Our minds are incredibly busy places. Would you believe researchers studying the brain have discovered that, on average, people have 6,000 thoughts per day? That’s a remarkable number. During our waking hours, one thought often leads to another and before you know it, we may be doing more than just trying to complete the task at hand.
Much of our thinking revolves around past events or what we imagine might happen in the future. The problem is, these ruminations can be negative in nature as we remember past disappointments and worry about what has yet to occur. Stepping away from all this distressing mental talk for a few minutes of meditation can be enormously beneficial for our mental and physical health. Here are seven simple steps to begin and sustain a meditation practice.
1. Pick a place
If you share your home with others, look for a quiet location where you’re not likely to be disturbed. Look for a pleasant and comfortable spot where you can practice meditating and, if you choose, play some music. Put away any distractions like your cell phone and minimize outside noise by keeping the windows closed.
2. Find a convenient time
Certainly, it’s good to find a time when others are likely to be out of the house. However, try to be a little more purposeful in scheduling your meditation session. For example, some people find meditating first thing in the morning before they head off to work, school, or other commitments is helpful. Others prefer winding down with an evening meditation that can promote better sleep.
3. Start simple
Begin with a basic meditation practice until you become accustomed to the exercise. Sitting on the floor cross-legged with your straight back, often with the support of a cushion, is the typical position. If you find this uncomfortable, use a chair that allows you to sit upright.
Look down or close your eyes. Turning your attention to your breath, gradually slow down, and deepen your breathing. When thoughts crowd into your mind, simply take note of them and let them go. Keep bringing your focus back to your breath.
4. Incorporate music
You might want to play a soundtrack with a slow tempo during your practice. Keep the volume turned down so it isn’t too distracting. This type of music can have a calming effect and reinforce your efforts to meditate. Over time, you may find that as soon as you hear the first few musical notes, your mind begins to shift automatically to a calmer state.
5. Begin with a short session
Learn your new skill in short increments. At first, it may feel somewhat difficult to sit quietly and concentrate on your breathing. If you can start meditating for just five minutes a day and slowly extend the amount of time, then you’ll be more apt to stick with your new routine. It will be hard to argue that you don’t have 5 minutes to meditate even on days when you feel very busy. Plus, if you feel that you don’t have the time to spare, that should tell you right there that you shouldn’t skip your practice.
6. Use guided meditation
Depending on how your practicing goes, you might want to try something a bit different. It can sometimes be hard to stay motivated. That’s when using an online guided program or a meditation app can help. This is a great way to introduce some variety and keep your meditation practice fresh. You may find a few favorite new ways to sustain your routine that you can include on different days of the week.
7. Meditate with others
While meditating on your own definitely has its merits, many people enjoy meditating with others. There are a number of online communities geared to this type of exercise, as well as in-person classes. Some of these lessons take place outdoors at local parks. The feeling of comraderie with others can really boost your resolve to practice. Meditating in a group can help you to feel inspired and supported. And, when there’s a set time for a meditation meet-up, it can make it much easier to stay committed to your practice. Remember that any new healthy habit takes time in order to become firmly established. Despite your persistence, you may find that you miss a day or two now and then. Rather than becoming discouraged and giving up, have some compassion for yourself. Patiently begin meditating again the next day.
If you find that it’s still challenging to keep up your meditation exercise, try a little experimenting. This could mean changing the time of your practice, moving to a different place in your home, using a guided program or joining a class. After a while, you’ll start to experience the benefits of this amazing habit.