Meditation for Beginners: Tips to Start When You Don’t Have a Clue
Are you feeling overwhelmed by the stresses of daily life? Do you find yourself constantly distracted and unable to focus on the present moment?
(I sound like a life insurance commercial…stick with me…)
If so, you’re not alone. Meditation can be an incredibly helpful tool for beginners looking to quiet their minds and find a sense of inner peace.
Okay, enough of the sales talk. If you’re here, you’re probably looking to find out about how to meditate, find the correct way to meditate, and tips and tricks to make it easier and make it a habit you enjoy.
By the end of this post, you’ll have a better understanding of what meditation is, how it can benefit you, and an idea of how to incorporate it into your daily routine. So take a deep breath, relax, and let’s get started on your journey toward inner calm.
Beginners mediation is hard
Meditation practice itself isn’t difficult, well at least the techniques aren’t, but it’s such a broad term and there are so many people that have different views on it, that it makes difficult to know where to start and whether you’re doing it correctly.
What is meditation?
Asking what is meditation is like asking ‘how do you play sport?’ It is a broad topic and there are hundreds of schools of thought. There are two main teams when it comes to meditation; spiritual, and non-spiritual, both usually agree on the following points, meditation is:
About understanding yourself better
Spending a set amount of time focusing on the present moment
A habit that should be practiced regularly, usually daily
A practice that affects the rest of your life in ways that you never expected
How to meditate
There are lots of different ways to meditate, and I’ll go through those a little later, but for now, we’re going to practice what’s called mindful breathing.
This is a good first mindfulness meditation routine to start with, as anyone can practice it whether you’re a complete beginner, or trying to get back into the practice.
I’ve recorded a 10-minute video you can follow along to, or I’ve listed a step-by-step guide below.
A step-by-step guide to meditation for beginners
Take a seat: Find a comfortable place to sit, you don’t have to sit in any special way, just make sure you can breathe easily. Either the floor, on a cushion, or on a chair is fine.
Set a timer: As this is your first time, set a timer for a short amount of time, such as five or ten minutes.
Let your mind and body know it’s time to meditate: Take three deep breaths, breathing in through the nose, and breathing out through the mouth. The more you practice, the less you’ll need to breathe deeply, but as a beginner, it helps to get in the right state of mind.
Focus on the breath: In meditation, there are different ‘anchors’ to keep you focused on the present, in this meditation we are going to use your breath.
Notice the sensations of your breath as you inhale and as you exhale
Notice where you can feel the breath, maybe in your nostrils or the rise and fall of your body.
Notice when your mind has wandered: Every beginner thinks that meditation is about clearing the mind, but meditation is about noticing when your mind has wandered and bringing it back to your anchor; your breath.
Gently return your awareness to your breath: Try not to get frustrated when your mind wanders, and don’t drag yourself back to the breath. Gently notice that the mind has wandered, you might even want to silently say to yourself, “I have noticed” and bring your awareness back to your breathing.
Smile: A simple mindfulness breathing meditation should be a pleasurable experience (this may not always be the case and that’s okay), and smiling releases hormones to make you feel happier.
When you smile, your brain produces neuropeptides, which are small molecules that aid in stress reduction. Additionally, other neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins are activated. Endorphins function as a gentle painkiller, while serotonin acts as an antidepressant. Associating your meditation with feeling good is the first step in creating a habit.
Finish gently: When the timer goes off, don’t just get up and walk away. Notice how you feel, and do it without judgment. Try to recall if when your mind wandered, would repeatedly go to the same thought.
You did it! You did your first mindfulness meditation! No two meditations are ever the same, and of course, the more you do it the less your mind will wander. Before you know it you’ll be one of those people telling everyone how meditation changed your life.
How often you should meditate?
I had a close friend who started to meditate a little while back, but they said that they didn’t have time to meditate properly during the week, so they did all their meditation on the weekend.
There are countless studies that shorter regular meditations are more beneficial than longer sessions done occasionally. Research shows that even short amounts of meditation such as 10 minutes are enough to change your brain to focus better.
Personally, I meditate nearly every day for at least 10 minutes in the morning. Life does get in the way, and I probably miss about three to five days a month. But those regular ten minutes have compounded to make the world of difference in all areas of my life.
Why should you meditate?: The Benefits of meditation
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, and the science and research community is now agreeing that we should continue to practice for a thousand more. Here are some of the benefits of meditation that research shows you can experience with regular meditation:
Reduced stress and anxiety
One of the most well-known benefits of meditation is its ability to reduce stress and anxiety. There is a lot of research done on mindfulness meditation showing how it changes the brain to manage stress better. By focusing your attention on the present moment using your breath and allowing your thoughts to come and go without judgment, you can calm your mind and relax your body. Studies have shown that regular meditation can lower cortisol, the stress hormone, and reduce symptoms of anxiety disorders.
