Four years ago, a friend introduced me to meditation. Like a lot of beginners, I found it hard to stay focused, so I’d quit, and pick up the habit again after a few weeks before quitting once more.
However, in an effort to manage work-related stress in early 2019, I re-committed myself to daily meditation. Once again, focus was hard to cultivate, but I stuck to it. Within three weeks, I was already feeling calmer, getting more sleep, and making clearer decisions in my career and my personal life.
For the last two years, I’ve meditated every day for 10 to 20 minutes and I still swear by its numerous benefits. To make this life-changing practice seem less intimidating, I’ve come up with five meditation tips for those just starting out.
1. Set realistic targets
On my return to daily practice, I began with just five minutes a day. If I meditated for longer, my mind often wandered off, and I’d lose some of the mental gains I’d accumulated up to that point.
There’s no shame in beginning with smaller, realistic targets. If daily meditation proves difficult, commit to practicing twice during the workweek and twice on the weekend. Upgrade to daily meditation once you’ve hit this initial goal.
2. Keep experimenting
Guided meditations, meditations with background music, unguided meditations, and mindfulness apps: You may have to try a bunch of things before you find a style that suits you.
Personally, I started with a guided meditation on YouTube that contained a background score. The music was relaxing and the instructions were helpful for beginners like me. In contrast, as I’ve developed my practice in the last two years, I’ve switched to paying an annual fee for popular app Headspace that contains longer guided meditations without music.
What works for me, however, might not work for you. Try out as many approaches as you need to until you find one that is right for you.
3. Some days are better than others
At one point last year, I thought I’d cracked the meditation code. I’d effortlessly settle into a monk-like focus and open my eyes to find that I was dialed into the world like never before. Soon after, however, I went through a frustrating phase where this feeling evaded me.
Then one day it just hit me: The perfectionist in me was attaching itself to an ideal outcome.
Time has taught me that meditation isn’t about craving that perfect feeling. Instead, you should be kind to yourself and gently bring your attention back to the present when you notice your thoughts wandering. Once I accepted that a zen-like state is not a constant, meditation became easier and more enjoyable.
4. Find the right time and the right place
I usually meditate at 12:30 p.m. on the carpeted floor of my bedroom. The timing improves my focus heading into the second half of my workday and the physical setting works as I associate my desk chair with work and the couch with TV time.
Having said that, your lifestyle and schedule might be completely different from mine. If you’re a morning person, feel free to meditate as soon as you wake up. If you prefer to get home from work, hop on a sofa, and practice right before dinner, more power to you.
As long as you’re consistent with your practice, it doesn’t matter when and where you meditate.
5. Tailor your practice to your own needs
Last summer, I tried out a group meditation class at a monastery. It was 95 degrees, there was no air conditioning, and there wasn’t any back support. Ultimately, it wasn’t my scene, so I’ve stuck to my meditation app ever since.
Remember, this is your journey. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing if it doesn’t work for you. Be kind to yourself and be patient. It may take some time to find your meditational groove, but if you stick to it, you will discover a more grounded, more patient, and even a more compassionate version of yourself.