7 Meditation Tips for Beginners
For all its benefits, meditation is an extremely challenging habit to adopt. Most people quit before they see the benefits. Here are seven tips to maximize your chances of sticking with it when things get hard:
1. Start Small
If you’ve heard about the benefits of meditation and are itching to get started, you might feel the impulse to sign up for a lengthy silent retreat or commit to meditating for an hour per day. I applaud your enthusiasm, but you’re more likely to succeed if you start small. Five to ten minutes per day is plenty. Meditation is a life-long practice – there’s no need to “hack” the benefits on the front end. Be patient, start small, and over time the benefits will compound.
2. Curate Calm
The ultimate goal of meditation is to train your mind to feel more internal peace amid external chaos. Nonetheless, it’s easier to learn the skill in a calm environment. I recommend meditating in a relaxing space at home. Later on, you can apply your skills in chaotic contexts.
3. Sit Comfortably
Many meditation teachers recommend sitting on the floor, with a completely upright spine. This can be prohibitively painful and is quite unnecessary. Start by sitting in your most comfortable chair. Don’t stress about your posture. The practice of observing the present moment matters much more than your sitting position while doing so.
4. Meditate in the Morning
Trying to meditate whenever inspiration strikes is guaranteed to fail. If you don’t schedule it in, you’ll inevitably lose your grip on the day. Start your day intentionally by meditating in the morning, distractions are less likely to take you off track.
5. Stack Habits
When you “stack” new behaviors onto pre-existing habits, it’s easier to make them stick. Write down a few things you do every single day. Maybe it’s making coffee at 8 a.m. or going for a walk at noon. These are great places to tack on a meditation session.
6. Redefine Success
Most meditation teachers begin by teaching you to focus on your breath. When you first try this, you’ll find that you lose yourself in thought, almost immediately. Once you catch yourself, you will get frustrated and feel like a failure. You’re not. Each time you return to the breath is like a rep at the gym, building the mental muscles which facilitate present-state awareness.
7. Use an App, or Join a Community
Social support, and a structured learning experience are key to integrating any new habit. Consider using an app like Headspace or Calm, or joining a local meditation group in your community. It’s very helpful to be coached through common points of friction alongside like-minded learners with similar struggles. See this article for a more detailed comparison of popular apps.
According to the Philosopher Blaise Pascal, "all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone." While this might seem hyperbolic, many of us struggle to integrate any self-reflection into our lives. In our noisy world, a meditation practice is one way to drown out distraction and reclaim your focus. Integrate the tips above, and you’ll be much more likely to succeed.