Meditation for Beginners

You may have heard that practicing regular meditation is good for you. Meditation can reduce stress, promote relaxation, lower blood pressure, improve blood circulation and improve your overall sense of wellbeing, among other benefits. However, starting a regular meditation practice can feel overwhelming. Here are several tips for beginners that will make it easier to incorporate meditation into your life.

Meditation 101

First, let’s explore what the word “meditation” entails. Meditation is actually an umbrella term that encompasses several techniques used to train the mind. “In Buddhist tradition, the word ‘meditation’ is equivalent to a word like ‘sports’ in the U.S. It’s a family of activity, not a single thing,” University of Wisconsin neuroscience lab director Richard J. Davidson, Ph.D., said in an interview with The New York Times.

Some of the most popular meditation techniques include:

  • Mindfulness meditation. With this technique, the practitioner is encouraged to observe the different thoughts that wander through the mind, without judging or reacting to them.
  • Concentration meditation. This technique involves focusing on one point, whether it is the repetition of a mantra, the repetition of a gong sound or a single candle flame.
  • Walking meditation. This is a moving meditation technique. The practitioner focuses on the experience of walking as a vehicle for mindfulness or concentration meditation.
  • Tai Chi. This martial art can be seen as another form of moving meditation, and involves slow, focused movements accompanied by deep breathing.

Three Tips to Make Meditating Easier

Trying to meditate for an hour every day when you are just starting out can seem daunting and may discourage you from practicing meditation on a regular basis. To make meditating easier, try these three tips:

  1. Start meditating for small increments of time (i.e., about 3-5 minutes) and work your way up to longer increments.
  2. Don’t be critical of yourself if you get distracted and lose focus. Strengthening the brain’s ability to maintain a single focus is the end goal of meditation and might not happen right away. Instead, be aware of the times when your mind has drifted and redirect your attention back to your focal point without judging yourself.
  3. Ditch the all-or-nothing mode of thinking. Not many people are able to meditate on a daily basis, and that doesn’t have to be your initial goal. One approach is, again, to start small; try to practice formal meditation for an initial period of time (e.g., two weeks). After that, start incorporating informal meditation techniques into your daily life. For instance, focusing on your breath during yoga can provide meditative qualities.

One final tip: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Start by asking your yoga instructor for tips. He or she can provide helpful information about meditation or can recommend someone who can.

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