You're Not Bad at Meditating — You Just Need These Tips
If it seems like everyone you know is trying or talking about meditation recently, it’s not just in your head. According to the CDC, the number of Americans who meditate tripled in just five years, so there’s never been a better time to take up meditation, for beginners.
Perhaps you’ve noticed your stressed-out best friend become calmer or your insomniac brother looking well-rested or your easily distracted partner actually paying attention. There are many benefits of meditation, including help with anxiety, sleep, and focus.
“Even if you start meditating for five or 10 minutes a day, you can gain tremendous benefits,” explains Alison Pepper, LCSW, a mindfulness-based therapist. “In the long term, it’s going to transform your life.”
How Long Should You Meditate if You’re a Beginner?
The time frame is different for every beginner. “I suggest starting small and seeing how meditating for five to 10 minutes works for you,” Pepper says. “We have a tendency to bite off more than we can chew, and that includes meditation.”
“You’ll know when to bump up the time because you’ll want to,” she says. “There’s an internal shift to stay settled and sit with your mind a little longer.”
What Are the 3 Types of Meditation?
Similar to the spectrum of colors, you might say meditation is based on three primary techniques — mind, body, and speech. These form the foundations for many types of meditation, which involve finding stillness in your body, focusing your mind, or repeating a mantra. Here are three easy options for beginners.
- Mindfulness meditation: “Focus on your breath,” explains Openfit trainer Jennifer Fuller. “When your mind drifts, observe where it goes and gently bring it back to your breath without judgement or criticism.”
- Mantra meditation: “Repeat a positive intention,” Fuller says. “Set the tone by focusing on a statement, such as ‘I wish peace and happiness for all beings,’ over and over.”
- Walking meditation: “Bring awareness into every single step,” Fuller says. “Notice right heel, right toe, left heel, left toe, walking slower than you probably ever have before.”
Tips for Starting a Meditation Practice
1. Frequency > duration
“When you’re establishing a meditation practice, it’s often more beneficial to meditate for five minutes for an entire week or every other day than to do it for 30 minutes every now and again,” Pepper says.
2. Compare notes
“It’s good to have someone to bounce ideas off of or ask questions,” Pepper says. “It could be a teacher, or a co-worker or your sister. It doesn’t need to be anyone formal. It’s just someone with whom you can discuss what’s working for you and them.”
3. Forget your assumptions
“Let whatever you think meditation is going to feel like be your inspiration and motivation for learning to how to meditate, but don’t hold onto it as gospel because anything can happen,” Pepper says.
4. Use the tools at your disposal
“You can definitely teach yourself how to meditate,” Pepper says. “When you’re beginning, centering yourself around one technique, book, or app can be helpful as a source of clarification.”
Speaking of apps, Openfit has recently launched Sound Meditation, with guided meditation for beginners and advanced practitioners alike.
5. Tailor your practice to your tendencies
“Work meditation into your schedule in a realistic way,” Pepper advises. “If you’re someone with a lot of energy in the morning, add it to your morning routine. Or if you’re a night owl, do it then. If you go for long walks, consider meditating outside.”
6. Find a comfortable place…
“Environment matters. You want to try and find a comfortable place, such as your favorite chair,” Pepper says. You can meditate sitting, standing, lying down, or walking — whichever feels most natural for you.
7. But if you can’t find a zen garden, don’t stress it
“You don’t need to put too much energy into creating the perfect space because it’s possible to meditate in non-ideal situations,” Pepper says. Loud construction next door and screaming kids happen.
8. Encourage yourself
“At the beginning, everyone goes through a period of feeling like they’re not good at meditating,” Pepper says. “But we’re all just practicing, learning, and deepening our understanding.”