These are trying times on our psyche. Days are spent protesting, reflecting, and trying to identify and unlearn biased views. The news seems to reveal story after story of anger and division. Even scrolling through social media means being faced with beliefs you may not agree with, judgment towards what you are or aren’t doing, and oh yeah – virus memes to remind you there’s still a pandemic going on.
If you’ve ever considered giving meditation a go, now is undoubtedly a great time to try it out.
But first, dispel any assumptions you may have about meditation. It does not have to mean sitting for an hour in an uncomfortable position, legs tangled over one another, trying desperately to clear your mind. No, no, no. A meditation practice can take many simple forms.
Read on for four easy steps to finally start a meditation practice:
1. Understand the Benefits.
It’s easier to stick with something you actually believe in. While few things are more motivating than results, when just starting a meditation practice, you don’t yet have any results to keep you coming back to the practice. So I’m going to throw some science your way to help you buy into the advantages of meditating:
- Reduced Bias – Meditation has been shown to reduce prejudice and discrimination towards people who are different than you.
- Increased Productivity – Meditation improves your ability to pay attention for more extended periods.
- Stress Management – Meditation and mindfulness reduce the damaging effects of stress, as well as reduce the experience of anxiety overall.
- Better Relationships – Meditation will help you better manage and react to conflict within your relationships.
- Better Decision Making – Meditation has been shown to reduce sunk-cost bias, which is our tendency to continue to hold onto a losing proposition.
And that’s only the beginning. There are a multitude of studies out there scientifically demonstrating the value of mindfulness and meditation.
2. Don’t Worry, There’s an App for That.
When it comes to meditating, people often don’t know where to start. Going off what they’ve seen in the movies or from pictures of Buddha, they usually try to sit in lotus position, palms up, and attempt to clear their mind completely. After about two minutes of failing to do so, people often get frustrated and give up, assuming they’re terrible at meditation.
Here’s the good news – there is no right or wrong way to meditate. You can sit if you’d like, lay down if that’s more comfortable, or even go for a walk. That’s right – walking meditation is a thing. And you don’t have to clear your mind and focus on your breathing. You can repeat a mantra, visualize your future, or be guided through an imaginary experience.
Ultimately, it’s about taking a break from the busyness of life to sit, be still, and focus your attention on one thing. It’s a healthy change of pace from allowing your mind to bounce from people to call or emails to send or errands to run like it typically does throughout the day.
Luckily for all of us, there are tons of apps available to help you find a meditation practice that works for you. Here are just a couple to get you started:
3. TRY to Make it a Daily Routine.
Emphasis on the word ‘try.’ The more consistent you can be with your practice, the sooner you’ll see the results. How you find that consistency is up to you. Some people are morning meditators, while others prefer the evening to de-stress from the day.
For me, the easiest way to stay consistent with it is to stay flexible with it. I prefer to meditate first thing in the morning but some days that just doesn’t happen. Rather than mark it as a missed day and feel bad about it, I try to squeeze in a meditation at some random point throughout the day. And if all else fails, I can always get one in before I go to sleep.
Maybe it’s a short meditation out in your car on your lunch break or in-between meetings in your office. The location and time of day do not matter. The point is that something is always better than nothing.
4. Don’t Stress Over It.
Stressing over meditating defeats the purpose of meditating. Attempting to start a meditation practice can also be a fantastic opportunity to practice being kind to yourself. If you set your alarm early to fit in a meditation before your day gets going, but you sleep in, that’s okay. Applaud yourself for setting the alarm in the first place and giving your body the rest that it needed. If you sit down for a 20-minute meditation but only make it through 10 minutes, that’s okay. Applaud yourself for taking the time for the 10 minutes.
Give yourself the grace to be human. Give yourself the compassion we all deserve. Once you start doing that, you will see grace and compassion spill out into other areas of your life. Which ironically, is just one of the many benefits of meditating.