Let me tell you a little secret: you don’t need to be an expert to meditate, or even reap the benefits of meditation. You may think the practice is reserved for those who are “advanced”, “spiritual” or “in tune” with life. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Through this post, I want to share what meditation is, show you why meditation can be so helpful and guide you in how to meditate – especially if you’ve never done it before.
Meditation is for everyone
No matter who you are, what situation you’re in, or what your spiritual beliefs are, meditation is a practice that can balance, align and energize your body and mind. Meditation can be described as a state of deep peace, calming the mind or transforming the mind. However, these definitions are broad, and truthfully meditation can look like many different things.
We’re all excessively stressed these days. Our minds are constantly ruminating on little things, or digging deep into big stresses. When was the last time you really relaxed your mind? When did you give yourself permission to mentally let go? Even if you’re a self-care guru, you may not be giving your mind a break. These breaks are crucial for improved mental performance, anxiety, stress and general well-being. Meditation is a key player in stress management and recovering from fatigue, exhaustion and burnout.
I’ve been meditating for about two years now, on and off. I’ve never been a die-hard, meditate every single day person, but recently I’ve found a form of meditation that’s working for me. Plus I see amazing benefits when I do get into that delicious, emotionally engaging headspace – like reduced anxiety, better stress management, improved mood, and the overall feeling of being balanced and centred.
I believe we can all find our own benefits in meditation, and here are some of the benefits according to studies and ancient wisdom.
Meditation benefits include:
Reduced stress and anxiety.
Meditation improves our response to stress and can help reduce stress in our mind. Meditation can also reduce the density of brain tissue associated with anxiety and worry, as well as alter patterns of brain function (American Journal of Psychiatry, NCBI).
Increased empathy and connection.
If you are feeling alone and isolated, meditation can bring to back to feeling connected with those around you, connected to the world, and connected to the energy of the universe. Increased emotional processing and empathy is evident especially with compassion meditation (NCBI).
Builds positive emotions.
Over time, meditation can increase daily experiences of positive emotions which can support mindfulness, satisfaction and purpose in life. These results were specifically seen when observing loving-kindess meditation (NCBI).
The act of meditation involves increasing mindfulness and becoming more aware of your thoughts, emotions and actions. Specifically, mindfulness can encourage insight problem solving – which results in creativity (NCBI, Frontiers in Psychology).
Improves overall mood.
Meditation can elevate our mood and decrease depression. With improved mood, we experience more positive emotions and more creativity. Decreased depression and ruminative thinking is associated with mindfulness meditation as well (Frontiers in Psychology, Cognitive Therapy and Research).
Meditation alters one’s perceived experience of pain. It is believed that this happens because pain is processed in a slightly different location in the brain, but also because mood is improved and positive mood reduces pain. In one particular study, Zen meditation practitioners reported less pain than the controls even though their brain still showed the same amount of pain response (NCBI, Time Magazine).
Strengthened immune system.
A regular meditation practice may increase our immune reaction to certain pathogens, correlated with activation of the left-side of the brain. Because stress is so prevalent in our lives, our immune systems are particularly taxed. With meditation’s stress-reducing effects, immune systems can become stronger (NCBI).
If those aren’t enough reasons why meditation can be incredible, check out this exhaustive list that focuses on 76 different benefits of meditation.
How to meditate if you’re new to meditation
If you’re new to meditation, you’re opening up the doors to a vast new world. Meditation can be an amazing way to realign your mind, body and soul. Based on the clear mental, emotional and physical benefits, a regular meditation can do the body good.
There are so many different things to consider if you’re new to meditation: What’s going to work? What do I start with? And how can I build a habit? Let me guide you.
Choosing a meditation method
There are so many different kinds of meditation that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. At the same time, meditation is often over-simplified: “find a spot to sit and clear your head”.. erm, not quite.
Some of the most popular forms of meditation are widely available online, in podcasts and even through apps on your smartphone. To make things easy, you can start with some of the more popular meditations and see if they work for you. If you’re still struggling, explore different meditation methods and you’ll eventually find one that clicks.
Know that different types of meditation can yield different benefits. Some are practiced with the goal of overall enlightenment. Others are practiced for the purpose of improving minfulness and compassion. Consider what your goals are, and allow that to guide you towards the right meditation for you.
Creating a meditation habit
This is the fun part. Meditation has incredible benefits when practiced regularly, but that’s part of the catch – you need to have a regular meditation practice.
