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!
The FREE 7 Day Meditation Challenge helps new meditators unlock the powerful benefits of meditation in just 10 minutes a day. You will receive 7 free guided meditation videos with relaxing music delivered straight to your inbox.
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! Researchers 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).
You can also try this 10 Minute Guided Meditation for Beginners if you’d prefer having audio guidance. It leads you through the basics of meditation step-by-step along with relaxing music and a calming visualization. You’ll be relaxed and stress-free in just 10 minutes!
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.
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: The best way to see benefits from meditation quickly is to be consistent. I recommend joining the free 7 Day Meditation Challenge to unlock the benefits in just 10 minutes a day. You will receive 7 free guided meditations delivered straight to your inbox.
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 every day, 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.
You can also listen to guided meditations to learn different techniques and practices. I recommend this guided Body Scan Meditation for relaxing the body. It relieves stress and helps sleep in just 10 minutes.
Q: How often should I practice?
A: I recommend practicing 10 minutes a day for at least a week to start seeing the benefits. Join the free 7 Day Meditation Challenge to receive one week of short but powerful guided meditations delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up here.
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 meditation 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! I have tons of free guided meditations on my YouTube channel. Click here to subscribe!
You can also join the free 7 Day Meditation Challenge to have one week of guided meditation videos delivered straight to your inbox. Each meditation is only 10 minutes long, so they easily fit into your busy schedule. Click here to join for free!
Q: Can you recommend a meditation cushion?
Q: What’s your best advice for beginning meditators?
A: Consistency! You don’t have to meditate for hours every day to see positive benefits from meditation. Just 10 minutes a day of guided meditation can yield big results if you’re consistent.
I recommend joining the free 7 Day Meditation Challenge to receive one week of guided meditation videos delivered straight to your inbox. You will receive one 10 minute guided meditation each day, so you can stay consistent and experience the benefits quickly!
You can also keep your meditation practice consistent by joining an active community. Come hang out with me in the Ladies Who Meditate Facebook group! It’s supportive community to learn, ask questions, and share meditation experiences.
That’s it! Everything you need to know to start meditating right now! Questions? Feel free to ask in the comments below. Happy meditating! 😃