How to Meditate

Meditation is a practice of calming your mind and body. It helps you take a break from worrying and learn to pay attention to the present moment without judging it. And by practicing mindfulness and meditation, you will improve your self-awareness. As it's about noticing what's going on around you and what you're feeling, without getting upset or stressed about it.

A girl is meditating using mindful meditation for beginners

Meditation shouldn’t be complicated or tied to any religion. It's a tool anyone can use to improve their mental well-being. The meditation practice encourages us to focus on breath and helps us train our minds to concentrate better in daily life. Find out why you should give it a try and learn how to meditate for beginners.

What Happens to You When You Meditate

There are many reasons to practice meditation. So here are four main benefits of meditation.

Enhances Sleep Quality

Meditation helps with sleep by tackling the main reasons we often can't sleep, like stress or an overactive mind. It helps our body and mind calm down, making it easier to fall asleep and improving the quality of our sleep. Making meditation a part of your bedtime routine also tells your brain it's time to wind down, which helps you develop a consistent sleep schedule.

Handle Your Feelings

Meditation makes our brain less busy with processing information. Gaelle Desbordes from Harvard has shown through her studies that mindfulness meditation can really change the brain in people who are depressed. What's cool is that positive changes in brain activity in people who have learned to meditate hold steady even when they’re not meditating. For example, after eight weeks of meditation, the amygdala — that's the part of the brain that deals with emotions — wasn't as active when people looked at emotional images.

Meditation increases self-awareness and self-esteem. It makes it easier for us to analyze our feelings and thoughts without negative judgment.

Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Meditation has enormous benefits in our anxiety and stress levels, too. It's all about calming your mind and reducing chronic stress in the body.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University sifted through nearly 19,000 meditation studies and found 47 that were the effectiveness of meditation. Their analysis concluded that mindful meditation can indeed help ease psychological stresses, including anxiety, depression, and pain. It also soothes our stress hormones by decreasing the amount of cortisol in our brain – too much cortisol can make us feel more stressed.

Improves Focus

Meditation helps to improve concentration, which makes sense. By practicing focusing on your breath or a specific thought while meditating, you're actually training your brain to concentrate better on everyday tasks as well.

When you meditate regularly, the parts of your brain that control memory and learning get a boost, and the parts that wander off into dreams or get stressed don't become as active. This means you spend less time feeling scattered and more time feeling sharp and focused.

How to Meditate

Meditation is a great tool that is available to everyone. That's why we want to share the basic steps of mindfulness meditation for beginners.

Find a Quiet Place

Find a place where you can relax and not be interrupted during your meditation. It is especially important to avoid any external distractions. It is better to turn off noisy appliances. At the same time, the meditation space does not have to be completely silent, so you will not need earplugs.

If you listen to music, choose calm, repetitive melodies, white noise, or quiet sounds of nature, such as the sound of running water. The main thing is that they do not disturb your concentration.

Take a Comfortable Position

Sit comfortably. Don't worry too much about how you sit, what you are wearing, what you are sitting on, etc. You don't have to go out of your way to sit cross-legged unless you want to. You can sit on a chair, on a pillow on the floor, or a couch. The essential thing is to keep your back straight, but not strained. And promise to devote the allotted time to meditation, regardless of whether it is difficult or easy for you.

Set a Timer

By setting the timer, you won't need to check your watch and thus distract yourself. Just delegate it to a timer or meditation app.

Start with a few minutes. This is very important. Most people think they need to meditate for 15–30 minutes. But we are trying to form a long-term habit and relax. Thus, start with a few 2–5 minutes. It will be much easier for you to start, and forming a habit from a small beginning is a method with a much higher chance of success. Over time, gradually increase your practice time.

Focus on Breath

Feel your breath. Watch your breath go through your nostrils, then down your throat, then into your lungs and belly. Try to feel the inhale and then the exhale. You can keep your eyes open, but look at the ground and with a soft focus. Or close your eyes to help you focus.

Count your breath: start with 1 and work up to 10. If you lose track, start again.

