Meditation is a mental practice that encompasses many different styles and techniques — like mindfulness — which can help you train your focus and attention so you can achieve a clear mind. Studies show meditation may result in many health benefits for your body and mind, including:1
- A decrease in stress, anxiety, depression, heart rate, blood pressure, and pain
- An increase in memory, focus, and efficiency
In fact, consistent, long-term meditation practice has also been shown to make positive changes to the brain in the areas that affect stress and anxiety.2
So, if you’re ready to reap the benefits of meditation but aren’t sure where to start, we’re here to guide you on your journey.
Tips for beginners
“First thing you’ll want to do is set up your meditation hygiene, similar to sleep hygiene,” says Sanjay Kapoor, director of the Enterprise Customer and Market Action Team at Kaiser Permanente and co-creator of MindfulHub — a volunteer program that promotes and hosts mindful activities, like group meditation, for Kaiser Permanente employees. “Create a meditation spot and specific time of day to dedicate to your practice. Ensure the place will allow you to meditate, undisturbed, for at least 15 to 20 minutes. This will help make it a routine.”
Kapoor also recommends the following tips for beginners to consider before starting their practice.
Keep it simple and go at your own speed
To start a meditation routine you don’t need to do anything complicated. Just find a quiet place and set an intention for how long you’d like to meditate. If you find you can’t do the full 15 to 20 minutes, start by sitting for 5 minutes and increase gradually every day. If you have trouble sitting, try lying down instead.
Do light exercise or deep breathing before getting started
A relaxed body has a better chance of achieving a calm mind. So, because the mind and the body are connected, doing some light exercise or movement before meditation can help you achieve an even deeper sense of calm as you meditate. This can be as simple as shaking out your hands and feet, doing a gentle neck and shoulder rotation, stretching, or taking a few deep breaths.
Find your anchor
While you’re meditating, you’ll want to have an anchor that brings you back to the present moment. It’s natural for the mind to wander, but when it does, you can use your anchor to bring you back to the present moment. An anchor can be focusing on your breath, watching a flame (or envisioning one in your mind), listening to a guide, or repeating a mantra or affirmation.
Observe your thoughts without judgment
There seems to be an expectation with meditation that you must have no thoughts. But thoughts will come — that’s natural. Instead of fighting your thoughts, simply observe them as if they were clouds passing in the sky. If your thoughts do start to connect — like you start thinking about what to make for dinner and if you have enough ingredients — that’s when you need to bring your awareness back to your anchor.
Let go of expectations and comparisons
Approach every meditation session with a sense of curiosity, letting go of specific expectations and goals. Each session may be different — and that’s okay.
Find a community
Meditating with a group can help you make social connections and inspire you to stay dedicated to your practice. “Finding a community is so important,” Kapoor explains. “We meditate alone, but with a good community we can still be together supporting one another, even when we’re all in separate locations.”
Some meditation types to try
You can use the above tips and apply them to most types of meditation. Here are a few meditation types for beginners to consider.
Breath awareness meditation
This is one of the most straightforward types of meditation. The goal is to simply observe your breath. Take notice of how it feels going in through your nose, expanding into your lungs, and how your belly rises and falls.
In this type of meditation, you can use a mantra or positive phrase to promote feelings of love and compassion. While focusing on deep breaths, open your mind to receiving love and kindness. You can also use the meditation time to mentally send messages of love to yourself or others.
During this type of meditation, you’ll make a mental scan of your body and observe how you’re feeling. You’ll want to scan your entire body, so a good place to focus on first is the head. Then work your way down to your feet, moving your awareness to each area. You can simply observe how that area is feeling or you can imagine breathing energy or healing to that area before moving to the next part of your body.
Walking or moving meditation
This type of meditation can be done with any type of movement and is meant to connect your thoughts with your body as you move. You’ll want to focus your awareness on the type of activity you’re doing as you do it — instead of doing it automatically. Think about each step as you take it, how it makes you feel, and the sensations you experience. Forest bathing is a great type of walking meditation that also gives you the added health benefits of being in nature.
In addition to the above tips, there are several resources available that can help you on your meditation journey. Be sure to take advantage of the many apps, podcasts, and videos from trusted sources.