5 Tips for Meditation for Beginners
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Are you interested in starting a meditation practice? Doing so has multiple benefits. It can ease mental health symptoms and even alleviate physical pain — and give you coping skills. Many people swear by it for attaining spiritual enlightenment.
However, it can seem intimidating at first. Are you supposed to sit in a lotus pose? Chant “om?” Fortunately, getting started is easier than you think and need not necessarily entail any of the above. Here are five tips for meditation for beginners.
1. Start Small
If you’ve never sat in meditation, try this experiment: set a timer for one minute. Then, do nothing — simply sit. Most people find that even this short period seems like an eternity. That’s one reason it’s crucial to start small when beginning a new meditation practice.
Starting small is particularly important for people with histories of emotional trauma. While mindfulness practices are a useful part of many therapeutic treatment regimens, sitting quietly with nothing but thoughts for company can feel overwhelming. It can lead to rumination, perpetuating a negative feedback loop instead of bringing relief. Painful memories may resurface, which can turn you off the practice if you don’t have a skilled guide or therapist to help you process emerging emotions.
However, such practices can also lead to breakthroughs. Your best bet is to work with a qualified professional. They should be kind and reassuring, reminding you that it’s okay to move and come out of meditation if it proves uncomfortable. They should also have a nonjudgmental ear and shoulder handy to help you process wherever emerges.
Pro-tip: Stick to no more than two minutes for your first meditations. If you love the practice, gradually extend your sessions.
2. Create a Mood
Advanced practitioners can enter a meditative state nearly anytime and anywhere. However, it helps to set a mood for your practice when mastering the art. Here are some ideas that can help you create the right mindset:
- Play some music: Tunes without lyrics are best, as words can distract you. Better yet, experiment with solfeggio frequencies or binaural beats, which aficionados swear by for their healing properties. You can find these for free on YouTube.
- Light a candle: A candle can serve as a Drishti or gazing focal point for your meditation. Staring into the dancing flame can direct your attention inward.
- Try aromatherapy: Citrus scents invigorate the senses and improve concentration. Lavender and chamomile relax you. Exotic fragrances like frankincense are great for spiritual insight.
Above all, get comfortable. A zafu or meditation cushion can provide a comfortable resting spot if you prefer seated meditation. Those with back pain may find lying meditation more manageable— a yoga mat or other padded surface eases the ache.
3. Learn to Breathe
Deep breathing is a part of nearly every meditation practice. That’s because these techniques activate your parasympathetic nervous system, the side that tells you to rest and digest. It helps create the right mindset for introspection.
You have dozens of techniques you can use. The easiest is probably equal breathing, where you inhale for a count of five and exhale the same length. However, play with different techniques — everybody is different, and you may find other methods work better depending on your intention.
4. Study the Science
Hitting the books might sound like an unusual tip for meditation for beginners. However, you might be one of the many skeptical about the benefits. Doubting the process can decrease your motivation, leading you to abandon your practice after only a session or two.
Meditation is deep medicine, and it doesn’t work overnight. The changes you desire will come — but you must give it time and patience for the technique to work. Think of it this way: meditation carves new neural pathways in your brain, which is a lot like whacking your way through a dense jungle. It takes time to create a well-worn path, but the effort will make all future journeys much easier.
If you still cast aspersions on what meditation can do for you, consider these potential benefits:
- Weight loss: 13 out of 19 studies in a recent meta-analysis found that mindfulness meditation can significantly improve weight loss efforts.
- Less pain: 30 out of 38 randomized clinical trials found mindfulness brings a small decrease in pain and statistically significant improvements in associated depression and quality of life.
- Ease anxiety: A recent study published in JAMA reveals that meditation works as effectively as a medication in easing anxiety symptoms.
5. Find the Right Guide
Finally, the right guide can make or break your meditation practice. Fortunately, you don’t have to look far or invest much cash. YouTube is a veritable treasure trove of guided meditations. Listen to a few while you do other things to find gurus whose voices soothe you and whose messages uplift. Then, dig deep, getting into your meditation spot and doing the mental heavy lifting.
If you have more money or want a deeper dive, look for area meditation classes. You’ll find different guides using various types of meditation — play around and discover the one that suits you best. Keep an open mind, as you may find other activities, like participating in a drum circle, equally beneficial.
Of course, you don’t need any teacher or streaming service at all. All you really require is a bit of quiet and a place to sit, lie or stroll in silent contemplation.
Tips for Meditation for Beginners
Are you curious about meditation? This ancient practice has a host of benefits that can improve modern lives.
Follow the above five tips for meditation for beginners to start your practice. You’ll enjoy improved mental, physical and spiritual health.
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