Meditation: How to Get Started
“Doing nothing often leads to the very best something.”
– Winnie the Pooh
Let me first answer the question everyone is wondering when they start to consider meditation: no, you don’t have to sit on the floor, cross-legged with your index finger and thumb together, or say “ohm” over and over again. But you definitely can if you’d like to!
Although it sounds simple enough to sit and “do nothing” for a few minutes a day, it can be more challenging than you might think.
The first decision to make when beginning a meditation practice is to choose between guided and unguided meditation. For beginners, guided meditation is often helpful because you have an experienced meditator guiding you through the practice and helping you out along the way. You can find guided exercises anywhere online (I will link to some below), and there a variety of meditation apps available as well. I personally love the headspace app, but have also heard great reviews for the calm app.
Although it may seem counterintuitive to rely on technology for your meditation practice, apps can be beneficial. For one, they can help keep you accountable since many of the apps offer notifications to remind you to practice. They also have a variety of meditation techniques so you can explore and find out what you like the best.
Another option is the Muse Meditation Headband which senses your brainwaves and gives you real time feedback during your meditation. The headband syncs with your phone so when you put headphones in you can virtually hear how active your brain is. Your brain waves are translated into weather sounds so when your brain is active, you hear stormy weather, but when your brain is calm you hear peaceful weather and some birds chirping.
This real time feedback can be helpful for people who have struggled with meditation in the past, since it can show you exactly what mindset you should be aiming for with meditation. The constant sounds can also keep you more focused and less likely to get distracted. Having an association between meditation and a physical object (like the headband) can help remind you to meditate when you see it.
The beauty of meditation is that you can’t do it wrong – that’s why it’s called meditation practice. Many people think they can’t meditate because they always get distracted, but that happens to everyone, even the most experienced meditators. As long as you bring your attention back to your breath (or another focus object) when you notice you’ve been distracted, you are practicing meditation! Eventually the time between distractions will get longer and longer as your brain gets used to sitting in a calm, focused state.
To make sure meditation stays apart of your routine, try doing it at the same time every day, and enlist a reminder notification on your phone if you are likely to forget. When you begin, start with a meditation that’s only 3-5 minutes long so you’re not overwhelmed. With meditation it’s better to start small and work your way up – for the same reason you wouldn’t run a marathon if you’ve just started jogging. Don’t get discouraged if you fall off the wagon and miss your meditation for a few days (or weeks) in a row, it will always be there for you to pick right back up.
People often wonder if they are someone who really “needs” meditation. I will refer back to my exercise analogy to answer this question. If we think of meditation as exercise for the brain, is there anyone who doesn’t need physical exercise? Just like the body, the brain needs its exercise too. There are however, people who probably need it more than others. If you have a high stress job, or just a busy life that rarely leaves you with time for yourself, taking a few minutes a day to meditate will likely benefit you significantly.
Meditation has been proven to help with anxiety, depression, sleep, and stress management. If these are problems you struggle with, it is definitely worth giving meditation a shot.
Interested in learning more about the benefits of meditation? Check out my last meditation post!
As promised, here are a few free guided meditations to get you started: