day can make a big difference. Remember, meditation is like exercising a new muscle, with practice, you get stronger.
3. Use guided meditation
If you’re new to meditation, I highly recommend using guided meditations.
The guidance from an experienced teacher can be instrumental when you first start since you will notice that your mind wanders. Consequently, hearing the instructions from a teacher through guided meditation can help bring you back to the present moment.
As you become more experienced, you can find alternative ways of meditating.
My experience has shown that if I pay for the app I am more inclined to use it.
Try a few different apps until you find the one you like and then make the financial investment in your self-care and purchase the app.
Turn off notifications from your phone and other devices. Dedicate this time for your meditation and self-care practice. Remember this is an investment for you that will have long-term benefits.
5. Be gentle with yourself
When you begin to meditate and focus on your breathing, your mind will wander.
“Simply acknowledge whatever it is you were thinking of — without ascribing too much judgment to it, without letting it carry you away — and take a moment to come back to the present and resume your meditation. Where we build our skill is in the practice of coming back again and again. Notice it — thinking — and then pause, and then come back to the present moment.”Tara Brach, Psychologist and Meditation Teacher
Don’t beat yourself up when this happens, remember, it’s natural for this to happen. What’s important is how you respond when your mind wanders.
Rather than berating yourself, try a non-judgmental approach and simply say to yourself, “thinking” and then bring your attention back to your breath. Remember, the moment you notice your mind wandering away is actually a moment of mindfulness, so congratulate yourself for being mindful.
How do you start meditating?
Now that you have some background, benefits, and tips, you are ready for your first meditation.
The goal of this meditation is for you to get more comfortable in focusing on your breath.
You will breathe in and out for about 60 seconds, counting from one to ten. Instructions are provided below.
Step 1 – Sit or lie down
Some people like to use a yoga mat, lie on their bed, or on the couch. The important consideration is to be comfortable since it’s harder to relax if you’re uncomfortable.
If you’re using a guided meditation, your instructor will give you some suggestions on what you can do.
Step 2 – Position your body
Uncross your arms and your legs (unless you’re sitting in lotus position), and gently close your eyes. If you’re uncomfortable closing your eyes, lower your gaze to one focal point in front of you.
Sit with your spine tall and try to have good posture.
Step 3 – Breathing
Now you will breathe in and out for a set of 10 counts. There are different ways to do this.
One option is to put both your hands on your belly and pay close attention to the rise and fall of your belly for the duration of the inhale and exhale of the breath.
Another option is to pay close attention to the sensation of the coolness of the air entering through your nostrils.
When you inhale, hold your breath for one or two seconds, and then slowly exhale through your nose.
Inhale – Exhale
The entire meditation (which should last about 60 seconds) consists of you inhaling for 1, holding, then exhaling for 2.
Inhale 3, hold, exhale 4.
Inhale 5, hold, exhale 6.
Now inhale 7, hold, exhale 8.
Inhale 9, hold, exhale 10.
Step 4 – Assessment
You may have different sensations after your first time of trying meditation. Perhaps you’re light-headed or frustrated because it was harder than you thought. Give yourself a few minutes to get settled.
How do you feel?
Were you able to focus on your breath or did your mind wander? Remember there’s no right or wrong way to feel or do this practice.
This meditation exercise – though brief – is extremely effective for beginners because it shows you how easy meditation can be.
As you get more experienced with meditation, you will learn that the practice helps you learn to turn off external stimuli and tune in to yourself.
Meditation helps you connect your mind to your body with the simple practice of breathing.
How long should beginners meditate for?
One of the meditation tips for beginners is to start with short guided meditations. The reason behind this is that when you first start, you may find your attention wandering and get distracted. That is normal. Remember you’re training a new muscle!
The value of starting with short meditations, think three to five minutes, is that you will start getting more comfortable with the practice.
As a beginner to meditation, 3 minutes might even feel like too long. So start with 1 minute. With time, you can increase the duration of your practice.
You can practice mindfulness meditation on your own anytime and anywhere. Regular meditation practice has been proven to have physical health benefits, effectively reduce stress, manage anxiety, and improve your quality of life.
Listening to basic guided meditations can be helpful, especially when you’re a beginner. Instructions from an experienced teacher can help remind you to come back to the present moment, let go of distracting thoughts and not be so hard on yourself.
Using an app with guided meditations is essential for beginners and you can try different ones for free. You will notice a significant improvement in your life once you begin this daily investment in your self-care and wellness practice.
Are you a beginner to meditation and if so, what tips do you have for others? How has meditation helped you in your life? Please share your stories and comments below.