For years, I was a meditation wannabe. But whenever I’d actually make time for it — which, let’s face it, was rare — I’d dutifully settle into lotus position, close my eyes, and…get distracted by how uncomfortable I was. Or my mind would wander, and before I knew it, I was mentally making a grocery list or crafting an eloquent rebuttal to something I’d seen on social media. More often than not, I’d just give up.
Sound familiar? No matter what excuse is keeping you from enjoying the centering, calming benefits of a regular meditation practice, we’ve got a solution for you.
Excuse #1: “I don’t see the point.”
In a modern world full of passive stimuli — hello, Instagram notifications! — there’s always something that feels more important than trying to build a consistent meditation practice.
But how’s this for motivation? Meditation can improve your sleep quality, increase your focus, lower anxiety, and reduce levels of stress hormones that cause you to store fat around your midsection — so it’s definitely worth the effort.
And you can reap those benefits without worrying about a learning curve. “The practice of meditation is quite simple: Make yourself a comfortable seat, be still, and focus on your breath,” says Adrienne White, owner of The Collective, a meditation, yoga and strength studio in Benton Harbor, MI.
Excuse #2: “I don’t have time.”
If you feel like you don’t have a minute to spare in your schedule, you may be tempted to put meditation on the back burner. But is your time really being spent in valuable ways?
Consider downloading a time tracking app to see how you’re spending time online. You may realize that, while you couldn’t find 15 minutes to meditate, you somehow made time to scroll through social media for three hours or watch a full season of Parks and Rec reruns.
Even a short meditation can be beneficial — for example, research has shown just 10 minutes of meditation a day can improve attention span — so make space in your schedule, even if it means setting your alarm a few minutes earlier in the morning.
Excuse #3: “My mind keeps wandering.”
Join the club! Trying to keep your mind from wandering can be one of the biggest challenges of meditation.
White recommends this technique: Imagine your mind as a clear blue sky, and think of your thoughts as clouds — let them drift by, and gently guide your mind back to your breath. Repeat as necessary.
If that doesn’t work, White says, try counting breaths from 1 to 10. “You’d be surprised how difficult it is to make it to 10 before the mind pulls you into a thought or story,” she says. “Just start over each time you lose count.”
Even the most experienced meditator’s mind will sometimes wander, so instead of feeling like you’ve failed if you start daydreaming, simply return to your breath and let those thoughts go.
Excuse #4: “I can’t sit in one place that long!”
Great news — you don’t have to! For some people, meditation means sitting cross-legged and freeing the mind from distractions. But you can also practice meditation while lying in bed, taking a shower, or folding laundry — as long as you’re internally focused and fully present in the moment.
So if sitting still makes you feel twitchy, try a walking meditation: Simply walk slowly and mindfully (with your eyes open!) while focusing your attention on your body and surroundings. Many find a walking meditation practice easier, since the sensations in your body are more obvious and less subtle than they are when you’re sitting still.
Excuse #5: “I’m not disciplined enough.”
That’s why meditation is called a “practice” — you won’t get it right the first time. In fact, you’ll never truly master meditation, as you can always take your practice deeper.
But the good news is that you can start small — for example, the meditation app Simple Habit offers 5-minute meditations. And if you tend to give up as soon as you get distracted, finding a meditation class can help you stay accountable — and getting tips from an instructor can help, too. “Find a skilled meditation and pranayama teacher that can give you tools to help you find stillness,” says White.
Excuse #6: “Meditation is only for new-agey types.”
There’s a common misconception that meditation is a hippy-dippy thing, or that it has to be part of a specific spiritual practice. But anyone can benefit from a meditation practice — even if if you’re a super-practical, type-A skeptic. Just do what feels comfortable to you, and focus on the most important parts of meditation: feeling centered, calming your mind, and getting in touch with your breath and body. That’s really all there is to it.