Meditation is a mindfulness practice that has many benefits for your health and wellbeing. In this guide, we’ll show you how to get started with meditation and how to stick to your practice. Even though references to meditation can be found in contemporary books on health and wellbeing, the actual practise has been around for millennia.”Meditation extends back thousands of years across many different civilizations and often shares elements with spirituality.” In today’s world, meditation is frequently practised because it is recognised as an excellent treatment for a wide variety of chronic diseases, including stress, anxiety, sleeplessness, and pain.
What does it truly mean to meditate? :
To begin, it’s important to note that there is a wide variety of meditation practises. “Meditation is generally used as a broad umbrella term that covers a wide array of contemplative practises,” neuroscientist Wendy Hasenkamp, Ph.D., science director at the Mind & Life Institute and visiting professor of contemplative sciences at the University of Virginia, told SELF in the past. Hasenkamp is also a visiting professor of contemplative sciences at the University of Virginia. “Meditation is generally used as a broad umbrella term that covers a wide array of contemplative practises,” Has
Keeping this in mind, the questions of what precisely meditation is and how exactly one goes about practising it are not exactly easy ones to answer. Diana Winston, the director of mindfulness education at the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center and the author of The Little Book of Being, explains to SELF that it’s similar to asking how to play a sport.
She explains that just like there are many different kinds of sports, there are also many different ways to meditate. And in the same way that all sports have key aspects in common with one another (such as competition and physical activity), the practise of meditation also has fundamental principles. Winston explains that his conception of meditation encompasses “any practise that cultivates introspective investigation.”
The practise of mindfulness meditation is going to take up the most of our attention throughout this piece. Why? A few explanations To start, being attentive is an essential component of a wide variety of various meditation practises. Additionally, it is not difficult to learn for newcomers and has the most compelling body of evidence about the positive effects it has on mental health (more on that later). In recent times, particularly the past few years, it has also become a widely practised method of meditation. If you’re thinking about creating a meditation practise to help support your mental health, the form of meditation you’re probably considering is called mindfulness meditation.
There is no one, definitive definition of mindfulness, same to how there is no one, definitive definition of meditation. However, most experts believe that the essence of mindfulness is focusing on the present moment with openness and without judgement. “If you check in on your mind at any point throughout the day, you’ll probably notice that you’re thinking about the past or thinking about the future, or you’re generally planning, obsessing, worrying, and catastrophizing,” says Winston.
“If you check in on your mind at any point during the day, you’ll probably notice that you’re thinking about the past or thinking about the future.” “The practise of mindfulness entails familiarising oneself with the process of bringing one’s attention back to the here and now from wherever it may have wandered,” And therefore, the formal practise of growing awareness that we refer to as “mindfulness meditation” is as follows:
Even if you find all of that to be a little too esoteric for your tastes, it’s likely that you’ve practised meditation, or at the very least had a meditative state of mind, at some point in your life. A meditation and mindfulness instructor located in Los Angeles named Laurasia Mattingly told SELF that she regularly tells dubious beginners to share their favourite activity in her seminars.
“In my workshops, I always tell my sceptical beginners to share their favourite hobby.” “After that, I let them know that they have meditated in the past. A gateway into meditation is any activity that enables you to be completely present in the now, free from preoccupation with either the past or the future.
What are some of the advantages of practising meditation? :
Now comes the part where things start to get a little bit complicated. It is difficult to provide a succinct explanation for the scientifically verified benefits of mindfulness meditation (so much so that SELF has a whole separate explainer on it). Depression, anxiety, and chronic pain are the three disorders for which there is a strong and persuasive body of evidence to support the effects of meditation. The TL;DR version is that there are three conditions in which meditation can help.
The meaning of this is that a not insignificant number of meta-reviews and meta-analyses have revealed that mindfulness meditation can help alleviate symptoms linked with these diseases to some degree (or in the case of chronic pain, how people cope with symptoms, at least). Check out this post for a complete rundown of everything we know and everything we don’t know about the health advantages of practising mindfulness meditation.
Aside from the research, though, it doesn’t hurt to evaluate the anecdotal evidence, as long as you don’t get into the idea that meditation is some sort of miraculous cure-all. Many people believe that it is very beneficial to their well-being to practise meditation for a variety of reasons. “When people practise mindfulness, they report feeling more connected, more grateful, and more appreciative of life,” says Winston, who has been teaching mindfulness for health and well-being in a variety of settings since 1993. “People report feeling more appreciation for life,”
Why should I give practising meditation a shot? :
Why shouldn’t they? No, just kidding. It is important to have a reason for meditating since it can serve as a source of motivation to continue the practise. This is why it is important to ask yourself why you meditate. There are many different reasons why you might decide to give meditation a try, however certain types of meditation are designed to accomplish a specific task for the meditator (for example, sleep meditations are designed to help you go off to sleep). It’s possible that some of them are useful, while others could be more personal.
“If you feel as though you’re living your life on automatic pilot and you desire a deeper connection to yourself and to life,” suggests Winston, “you might want to give mindfulness meditation a try.” “It’s very also useful for regulating negative emotions and nurturing positive emotions like kindness and compassion,” said one researcher. “It’s very also helpful for [managing] negative emotions.”
Your why, on the other hand, need not be quite so profound; rather, it can simply be what it is about meditation that piques your interest. I’m curious as to why you chose to read this article today. It’s possible that was your response.
All right, walk me over the fundamentals. What does meditating look like? :
Good news: People frequently have the misconception that there are a great deal of regulations regarding how to meditate in the correct manner; nevertheless, meditation is designed to be adaptable and individual. “A lot of people assume you have to sit in a certain way, like cross-legged on the floor, but that’s not true at all,” adds Winston. “You may sit whatever you choose.”
“There is a chair here for you to sit in. You are welcome to have a seat on the couch. You can lie down. In whichever way is most convenient for you.” Winston explains that another common misunderstanding is that in order to get the desired results, one must engage in the activity in question for an extended period of time. A few minutes is quite OK.
Consider the following straightforward illustration so that you may get a feel for what it’s like to actually practise mindfulness meditation: According to Winston, “a fairly basic method of meditating is to focus your attention to your body while sitting in a comfortable spot where you won’t be bothered.” “Try to become aware of how your body is breathing right now. Perhaps you can feel the movement of your breath in your abdominal region. Perhaps you’ve noticed a rising and falling motion in your chest.
People occasionally become aware of the air passing through their nostrils. The next step is to fixate your attention on a particular point and maintain that attention while feeling your chest expand and contract with each breath. When you become aware that your thoughts have wandered off, bring your attention back to your breathing and the area that you are currently focusing on. Then you should simply continue doing that again and over. If you did that for even just five minutes each day, you’d be in the clear. Even if it may sound too simple, that is possibly all that is required of you in order to implement a satisfying meditation programme into your daily life.
How can I get started with the practical practise of meditation? :
The preceding illustration may sound easy, but the reality is that a lot of people find it difficult to carry out on their own without becoming bored or antsy, which is perfectly understandable. This is where the practise of guided meditation comes in handy. According to Winston, “it’s very helpful to have guidance because people get discouraged when they sit down to meditate,” and this is why having guidance is so important. “After giving it a shot, a lot of people ask themselves, ‘All right, what should I do now?'”
Guided meditations will not only help you ease into the practise of meditation, but they will also introduce you to a variety of specific meditations that go beyond the practise of focusing on your breath. Some examples of these specific meditations include loving-kindness meditations, in which you send positive thoughts to others, and body scan meditations (which involve tuning into the sensations of your body head to toe).
You can get started with guided meditation by using the following applications and online resources:
Insight Timer is available for free on iOS and Google Play, but users may upgrade to a premium version for $10 per month or $60 per year. The premium version includes access to over 55,000 free meditation tracks, many of which are designed specifically for novices. In addition to that, it offers classes, such as “Meditation in Seven Days: A Crash Course.”
UCLA Mindful (iOS and Google Play, free). This easy-to-use app was developed by the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center and features recordings made by Winston herself. It contains both fundamental meditations for people who are just starting out in the practise and wellness meditations that are geared toward people living with difficult health conditions. If you do not like to download the application, you may visit their website and listen to a few of their guided meditations at no cost.
Headspace is available on the iOS and Google Play platforms for $13 per month or $70 per year. Because it has such a comprehensive collection of guided meditations that cater to virtually every state of mind or objective, Headspace comes extremely highly recommended as an app for beginners. In addition to that, they provide a large number of their own own instructional resources, such as this guide to various forms of meditation.
Calm is available for iOS and Google Play for $70 per year. Calm is an all-around decent beginning point for guided meditation and is another meditation software that is commonly recommended to novices who are just getting started with meditation applications. If you would rather have the sounds of nature in the background than complete quiet, you might enjoy Calm.
The Healthy Minds Program is available for free on the iOS and Google Play platforms. The Healthy Minds Program app was developed by a non-profit organisation that is affiliated with the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. It includes guided meditations, exercises, and podcast-style lessons that are all geared toward the development of foundational mindfulness skills.
Podcast by Tara Brach, available for download on iOS and Android: Tara Brach is an author, meditation instructor, and psychotherapist. She is also the author of the books “Radical Acceptance” and “Radical Compassion.” She offers a weekly guided meditation that may be found on her podcast. Many of her admirers adore the personal nature of her meditations, which provide the impression that you are training with a kind guide. The guided meditations that she offers can also be found on her website.
What can I do to stop my thoughts from racing and to stop my mind from meandering?
And with that, we come to the most widespread misunderstanding regarding meditation. It is a common misconception that the purpose of meditation is to achieve a state of consciousness in which all thoughts are eliminated. According to Mattingly, meditation is not about silencing one’s thoughts but rather about developing the ability to face them with mindfulness and interest. The same is true for our minds, which tend to wander; you don’t need to maintain complete focus, however. Observation is the critical skill to have in either scenario.
“When our attention wanders away or other thoughts are coming up, we notice what’s happening and then bring our attention back to whatever it is that we’re focusing on in our mindfulness meditation, such as our breath,” says Winston. “When our attention wanders away or other thoughts are coming up, we notice what’s happening and then bring our attention back to whatever it is that we’re focusing on Then we continue to do that over and over again. What we come to understand is that there is no issue with that at all. That’s just one step along the way.”
Of course, this does not imply that it is a simple task. When we pay attention to our thoughts and emotions, it might trigger feelings of fear and judgement, as well as other things that can feel like they get in the way of practising mindfulness. But with enough training, you may learn to resist being sucked into that downward spiral and instead learn to include moments like this into your meditation practise.
According to Mattingly, meditation gives us the opportunity to “take a step back” and “become the spectator.” “When we invite in inquiry, we are able to see the shifting character of all emotions and realise that everyone experiences these emotions to varying degrees,” says the author.
How can I tell if I’m performing this step correctly?
The practise of meditation is not about determining what is “right” or “wrong.” It’s true that there are certain “wrong” methods to meditate, but they all boil down to the same thing: not even trying. Like, yeah, so, technically there are some ways you can meditate “wrong.” The only thing that is required of you is to exert some effort.
“If you sit down and entirely ignore your guided meditation and instead choose to use the time to think about your to-do list for the day, you’re not really meditating,” says Winston. “If you sit down and completely ignore your guided meditation for an entire day, you’re not really meditating.” “But in the midst of thinking about all the things you have to do, if you take a moment to bring your attention back to your breathing and try to be present, you’re doing great,” the instructor said. “You’re doing great.”
In general, however, Winston recommends that you avoid remaining in this state of mind for an excessive amount of time. “The most essential thing is to be gentle to yourself so that you don’t turn meditation into another thing that’s wrong with you,” she adds. “The goal is to prevent meditation from becoming yet another thing that’s wrong with you.” “Make an effort not to pass judgement. There is no guarantee that everything will turn out flawlessly the first time. It’s a multi-step procedure.”
What can I do to make it a regular part of my routine?
There is no silver bullet that will force you to meditate every day; developing this practise is much like developing any other habit. It requires determination and perseverance to succeed. Having said that, there are things you can do to make it easier on yourself to turn it into a habit, and I will discuss those things in the following paragraphs. For one thing, the aforementioned meditation apps also serve the purpose of being accountability tools. Some of them allow you to track your progress and send push alerts to remind you that it is time to meditate.
When it comes to meditation, all of the tried-and-true strategies for developing good habits will serve you well. Instead of deciding that you are going to “start meditating,” determine that you are going to complete one guided meditation as soon as you get up. This will help you focus on a clear objective. You can incorporate it into your morning routine by following these instructions, or you can incorporate it into your evening routine by following these tips.
