How to Meditate: Tips & Techniques for Beginners
When the world moves so quickly, it can seem like you don’t have time to catch your breath, let alone focus on yourself. But that’s exactly what meditation asks you to do—and why it’s a great practice to try.
For many people, making a habit of being still reminds them that it’s not always necessary to try to keep up as the world races on, and that, in fact, it can create unnecessary stress.
Here are tips and techniques to get started learning how to meditate properly.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is a type of mindfulness activity that focuses on breathing and presence. In doing so, you’re meant to appreciate the current moment while preventing your mind from drifting to other thoughts. Usually, meditation involves a quiet environment, a comfortable seated position, and deep breathing exercises.
Why Should You Learn How to Meditate?
Many people feel stressed, afraid, or overwhelmed by personal and professional responsibilities. It can seem like there’s not enough time in any day to accomplish everything on the to-do list while still enjoying time for oneself.
Meditation offers an opportunity to quiet your mind. By trying to focus on the present, you aim to block out distractions and worries. For some people, meditation is an attempt to find respite from restless thoughts or to help manage stress. Others try meditating to try to relax and find inner calm before going to sleep or before facing the day.
You might try meditating to help you focus on one task or goal instead of worrying about many tasks at once.
How to Meditate
1. Find a seat
Start by finding a comfortable, quiet place. Look for privacy or make some for yourself using noise-canceling headphones, earplugs, a sleep mask, or even simply by donning your sunglasses and pretending you’re alone.
2. Choose your time
Set a timer—between 5 and 15 minutes is a good place to start—and settle into your spot. Use good posture but allow yourself to relax.
3. Gather your feelings
The first step in meditating is becoming aware of yourself and your body. Note how you feel, how your legs feel against the chair or the floor, and how your body feels in general.
4. Focus on your breathing
With each slow, deep breath, focus on the way it feels. You can count a few seconds as you inhale and exhale to steady your breathing or simply focus on relaxing your muscles as you breathe out.
5. Focus on focusing
It’s okay if you can’t focus for many minutes at a time. In fact, beginners might notice their minds drifting every few seconds.
The important thing is that you notice when this happens. Paying attention to your thoughts and realizing when they’ve drifted allows you to bring them back to the present moment. It’s this process that will help you get better.
When you find your attention slipping, simply focus again on your breathing and your body. Be gentle with yourself. Meditation isn’t about winning or losing, succeeding, or failing. Simply dedicating a few minutes to practice meditating is one of the most important steps.
6. End the session
When your timer runs out, gently open your eyes, take a deep breath, and stretch your muscles. Instead of worrying about whether you meditated successfully or not, try to focus on thoughts of gratitude. Ending your meditation with feelings of positivity is a great way to hang onto that calmness as you prepare for the workday, re-enter the afternoon, or head to bed.
Meditation Tips and Techniques for Beginners
- Form a habit. Making a habit of meditating is an important part of getting better. By scheduling time throughout the week, you’ll signal to yourself that it’s as important as meetings and calls.
- Find your comfort zone. An important aspect of meditating is the environment in which you do it. You’ll have to test different rooms, body positions, and other environmental components to find what helps you focus best.
- Start with short sessions. Even during a 5- or 10-minute meditation, you’ll probably notice your mind wandering dozens of times as a beginner. When you start to feel more comfortable with your position and your thoughts, you can try setting longer timers to find your ideal duration. Of course, life tends to limit the time that’s available for activities like meditation, so you’ll have to consider your schedule, too.
- Stay positive. Don’t try to grade yourself or keep strict records of your meditation success. Unless you’re a person who responds well to that kind of recordkeeping, it’s probably better to focus on general feelings—how did you feel after a session, and what might you do to improve the next one? As best you can, try to carry that positivity into your post-meditation activities, too.
Other Types of Meditation Techniques
Deep breathing meditation is only one of several forms of meditation.
If deep breathing doesn’t seem to work well enough as you try to start your meditation, the body scan technique is another option for beginners.
Starting with the top of your head, pay attention to how each part of your body feels, one at a time, working your way downwards. Allow yourself to better understand where you feel comfort and relaxation and where you feel discomfort or tension.
You can find guided meditation sessions online, on tapes, and in apps on your smartphone. In guided meditation, a guide will speak slowly and softly, talking you through the practice and helping you learn how to meditate.
Instead of sitting still in a quiet room, walking mediation involves moving at your normal walking pace around a space. You can walk in circles around a room or pace back and forth. Pay attention to each of your steps, noticing how your foot feels against the floor and how your body balances.
Common Obstacles to Meditation and How to Overcome Them
Some of the most common obstacles to meditation for beginners are the very things meditation aims to overcome—stress, fatigue, lack of motivation, and the time constraints imposed by the nonstop rush of daily life.
These are some common obstacles you might face and tips for overcoming them:
- Time constraints. If you’re constantly busy and value every minute of free time, sitting and doing nothing might not feel useful. But just a few minutes of meditation could help you feel better about the rest of your busy day. In addition, by practicing focusing on the present moment, you might find yourself better able to enjoy your other minutes of free time more fully, without worrying about looming appointments or deadlines.
- Motivation. You’ve already read about the power of habit when it comes to meditating. Like any wellness activity, such as exercise or studying, it can be difficult to motivate yourself. Group meditation or walking meditation may be better solutions for some people.
- Distractions. Distractions are the archnemesis of meditation. They’re the very things you’re trying to block out of your mind while you’re meditating. Especially as a beginner, it can feel impossible to avoid distractions. Simply refocus your mind each time you become distracted. Every time you refocus, you’re reinforcing your new meditation skills.
- Tiredness or discomfort. It might sound counterintuitive but sitting quietly and doing nothing is not easy. If you’re tired or overwhelmed, it can be hard to find the motivation to meditate. And if you’re uncomfortable where you’re sitting, kneeling, or lying, it can be difficult to maintain your focus. Try meditating in the morning if you feel too tired at night. And keep experimenting with sitting positions and different seats to find where you’re most comfortable.
Stay Persistent to Strengthen Your Meditation Skills
It’s worth repeating—persistence is key to building a strong meditation habit. Rather than try to persist by punishing yourself for failing, though, use positivity as your motivator.
Try to appreciate the small wins and recognize that, even if you didn’t achieve unbroken focus for 15 minutes, at least you set aside that time for yourself. You gave your mind the opportunity to focus on itself and how it and your body are feeling.
1. Do I have to close my eyes?
You don’t have to close your eyes to meditate. However, it can be more difficult to focus on yourself in the present moment if you can see other things going on around you.
2. Can I move while I’m meditating?
If you need to sneeze or scratch an itch, feel free to. However, it’s best not to open your eyes or leave your position during the session.
Of course, walking meditation requires movement. If you find walking meditation is your favorite technique, feel free to move about carefully.
3. Will meditation make me sleepy?
It’s possible to feel sleepy while you’re meditating, especially if it’s late in the day and you’re meditating on your bed. If this makes it difficult to focus, choose different times of the day or different locations to reinvigorate the habit.
4. Can you meditate in a group?
Group meditation is a perfectly fine and potentially helpful activity. If you find yourself struggling to keep up the habit on your own, group meditation sessions might be just what you need to feel motivated to keep trying.
5. How do I know if I’m breathing at the right pace?
The speed of your breathing isn’t the important factor when meditating. More important is your focus on breathing and the sensations you feel as you inhale and exhale.
Many meditation guides emphasize slow, deep breaths, but you’ll have to find the pace that’s most comfortable for you.
Medical Disclaimer: This content is provided for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.