It’s a stressful time to be alive. The world seems to be descending into chaos, with one troubling news story after another. When life throws up global pandemics, lockdowns, and protests in the street, how can you avoid the negative mental health impacts of anxiety and worry?
Many people turn to meditation in such times, a practice that can provide an island of calm amidst an ocean of noise. Meditating has been proven to have wide-reaching mental health benefits, including reduced stress and anxiety, enhanced focus, and greater levels of confidence and self-esteem.
Meditation has been around for many thousands of years, initially practiced among the Eastern religions of India and China before spreading to the Western world. It is now practiced by somewhere between 200 and 500 million people. Absolutely anyone can enjoy the benefits of meditation. You do not have to be an expert in obscure topics such as non duality and chakras. All you need is a few spare minutes and a quiet place to practice.
If you feel the stresses of the world are getting to you, you could benefit from the calming effects of meditation. Here are five easy tips for beginners to get started.
- Set your expectations
If this is your first time meditating, don’t expect to see instant results. As with any skill, success takes time and practice. It is unlikely that you will immediately reach a transcendent state of mind on your first try. More likely, you will lose concentration over and over again and possibly get frustrated. Knowing this from the start will make you less likely to give up. It is a practice that requires commitment and persistence, and the more you keep at it, the better you will get.
- Find a quiet place to sit
Meditation is all about concentration, so you will need to minimize distractions where possible. Find a place away from other people and loud noises. It could be your bedroom, or perhaps a shady spot at the bottom of the garden. Put your phone on silent before you begin. You will need a comfortable place to sit. The floor is fine if it’s not too hard, but you could also use a cushion or a yoga mat. Choose whichever meditation posture works for you, but make sure you keep your back straight and your shoulders relaxed.
- Set a timer
In the beginning, you will only want to meditate for short periods, perhaps five or ten minutes. Any longer and your mind will wander. Set a timer to go off at the end of your allotted session, to avoid the constant urge to check the time. Make sure you use a relaxing alarm tone to bring you gently out of your meditative state.
- Be mindful
Meditation is all about being aware of your body and breathing, observing the thoughts, sensations, and emotions that arise in the moment. Breath is the anchor for your mind, and something to focus on other than the constant of thoughts. There are many different breathing techniques from which to choose.
- Use guided apps
If you would benefit from more hands-on guidance, there are several meditation apps available to download. These will gently guide you through different meditation exercises for various purposes and can be a fantastic entry point for beginners.