Interested in meditation, but don’t know where to start? You’ve come to the right place! Meditation is scientifically proven to lower stress, improve health, and increase well-being. And the best part? It only takes a few minutes a day of consistent practice to start seeing results. This beginner’s guide to meditation teaches you everything you need to know! Learn to meditate and start living your healthy, happily ever after right now.
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Meditation is one of the best and scientifically proven ways to lower stress and improve health! It’s so simple yet it can create such a huge difference in our happiness and well-being.
I know that sometimes meditation can be a little intimidating for first-timers (I’ve been there) so I wrote this simple, step-by-step beginner’s guide to meditation with no jargon. It’s super easy to follow, so that anyone (yes, that includes you) can learn to meditate right away! All you need is a quiet place where you can be undisturbed and you’re ready to go! It really is that simple.
This complete guide is divided into three parts: how meditation works, how to meditate, and FAQs. I encourage you to read all three parts to get the full benefit! By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be well-equipped with everything you need to know to start and progress your practice. Let’s get started!
P.S. Shop some of my favorite meditation products here!
Part 1: How Meditation Works
If you’re new to meditation, you might not fully understand how it works. That’s totally fine– I didn’t either when I first started out. It’s important for beginners to understand how meditation works in order to get the most out of their practice. I’ll also spend some time explaining the benefits of meditation, which can serve as motivation and positive reinforcement for those first starting out
I’m going to give you a little science lesson now, but I’ll keep it short and sweet– I promise! 😉 Over the past few decades, neuroscientists have found that the human brain is capable of neuroplasticity. This means that the brain is able to form new cells and pathways even in adults. Brain imaging systems, such as MRIs, have made it possible for scientists to watch the brain during meditation. The results have been astounding! Reasearchers have found that meditation encourages brain cells to fire together in patterns that strengthen brain structures in positive ways. Translation? Meditation has been shown to actually RE-WIRE the brain to improve key functions like decision-making, memory, emotional flexibility, concentration, information processing, and even chronic pain management. (Source: Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation)
Pretty cool, right? Meditation trains our awareness, which helps us better manage ourselves. When we learn to quietly observe our thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations without getting involved in them, we learn to relax and allow things to just be. Meditation is distinct from most of our day-to-day activities in that we don’t have to DO anything– we can just observe the way things are. It sounds simple, but the results are remarkable! You’ll see what I mean when you try it for yourself. 😀
Here are some of the amazing benefits you have to look forward to with consistent meditation:
- Lower blood pressure
- Less anxiety
- Reduction in physical pain
- Better sleep
- More feelings of well-being
- Improved concentration
- and much more!
Ready to get started? Let’s experience some of these amazing benefits first-hand, shall we?
One more quick note before we start! This guide focuses primarily on mindfulness meditation, which involves awareness and observation. While there are many other forms of meditation, mindfulness meditation is the most commonly practiced for everyday stress and it’s the easiest to learn.
Part 2: How to Meditate
So here’s the part you’ve been waiting for: how do I get started?? Here are the 5 easy steps! Once you get comfortable with this, you can advance your practice using these basic principles (see FAQs for details). All mindfulness meditation follows this same basic format.
1. Set timer for 5 minutes.
It’s best for beginners to set a timer because it allows you to concentrate instead of thinking about when you should end your session. It also gives you a benchmark for progressing your practice. Start with just 5 minutes and then you can later progress to 10, 20, or even 40 minutes!
2. Sit or lie comfortably in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed.
You can sit in a chair or on a cushion on the floor. If you’re sitting on the floor, make sure your hips are higher than your knees. Place your hands on your knees either facing up (keeps your mind open and receptive) or down (keeps you grounded). You can also lie down if sitting is not comfortable for you. Meditation should never be painful, so experiment and find a position that works best for you.
3. Close your eyes and breathe naturally.
Close your eyes lightly. Try to focus your attention inward. If you’d rather open your eyes, that’s fine too, just make sure you’re focusing your attention inward and not looking around. One way to do this is to pick one spot in front of you to focus on and dull your gaze.
Resist any urge to control the breath– just let it flow.
4. Begin to focus on the breath.
Now, focus your attention on the breath. Feel how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice your breath moving in and out at your nose, chest, shoulders, and belly. Pay attention to the breath without controlling the pace or forcing it in any way. If your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to the breath. Continue bringing your attention back to the breath and focusing on the sensations of breathing for the duration of the practice.
5. When your timer rings, slowly bring your attention back into the room to end your practice.
When your timer rings, don’t just jump back into activity. Give your body and brain a minute of transition time. Begin to notice your surroundings: the temperature of the room, the various sounds nearby, etc. Wiggle your fingers and toes– you can even take some time to stretch. Then, slowly open your eyes and end your practice.
And that’s it! It sounds simple, but it does take some discipline and practice. Move on to the next section to learn how to troubleshoot common problems and extend your practice!
Part 3: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: What happens if my mind wanders away from the breath?
