Most of us have read about the benefits of starting a mindfulness meditation practice: less stress, more focus, decreased depression and anxiety… the list goes on. Yet, even though we know that meditation is good for us, starting a practice can seem daunting in the midst of our busy schedules. The good news is you only need a few minutes a day to begin a meditation practice, and it can be simple to fit into your daily life.
Here are 7 tips that can really help:
1. Create a space.
When you begin your meditation practice, it helps to create a quiet space without distractions, but you really can meditate anywhere. All you need is a cushion or chair where you can sit comfortably and in a relaxed position. You can take a few moments to meditate while waiting in the doctor’s office, during your commute, or at your desk at work.
2. Start with small steps.
Set your goal each day, even it’s for a short period of time. You can start with something as small as taking a few mindful breaths each day, paying attention to the air entering and leaving your body. You can do this, for example, when the phone rings, a traffic signal turns red, or every time somebody honks.
3. Try a mindful breathing exercise.
Many people start meditating with exercises like mindful breathing, where you focus your attention on your breath for a period of time as it flows in and out of your body. As you do this, you will notice that your mind will inevitably wander. When it does, you can practice gently bringing your attention back to your breath. The simple process of realizing your mind has wandered and refocusing your attention without giving yourself a hard time is the key to mindfulness meditation.
4. Use an app.
So many of us are attached to our phones and tablets, so why not put them to good use with a meditation app? Using an app can help guide your practice and keep you on track. One of my favorites is Stop, Breathe & Think, which allows you to check in to how you are feeling emotionally, mentally, and physically and then customizes your meditation based upon your current state. After being an avid meditator for 5 years, I lost my groove. A year later a good friend of mine put me on to this app – not only did I get back in the swing, it changed my life and is now a quintessential part of my daily routine.
5. Schedule it.
Often, the best way to make room for practice in our busy day is to put it on the calendar. Once you do that, really try to stick to it. You can use a timer to help you stay focused and on track without having to monitor the clock. Five or 10 minutes of meditation time is a good place to start, and then you can increase it from there as you get comfortable. But even if it’s just one minute… that’s great! The important thing is to create a habit by meditating daily.
6. Enjoy the process.
You want to develop a friendly attitude toward yourself. As much as possible, try to make your meditation time enjoyable! The way you pay attention really matters—the attitudes of warmth, kindness and friendliness are very important. Sometimes, when we meditate, negative or unwanted thoughts pop up. If we fight them, they just become stronger. But if we view them with a sense of friendliness, they can soften and even potentially dissolve.
7. Be patient and open.
You aren’t going to be an expert meditator right away. That’s why it is called a meditation practice. It really helps to be patient and open. Try to set realistic expectations, and always take a moment to celebrate and appreciate whatever time you were able to spend meditating and the benefits you feel, however small.
Sometimes the hardest step is the first one to establish a new routine like meditation, but once you have made it part of your daily habit, even 5mn a day can do wonders to improve your sense of calm, clarity and contentment. Happy meditating!