Meditation has surged in popularity during the last few years. And it’s not all sitting cross-legged chanting ‘ooommmm’ anymore. Thanks to YouTube and apps such as Headspace, meditation is now easy to practice and accessible to everyone.
It’s no surprise. Meditation has loads of scientifically proven benefits for our mental health, helping us switch off, clear our minds and keep our brains agile. Long-term it helps control anxiety, reduces pain, improves attention span, enhances the immune system, improves sleep, enhances compassion and gives you a deep feeling of calmness.
Sounds great! But where do we start? Here’s how:
Meditation’s popularity means there’s a lot of choice about how to do it. Classes? Online tutorials? Books or apps? Then there’s the decision of what type of practice. There are literally hundreds of meditation techniques, from mindfulness to transcendental meditation, breath awareness to guided meditations.
The good news about meditation is it doesn’t have to be one way or another. You can combine approaches. Just find a way you enjoy and will stick to. Remember meditation isn’t meant to be torturous!
Lengthy practice is a bad idea when you start out. Think baby steps. You need manageable chunks of, say 5-10 minutes, that you can easily fit into your everyday life. Even a minute is enough to feel some benefits! The key is making the effort to do it every day and build up time from there.
Having a fixed time to meditate, such as just before breakfast, helps you develop a routine. At the same time, developing an ease around your meditation practice means you will be more likely to fit it in on those busier days. Start with the easiest time for you, then be prepared to be flexible.
Apps can be a useful resource for learning meditation. Headspace and Calm both have a step-by-step ‘hand-hold’ approach that is simple to use on your smartphone. Both offer free trials, but charge to unlock more content. Otherwise, Insight Timer has thousands of free guided meditations, while Buddhify and Simple Habit are fab for delivering random nuggets of calm before a big speech or at bedtime.
A final word (and probably the most important) – be patient and kind with yourself. Ged rid of any notions of ‘clearing the mind’ – it’s not going to happen.
Instead, just notice when your mind has wandered and refocus your attention. Again. And again. Consider it bicep curls for the brain! Before long, your ‘attention-muscle’ will strengthen and you will be a calm, confident meditator.
I'm glad someone mentioned Insight Timer. It's free and really good, though Headspace is probably worth the money as it's so well organised too.
bicep curls for the brain - that's brilliant! I've never ben able to clear my mind totally so also good to know that isn't the idea.
Great advice about being flexible regarding when you meditate. I started out trying to do a strict 6.30am meditate and if I couldn't do it I gave up. Now I just try and squeeze in 10 minutes whenever I can.