Meditation is ironically one of those activities that can be stressful the more you think about it—especially for the newbie. If this sounds familiar, it probably means that you're someone who can benefit from meditation, if only you could get over stressing about it. Cool cycle, right? But, we promise, it’s not as complicated as it may seem and there's no correct way to meditate.
In fact, consider that something to keep in mind: There’s no one way to meditate. Chanting or contortions are not necessary. So now that you know you can’t be wrong, feel free to let go of any pressure. You can meditate in a whole variety of different ways. Since there are a lot of options, though, and certain methods work for some people that don’t work for others, we want to help you with a little guide on how not to suck at meditating. It's one of those things that's really not as hard as it looks, but you won’t really know until you try.
Actually dedicating time to meditating is most of the battle. The best time for many people is in the morning soon after waking up, because your mind is most malleable and amenable to focusing on simple tasks before your gears have started turning for the day. Alternatively, before bed is a great way to wind down your mind to fall asleep more easily.
You don’t need to set aside an hour a day to start with—start small, like 10-minute sessions. Ten minutes is short enough that it won’t totally disrupt your schedule, but you’ll be surprised how long it can feel like when you’re literally doing nothing.
Put Your Tech On Hold
Your phone, tablet, computer, and television—these are the devices that bring us joy and memes, but also distract and conquer brain power and focus. Put them all on silent (not even vibrate!) and totally out of the room. The only thing you need to be concerned with is the here and now, neither of which are streaming on the internet anywhere.
Find a space where you can sit on the floor or on a chair comfortably and undisturbed.
Alright, this may be the one constant rule with meditation. Breathing. Obviously, you need to breathe to keep living, but being mindful of your breathing is the simplest way to connect and be super present in your body. It’s one of the involuntary functions you don’t really think about (until you’re congested with allergies or a cold and you can’t breathe). Deeply inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. There are a few benefits to this, a big one being that your heart rate naturally slows, calming you down. Getting your breathing in order is the first way to get yourself settled in for a meditation session.
There’s an App for That
Here’s where you get to choose your own adventure. Some people are perfectly happy sitting in silence and some people enjoy ambient music. You can pick whatever works best for you. Guided meditation is a great way to have someone hold your hand while first getting used to meditating; it’s basically a nice soothing voice talking you through a session. Headspace is a great app to teach you the ropes of meditation. Insight Timer gives you more freedom to choose your meditation style and subject matter. If you like looking at pretty pictures to center yourself, Calm might be for you. Just saying, there are many options. Might seem counterintuitive to consult technology, but it’s 2016, so if it helps, go with it.
Pick Your Focus
Meditation is having a moment because it’s a simple way to mindfully unplug (figuratively and literally) and catch up with yourself, which can be harder and harder to do with mounting life stress and technological pulls. Tackling everything that bothers you wholesale might just end up overwhelming yourself. Pick a focus—sleep issues, social anxiety, work stress, any big life hurdles—and make time to explore what keeps you the most preoccupied
Keep At It
Lots of people claim that meditation is life-changing and all that, and it definitely can be, but it’s certainly something that must be worked toward with discipline. Meaning, it’s not going to happen in a day. But you should feel its benefits (increased mindfulness, aiding with anxiety, difficulty sleeping, clearer focus, etc.) with regular practice and it does get easier the more you do it too. Meditation fits pretty squarely into the Just Do It philosophy. So, you know, just do it.