Key Point

Whenever you get lost in thought, gently return to your breath. As Sharon Salzberg, a teacher of Buddhist meditation practices, says: "Starting over and over again is the practice, not a problem to be overcome so that one day we can arrive at 'real' meditation."

These are the five steps to help you practice basic mindfulness meditation. That said, there are different types that you can try as well.

Essential Tips for Beginners

Now, that you know the basic steps of meditation, we want to share some tips to help you improve your experience. You don't have to apply all the tips at once, try one or two during your next meditation. Then come back to the article and choose other tips to try.

  1. Just do it. Focusing on the “perfect” execution of a practice is a common obstacle when we want to start doing something new. We worry about where to sit, how to sit, how long to sit, etc. However, the main thing is to just start. And over time, you will realize how you feel more comfortable meditating.
  2. Meditate every day. It’s much more important than the duration of the session. Additionally, the more you do it, the better you get at dropping into that calm and focused state whenever you need to (not just during meditation).
  3. Do it first thing in the morning. That will help you to set a peaceful tone for your whole day. And it’s easier to add meditation to your morning routine rather than plan a specific time.
  4. Be prepared for noisy distractions. The body becomes extremely sensitive to every sound when there is complete silence around. And our lives are rarely quiet because of the sounds of the street outside the window or the neighbor behind the wall. Therefore, it is better to learn to accept stimuli beyond our control and concentrate on breathing.
  5. Don't be afraid to be alone with your thoughts. It's natural to have thoughts or feelings when you meditate. Don't push them away, try to stay with them for a while. And then return to concentrating on the breath.
  6. Use the meditation app. There are plenty of best meditation apps. It's like having a meditation teacher in your pocket, ready to help you focus and relax anytime, anywhere.
  7. Smile at yourself. Be grateful to yourself that you had this time for yourself, that you kept your promise, and that you took the time to get to know yourself and make friends with yourself.

Types of Meditation

There are hundreds of different types of meditation. Some are suitable for certain people, but not for others. In contrast, others focus on the objective that the person has for the practice.

We have identified the six most famous ways of meditation and the key points of their practices.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness Meditation is maybe the most popular form of meditation in the West. When you meditate mindfully, you should observe thoughts that go through your mind, but not judge them, merely let them sit. It's core steps we’ve highlighted in the section “How to Meditate”.

Focused Meditation

A focused meditation, as the name implies, is useful for gaining more focus and clarity. It involves concentrating on one of the five senses. You can focus on noise or keep your eyes open and bring your attention to a single object.

The main idea is to focus on the details of something. You can start by choosing an object of concentration, such as a candle, and sitting comfortably in front of it. As you inhale and exhale, notice how the flame flickers or how it is composed of several colors. Focus on the smells, and sounds, and feel yourself “immersed in the candle”.

Guided Meditation

In guided meditation, you will listen to somebody explaining the process. They will tell you what to focus on and what to picture in your mind’s eye. That is why guided meditation is a good option for beginners. The structure of most guided meditations is the same: the instructor explains how the mind operates during meditation, guides you through a specific meditation method, and then offers tips on how to use the technique in your daily life.

This type of meditation is one of the most commonly used, so we recommend that you try it using one of the best meditation apps.

Unguided Meditation

Unguided meditation (also called silent meditation) is a solo meditation with no guide. This practice involves sitting quietly and focusing on the body and thoughts for a certain amount of time. Most people who practice unguided meditation have already experienced guided meditation.

Calming Meditation

Calming meditation often adopts focus meditation practices – the meditator might focus on their breath or a mantra as they try to relax the body and mind. The goal of calming meditation is to build a calmer, more serene state of mind and better focus.

Insight Meditation

Insight meditation, however, has a particular goal. Practicers have the intention to alter their mind in some way, and the content of the meditation focuses on that. You need to concentrate on breathing and observe any physical, or emotional changes and thoughts that arise.

Learn to Meditate

Meditation is not just a mindfulness trend that everyone is talking about. It's a practice that will help you to put your thoughts in order and learn to control your emotions and body. And since this tool is free and available to you right now, why not give it a try?