Building the habit can be a challenge. Most habits are formed within 30 days, so your best option is to create set a 30-day meditation challenge. Choose a time, a place, and carve out 10 minutes for meditation each day.
Most people find it best to start with guided meditations. If you’ve never meditated before, your mind is likely scattered and running all over the place. Guided meditations will help keep you focused, by reminding and prompting you to remain mindful. Sometimes guided meditations will take you through some great emotional discovery as well. Other times, guided meditations can keep you focused on something in particular like a mantra or your breathing.
You can get started with guided meditations using some free apps for your phone, like Headspace, Calm, Rituals, Omvana, and more. These apps often have 5-10 free meditations each. Each time you meditate, choose one of the sessions and devote yourself to completing it. If you enjoyed it, come back to it in the future. If you didn’t like it, make note and stick to the ones you enjoy.
Another option? Get my free, 5-minute guided breathing meditation right here.
Find a comfortable place to meditate, either seated in a chair with your feet on the ground, or seated on the floor or a meditation cushion/mat. Some people also meditate lying down. Do what works for you and what makes you feel best.
Choose a time to meditate – morning, evening, mid-day… whatever is best for you. Sometimes it depends on when you can fit it into your schedule, but creating space for it and coming back to it daily is key.
Challenges with meditation
Know that you will never be perfect. You should not strive for perfection, either. This gets in the way of the benefits of meditation. Most of us have monkey brains that are constantly thinking about mutliple things at a time. The purpose of meditation is to bring our awareness inside and calm these thoughts; however, if they don’t calm right away, that’s totally fine.
Some days will be more challenging than others. This doesn’t mean you’re “losing” your ability. Chances are something is causing you to be more distracted or it’s challenging you to let go. Truthfully, these are the days we need meditation the most. So don’t give up when the going gets tough. Don’t fight through it either. Just be. Exist with those thoughts, recognize them, and be mindful.
Do your best, and congratulate yourself for what you’ve done. One day, five days, twenty or thirty – setting time aside to meditate is an accomplishment in itself. Every time you meditate, no matter how it felt, you are doing it right.
Evolving your practice
Over time you will discover new meditation methods and learn what works best for you. You will begin to experience the subtleties of a great meditation – coming out of it feeling relaxed, centred and balanced.
Don’t be afraid to change things up. Try new techniques. Explore new apps, websites and guided meditations. Try meditating on your own in silence and see how that works. Throw on a spiritual, yogic tune and see if that helps you.
Make your meditation practice your own and it will reward with the above benefits and more.
This is how I meditate
I started out listening to guided meditations. And yes, I started out with a 30-day challenge. It was difficult some days, but at the end I felt incredible. I was able to keep meditation a regular part of my routine at least 5 days a week, for months.
Then life got in the way, so my regular meditation practice fell by the wayside. I didn’t beat myself up about it, just recognized that I would be able to return to it soon. I eventually got back to meditating, but it was still irregular. I couldn’t immerse myself in the meditations I was doing before – I felt like I’d grown out of them.
Then I found an app called Chakra Meditation Balancing, and downloaded it. It’s free, and plays music that aligns with the body’s chakra system (I’d love to talk more about chakras but I’ll get into that in another post in the future). At the time, my root chakra was particularly imbalanced, so I started listening to the root chakra tune and found the music enchanting. I realized that I didn’t need a guided meditation anymore, and could bring myself through my own meditations using this music.
My daily ritual
I take 10-15 minutes out of my morning. Before breakfast, I sit on my meditation cushion and turn on whatever tune I feel I need that day. During the meditation I focus on a few things:
- Affirmations that resonate with me
- Visualizing my ideal day
- Letting go of emotions and thoughts that aren’t serving me
- Sending love and light to each chakra
- Sending love and light into the world
The music keeps me focused while the thought framework guides me to where to focus my mental energy. While this may be one of many meditation methods, it’s what works for me and lights me up.
Since starting this regular meditation ritual I feel aligned, focused and centred. I feel confident, calm and less anxious. I’ve been able to manage and tolerate stress better. Overall, I feel balanced. Balance is so difficult to achieve, but meditation helps me get there.
Will you try meditating?
Does this sound like something you can fit into your busy life? Don’t underestimate the benefits of taking some time for yourself. We don’t always realize, but our thoughts are often negative and stressful. Meditation brings us out of those thought patterns, something that we ALL could use.
For more meditation support, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I have grown to love this practice after seeing how it can change my life. It’s a key part of self-care, and I believe that it can make a difference in yours, too.
Give it a shot, you have nothing to lose and an immense amount to gain.