Improved mental clarity and focus
Meditation can also enhance your mental clarity and focus. By training your mind to stay present in the moment, you can have less stress and improve your ability to concentrate and make better decisions. Meditation has been shown to increase activity in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for attention and decision-making.
If you have trouble sleeping, meditation can help. Reducing stress and anxiety, can calm your mind and help you fall asleep more easily. In addition, studies have shown that regular meditation can improve the quality of your sleep and reduce the risk of insomnia.
Lower blood pressure and improved heart health
Meditation has been shown to lower blood pressure and improve heart health. Reducing stress and anxiety, it can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. In addition to reduced blood pressure, studies have shown that regular meditation and exercise can improve the functioning of the endothelium, the lining of the blood vessels, which can help improve blood flow and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Increased self-awareness and compassion
Meditation can also help you develop greater self-awareness and compassion. By observing your thoughts and emotions without judgment, you can become more aware of your patterns of thinking and behavior. This self-awareness can help you make positive changes in your life and develop greater compassion for yourself and others.
Improved emotional well-being
Meditation can help improve your emotional well-being by promoting greater emotional regulation. With regular practice, you can learn to observe your emotions without getting caught up in them, which can help you respond to challenging situations with greater ease and reduce the likelihood of reacting impulsively or inappropriately. By cultivating greater emotional regulation, you may experience fewer negative emotions such as anger, frustration, and anxiety, and a greater sense of calm and inner peace.
Reduced symptoms of depression
Studies have shown that meditation can be effective in reducing symptoms of depression. By calming the mind and reducing negative thought patterns, it can help lift mood and improve overall mental health.
Regular meditation practice can increase resilience, or the ability to bounce back from difficult situations. By developing greater self-awareness, emotional regulation, and compassion, you can cultivate inner strength and resilience in the face of challenges.
Improved immune system function
Meditation has been shown to have a positive impact on the immune and nervous system itself, improving the body’s ability to fight off illness and disease. By reducing stress and promoting relaxation, meditation can help boost immune function and improve overall health.
Greater sense of well-being
Ultimately, the benefits culminate in a greater sense of well-being. By reducing stress, improving mental and physical health, and increasing resilience and compassion, and can help you feel more balanced, content, and at peace.
Types of meditation techniques
The practice we did earlier was a type of mindfulness meditation, but there are a few more – and this list isn’t exhaustive. Here are a few of the more popular types, so if anyone asks you, you’ll have a clue what they are talking about:
Mindfulness meditation is one of the most popular types of practices. It involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment. To practice mindfulness meditation, you can sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. Whenever your mind starts to wander, simply bring your attention back to your breath. This type of meditation technique can help you develop greater self-awareness, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve your overall well-being. It’s the most popular category of guided meditation practice on YouTube.
Loving-Kindness Meditation Technique
Loving-kindness, also known as Metta, is a practice that involves generating feelings of love and kindness towards yourself and others. To practice loving-kindness, you can sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and imagine someone you love. You then repeat a series of phrases, such as “May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be safe.” This can help you develop greater compassion, reduce feelings of anger and resentment, and improve your relationships with others.
Transcendental meditation or as it’s called ‘TM’ is a bit of a siloed practice as it requires a registered TM meditation teacher to help you through the meditations. It is a type of meditation exercise that involves the use of a mantra. To practice TM, you sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and repeat a specific mantra silently to yourself. It’s said to help you achieve a deep, meditative state of relaxation, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve your mental clarity.
Body Scan Meditation
Body scan meditation involves bringing awareness to the different parts of your body, usually starting from the head and working your way down. This practice can help you develop greater body awareness, reduce stress and tension, and improve your overall sense of well-being.
Yoga and other movement meditations
Yes, Yoga is actually a form of meditation, movement meditation to be exact. It combines physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation techniques. Yoga is great as it can help you improve your flexibility, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote overall physical and mental health.
Mantra meditation involves the repetition of a word, phrase, or sound to help focus the mind. To practice mantra meditation, you can sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and repeat your chosen mantra either silently or out loud.
This isn’t an exhaustive list. What’s important when you first start meditating is not to try too many different types of meditation practice at the start. Start with a simple sitting meditation, and get used to your mind wandering, bringing your attention back to the present and improving how long you stay focused.
How do you know if you are meditating correctly?
