How to Begin a Meditation Practice
We've all heard meditation is good for you. Studies show that a mindful meditation practice can help ease psycholgocal stresses like anxiety, depression, pain, and dozens of other health conditions. Meditation is also one of those common life hacks advocated by some of the most successful people in the world. But easier said than done, right? Who has the time or even the mental fortitude to sit in silence for extended periods of time….every day. Although the idea may seem daunting, I implore you to at least play with the notion. Below are some tips to bring this idea into fruition. Who knows, maybe you’ll look back bewildered that you didn’t start earlier!
What is mindful meditation?
Meditation is the practice of mindfulness. Introspectively gauging where your mind and thoughts are at and observing them. The point of mindful meditation is to bring your awareness to the current time and place.
Why is it so hard?
It sounds simple, doesn’t it? All you have to do is sit and do nothing. However, even the concept of doing nothing can completely terrify some people, especially those productivity addicted type-A ones. On the contrary, I’ve heard many report it actually increased their productivity throughout the day by cultivating calmness and focus before they even begin. The time investment is rarely regretted. The idea of sitting with some unpleasant thoughts can also be intimidating. The good news is that when practicing mindfulness meditation there is no prerequisite for positive thoughts. The key is to simply observe these thoughts without guilt or shame. Instead, pay attention to exactly what your internal monologue is. How is it making you feel? Where in your body do you feel it?
Don’t scare yourself off with a long term commitment.
To avoid burnout, it’s best to not commit to a year or lifetime of daily meditation right off the bat. Instead, begin with a week. Each day aim to sit down for 5-10 minutes, whatever you feel like you can realistically do. Once you accomplish that try it for one month straight, or perhaps simply increase the session by 5 or 10 minutes. And if you skip a day don’t be too hard on yourself! It’s not like the benefits of the past week just went down the toilet. Meditation has a cumulative effect on your physical and mental health. Instead, reflect on the day you missed and see if you noticed any difference in your thought patterns compared to the days you were consistently meditating.
Start with breathing.
If you don’t know where you start once you first sit down, start with rhythmic breathing. First notice your current natural breathing, and slowly increase the lengths of the inhales and exhales. It may help to count the length of your inhales and exhales, for example inhaling to the count of 4 and exhaling to the count of 4, or whichever length of time feels most comfortable for you. This technique is wonderful in calming the nervous system and slowing down some of the anxious or busy thoughts that may be swirling around in your head.
Grab a partner.
It may also help if you have a meditation buddy! Grab your partner, child, roommate, coworker, relative, or anyone that may be interested. It truly helps to have that support and motivational partner to get you started and inspire each other. For the month of March I committed to a daily morning meditation. The first week went great, then life threw me a few curveballs and I slipped out of the practice. But funny enough, seeing me sitting by our crystal table every morning inspired my husband to do the same. And just when I stopped, he began, and continued on for weeks after that. His dedication and change in demeanor inspired me so much I picked up my morning meditation once more!
Meditation can also benefit fertility.
In a Harvard study with 120 women, 55% of those that completed a mind/body program got pregnant within a year, compared with only 20% in a control group. This specific mind/body program included positive thinking and breathing exercises that lasted 10 weeks. Meditation truly has some wonderful physical effects on the body.
Download an App.
And lastly, if you still don’t know where to begin, there are dozens of apps, podcasts, and online videos that can help with the process. Many are guided with specific intentions that can help train and facilitate positive thinking.