This year I’m trying to be more mindful. This seems to be a common trend (probably due to the political unrest and stress going on around the world). It seems everyone is hoping to get a little more peace in their lives and for good reason! Meditation has many benefits from improved focus to a better attitude and more happiness.
If you’re hoping to start meditating, adding calm and control to your life, it’s easy to get started. The great aspect of mindfulness and meditation is that not much is required other than a quiet spot and the motivation to start.
Still, it’s hard to know if you’re doing it right, or if it will really help. This beginner’s guide to meditation is what’s working for me and how I got started with meditation and mindfulness.
1. Start Small
I started with five minutes per day. In the morning, add five minutes to your morning routine, or in the evening spend five minutes before you go to bed. Set up somewhere consistent, near where you brush your teeth, or where you get ready.
Many people get frustrated by meditation because it seems to take “so long” or feel “so boring,” so it’s important to start small. When five minutes feels like it sails by, try ten and work your way up.
2. Block Out Time
Just like exercising, blocking out time for meditation will help you hold to it. As I said, it doesn’t need to be a long chunk of time. Simply pencil in a reminder or set an alarm on your calendar to help you remember to engage in your mindfulness ritual.
If you want to aim for longer, try breaking up your mindfulness session into a few times per day. Try five minutes in the morning, a five minute break in your office, five minutes when you get home from work and five right before bed. You’ll still gain benefits from micro-mindfulness sessions.
3. Find a Quiet Space
Really, the most important piece you need to meditate is a quiet space without interruption. This might mean creating a spot in your closet, in a guest room, in the basement, wherever you find a quiet, peaceful nook. For me, I use a small corner of our guest room. Now, admittedly, I “Pinned” all sorts of meditation space ideas and I had visions of candles, fountains and zen sand gardens.
In reality, all you really need is a spot without distraction. I sometimes hold a little smooth stone when I meditate because it gives me something to focus on. Other than that, my eyes are closed, and I sit on a pillow. That’s it. No accessories needed (again–eyes closed).
4. Appeal to Your Senses
I’ve found that finding a way to appeal to my senses helps me stay in focus while I meditate. The thing about meditation is you aren’t really supposed to think of anything while you do it. Sometimes, though, it’s tough to slow your mind from all the “stuff” going on around you. One way to find your focus is to listen to a sound (like running water or a fan), feel, smell, or look at something.
I meditate with my eyes closed, but some people like to focus on the flicker of a candle. Using essential oils or incense can help bring you to a meditative space. I find it helpful to hold a small rock but some prefer beads or another meditation device.
5. Read About Mindfulness
If you want to learn about mindfulness there are tons of great books, podcasts and more out there. Again, it’s one of those topics you can spend time exploring in depth, or simply just start and see where it takes you.
My mother-in-law gave me copy of The Great Courses on Mindfulness and there are a few other books that are a nice place to begin. The Urban Monk is another great book on mindfulness. There are many resources, so check what your library has to offer.
6. Focus on a Phrase
One helpful trick I’ve found is to focus on phrase or saying. Sometimes letting your mind empty out is tough. Instead, repeating a word, phrase or saying over and over (a mantra) is helpful and can give you something to push the rest out of your mind.
One of the books I use often is the Little Zen Companion. I’ve had it since high school and it’s full of little phrases and thoughts that are great for a daily meditation. Ram Dass’s Be Here Now is also a classic meditation companion book with beautiful illustrations. Either book offers many pages to think and focus on while you start.
7. Try Some e-Help
Now, generally speaking it’s probably best to unplug from your phone if you can while you meditate. That said, one of the ways I got started was with the Stop, Breathe & Think app after my workouts. When I go for a run, I cool down with a five minute meditation with Stop, Breathe & Think. It’s a great guided meditation and is awesome for beginners.
Headspace is another great app with guided meditation. It’s a little more robust (and expensive) but some users find it extremely motivating. I’ve also found using the “Breathe” setting on my Apple watch is wonderful because it helps me focus on my breath without distraction.
8. Find Little Ways to Be Mindful Every Day
If you’re looking for more mindfulness, watch for opportunities around you every day. Deeply breathe while you’re on your commute to work. Incorporate yoga into your workouts or sign up for a yoga class at your gym. When you eat, set down your fork in between bites and really think about what you’re enjoying. As you run, try to go without music (tough, I know) and listen to the sound of your feet on the pavement.
When you start to look for opportunities for mindfulness you’ll find them regularly. It’s about stopping to look at the world around you, rather than focusing inward on your own thoughts and feelings. It’s about discovering your inner peace rather than wrestling with your inner-chaos.
Find new ways to incorporate mindfulness into your life so you can have a peaceful, calm and happy year!