My favorite quote that I heard to answer this was from Lama Yeshe who said,
“you should see there’s more kindness, more compassion, and better relationships with others.”Lama Yeshe
I’m going to sound a little (very) woo-woo here, but meditation is like love – you know when you’re in it. But for those more empirical, here are some of the signs that apply both when you are and when you aren’t sitting to meditate.
You become less reactive to your emotions
You judge yourself less
You do it almost every day
Your thought lose their power to disrupt you during the meditation
Everything becomes a lot more interesting – mundane actions become as if it’s your first time doing it
What is the best time to meditate?
The best time to meditate is whenever it works best for you! Some people prefer to meditate in the morning – I do – to start their day off on a calm and centered note, while others find it helpful to meditate in the evening to wind down after a busy day.
Ultimately, the most important thing is to find a time that you can commit to consistently. If you’re not sure, try experimenting with different times of day to see what feels most comfortable and effective for you. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, so go with what feels right for you and your schedule.
Some tips on meditating and how to make it a habit
Start small: Start with a short session, like 5-10 minutes, and gradually increase the duration as you get comfortable with it.
Pick a time and stick to it: Choose a time of day that works best for you and try to make it a consistent part of your daily routine.
Find a quiet place: Find a peaceful and quiet place where you won’t be disturbed while meditating. This can be a room in your house, a park, or any place where you feel comfortable.
Set a goal: Set a specific goal for your meditation practice, such as reducing stress or improving focus, and remind yourself of it regularly.
Use guided meditations: Guided meditations can be a helpful tool for beginners, as they provide structure and guidance throughout the practice. There are tons on YouTube (here’s my channel) and I have a whole post on meditation apps you can use.
Be patient and compassionate: Don’t be too hard on yourself if you miss a day or struggle to focus during meditation. Remember that it’s a practice, and progress comes with time and consistency.
Join a meditation group: Joining a meditation group or class can provide motivation and accountability, as well as opportunities to learn from others.
Experiment with different techniques: There are many different types of meditation, such as mindfulness, loving-kindness, and TM. Experiment with different techniques to find what works best for you, but try to stick with one.
Make it enjoyable: Find ways to make your meditation practice enjoyable, such as using scented candles or playing calming music in the background.
Celebrate your progress: Celebrate small wins along the way, such as completing a week of consistent meditation, to stay motivated and encouraged in your practice.
Frequently Asked Questions About Meditation
Should my eyes be open or closed?
Either is fine, if you prefer to keep your eyes open, find a spot about a meter away from you and look at it with a soft focus.
If I have an itch, should I scratch it?
Try not to react to the itch straight away. Observe it with your attention and make it the focus of your meditation. What you’ll notice is that it sometimes disappears on its own. If it gets too annoying and starts disrupting your meditation, then scratch away.
Is it possible that I’m just someone who can not meditate?
I’ve been reading a lot on this subject, and even reputable authors and sights have laughed and said everyone can meditate, but I think there are edge cases of people who do need a lot of extra support when meditating. For example, I have a cousin who had extreme Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and though we are making good progress with guided meditation sessions, I know how difficult it has been with him. I would suggest either guided meditations for short periods to start and then move to exteroceptive (outside of the body) meditations such as sound baths or focusing on a candle flame.
I keep getting distractive by sounds outside or my pets
My little Shiz Zhu seems to think that my sitting on my Zafu (meditation cushion) is a trigger for her to walk around me constantly on the hardwood floors. Though difficult at first, try to meditate on those sounds instead of clocking them out. Try to hear them as if it’s the first time, and try to describe to yourself what the sound is like. Then try to see how you are reacting to that sound and understand why you’re reacting that way.
This is more advanced stuff, but a really good way of improving your self-awareness.
How should I breathe when I meditate?
Preferably, without stopping. How you breathe in the beginning doesn’t really matter. When you first start you may become over-conscious of your breathing, if that happens take a deep breath and focus on the sound of the exhale, instead of the internal sensation. You’ll only have to pay more attention to breathing in more advanced meditations like Zen meditation, or you’re practicing breathing techniques.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and distracted, meditation can be a helpful tool to quiet your mind and find inner peace.
Meditation can seem daunting, but with practice, it becomes easier, and the benefits are endless. There of course are many different ways to meditate, and it’s important to find a practice that works for you. If you need help, don’t be shy to look for a meditation teacher.
Starting with mindful breathing is an excellent way to begin your meditation journey. Remember to smile and enjoy the experience, and don’t get frustrated when your mind wanders. Meditation is a habit that should be practiced regularly, and even short amounts of daily meditation can change your brain to focus better. So take a breath, find a comfortable seat, and give meditation a try. With regular practice, you’ll soon find yourself reaping the benefits and feeling more peaceful and centered.