Begin with baby steps, remind yourself often, and look for someone else who is interested in beginning meditation with you. At the end of the day, maintaining a consistent meditation practise comes down to putting in the work and actually carrying out the practise.
Build it into something you’re currently doing, also known as habit stacking, is Winston’s advice in the event that you truly don’t want to go out of your way to do it. Try meditating every day after you brush your teeth or while you’re waiting for your coffee to brew. These are just a couple of examples. An anchor and a constant reminder might be provided by a habit that has become so ingrained in your life that you no longer even have to think about it.
What if I don’t have enough time to do it?
One of the wonderful things about meditation is that it does not need to take up a lot of time at all. A good number of guided meditations last for no more than five minutes. Winston asserts that there is room in everyone’s schedule for five minutes of their time. “Meditation is adjustable, and doing it shouldn’t feel like a significant time commitment that you have to make,”
In addition to being open to the possibility of finding little stretches of time throughout the day to meditate, you may also incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life. When it comes to practising mindfulness meditation, there are two types of practise: formal practise, which includes everything that we have been discussing, and informal practise, which is when you put the skills that you have gained in your formal practise into action. Winston affirms that it can be utilised at any time of the day.
You can practise mindfulness when you brush your teeth, remember to take a mindful breath when something stresses you out, or be mindful when you go for a walk every day. Even when it seems as though we don’t have any room for mindfulness in our lives, there are many different ways that we can create space for it.
Mattingly also suggests that you try the S.T.O.P. meditation if you’re looking for a brief practise that you can do anywhere. It means to pause whatever you’re doing, take a deep breath, look around without making any snap judgments, and then carry on. She explains that this practise enables us to check in with ourselves without criticising what we are experiencing in the moment. The phrase “without judgement” is the most important part of this.
For instance, if we practise this exercise and we detect anger, sadness, or any other challenging emotion, are we able to recognise how we feel without trying to “fix” or “alter” any of it? The meditation known as R.A.I.N. (which stands for recognise, allow, investigate, and nurture) accomplishes a similar goal.
How can I tell if it’s actually doing anything? :
It depends on how you define the term “working.” It would be awesome if there was a universal indicator that you were officially beginning to reap the advantages of meditation, but unfortunately, that is not how it works out in practise. Winston asserts that meditation does not require a doctor’s prescription. “It’s not like, ‘If you meditate for such-and-such amount of time each day for such-and-such amount of days, you will see such-and-such effect.’ Our thoughts are entirely unique to us.
Because of this, a lot of individuals give up on meditation before giving it a real chance to change their lives. When it comes to determining whether or not meditation is beneficial for you, Winston suggests doing two major things: checking in with yourself, and sticking it out for a time. “Don’t give it a shot just once. Try it out for some time, and after that, analyse how it makes you feel,” advises Winston. “Will it be to my advantage? Am I beginning to notice the results? Do I detect a slight increase in my level of calmness?
Am I treating both myself and other people with a modicum of compassion? Am I sleeping better? Am I taking pleasure in these seemingly insignificant moments?
Having said all of that, though, if it’s not for you, it’s not for you. Period. It’s easy to put the blame on yourself if you’re not feeling it when it comes to practising mindfulness meditation because it’s been promoted as some sort of universal practise that everyone can benefit from. Put an end to such preconceived notions. Winston asserts that mindfulness meditation is not appropriate for everyone.
“It can be of great assistance to certain individuals, while being of little use at all to others.”
Winston suggests giving it six weeks or so, based on her experience educating pupils over the years, including through a six-week programme. This recommendation is predicated on the fact that Winston does not know when you should call it. It is by no means a magic number, but it is long enough for you to probably have a sense of how you enjoy meditating and how it is working for you. This is an important step in determining whether or not meditation is right for you.
In addition, keep in mind that there are numerous approaches to the practise of meditation. You don’t have to give up on meditation altogether if you find that practising mindfulness meditation isn’t beneficial for you. It’s possible that you just haven’t found the right one for you yet. Perhaps you would benefit more from practising movement meditation. Or perhaps you’d feel a connection through the practise of mantra meditation. Or the practise of healing meditation. Or something else entirely. It can’t hurt to give it a try, can it?