A: That’s totally fine! In fact, it’s normal and expected. The mind is meant to wander. The practice of meditation isn’t to stop the mind from thinking. It’s simply to bring the mind back to the breath every single time you notice the mind wandering. You should never be upset or frustrated with yourself when your mind wanders– just acknowledge that your mind has drifted and gently bring it back. That’s it!
Q: When will I start to see all those awesome benefits you talked about?
A: This really varies person-to-person. The benefits shouldn’t be the focus or even the goal of meditation– they’re just an added bonus. I’ve personally found that the more I focus on what I can gain from meditation, the more difficult it is for me to develop in my practice. The benefits can be a motivator, but should not be the primary intention of your practice.
That being said, most people can start to see significant benefit after 6-8 weeks of continued practice. But don’t be discouraged if you don’t. Just remember we’re changing our brains and that takes time! Sometimes there are benefits you can’t always see, but they’re there. Don’t give up!
Q: How do I extend my practice?
A: Start with just 5 minutes a day for at least three days. If that feels comfortable to you, you can extend to 8 minutes and then 10 minutes. Many people feel that 10 minutes is a good amount of time to stick with long-term. But if you’re super eager, you can eventually extend to 20 minutes, 40 minutes, or even an hour! Use your intuition and feel what’s right for you.
Remember that consistency is more important than the amount of time spent practicing each day. It’s better to do just 10 minutes a day almost everyday, rather than one hour sporadically.
Q: How do I change up my practice?
A: The easiest way to change up your practice is by changing your anchor. Your anchor is simply what you choose to focus on during meditation. This guide uses the breath as the anchor, but once you get comfortable with that you can feel free to change your anchor. You can focus on sounds, physical sensations, thoughts, or even emotions! Pick one anchor for each session and focus on that. Whichever anchor you pick, the main goal is just to be present with whatever comes up.
Q: How often should I practice?
A: I recommend practicing at least 10 minutes a day almost everyday (5-7 times per week). It’s okay to skip a day here and there, but consistent practice is key to getting results. You don’t have to be obsessed, but you should be disciplined. What’s 10 minutes out of your day for improved health and well-being? 😀
Q: I don’t feel relaxed during or after meditation. In fact, I sometimes feel more frustrated or anxious than when I started. What should I do?
A: Don’t worry! This is a common problem and shouldn’t be taken as a negative. Sometimes sitting quietly draws out deep emotions we’d rather not feel. That’s fine. Just observe and let the emotions move through you. Remember that every practice is different, so just because today was frustrating doesn’t mean tomorrow will be. Start every practice with a clean slate and don’t give up! Keep in mind that the goal of meditaiton is not to relax (that’s a positive side benefit), it’s to be mindful. Keep the goal of mindfulness in mind and increased relaxation will eventually follow.
Q: What if I fall asleep during meditation?
A: This is also normal and common. Meditation can be very relaxing and it’s natural to feel sleepy. It is best to avoid falling asleep during meditation though since the goal is to increase awareness (which is difficult to do when you’re catching zzz 😉) The only exception is if you’re doing a sleep meditation and your intention is to fall asleep. Other than that, you should do your best to always stay awake and aware during your practice. This can be challenging, so I wrote a whole post about it: 8 Guaranteed Ways to Stay Awake During Your Meditation Practice. Visit the post for all my best tips!
Q: Do you have any books about meditation that you recommend?
A: Yes absolutely! I’ve found that reading books is one of the best ways to grow in your practice. There are thousands of meditation books, but here are some of my favorites for beginners:
- Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Program By: Sharon Salzberg (My absolute favorite for beginners! It comes with a CD of guided meditations too!)
- Full Catastrophe Living (Revised Edition): Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness By: Jon Kabat-Zinn
- Meditation for Beginners By: Jack Kornfield
- Mindfulness in Plain English By: Bante Gunaratana
Q: Can I try guided meditations too? Can you recommend any?
A: Yes! My own practice is a mix of unguided and guided meditations. They are both useful and serve different purposes.
I offer tons of free guided meditations right here on this site! You can check them out in the meditation section here.
CDs and MP3s are another great source for guided meditations. I love the meditation CD that comes with the Real Happiness book (see FAQ above). I also like Guided Mindfulness Meditation Series 1 by Jon Kabat-Zinn (a professor and authority in the mindfulness meditation field, any CD or book by him is a great choice) and Mindfulness Meditation: Nine Guided Practices to Awaken Presence and Open Your Heart by Tara Brach.
There are also apps that offer guided meditations. My favorites are Meditation Studio, Insight Timer, and Calm.
Q: Can you recommend a meditation cushion?
Q: What’s your best advice for beginning meditators?
A: Patience! Meditation is a practice. It is a journey and not a destination; a marathon and not a sprint. You’ve heard it all before. 😉 Like anything else in life, it takes dedication, patience, and consistency. Stick with it no matter what and the results can be life-changing!
That’s it! Everything you need to know to start meditating right now! Questions? Feel free to ask in the comments below. Happy meditating! 😃
Always be on the lookout for new meditation posts on Flaxseeds & Fairytales! Subscribe to my free email list by filling out the blue “subscribe” box on the top right hand corner of this page– get new posts delivered straight to your inbox!
Want more? Check out all F&F Meditation posts here!