Approximately 14.2 percent of adults in the U.S. have tried meditation at least once. That’s more than triple the percentage of adults who had tried it just a few years ago.
I started meditating a few years ago when I was working a very stressful, 14-hour per day job and needed something to grasp onto and keep me from having a nervous breakdown.
Meditation has been more beneficial to me than any other health practice, including exercise, and I really want to help other people get into it, too. I don’t necessarily think that meditation is for everyone, but I think most people would be better off if they had some kind of mindfulness practice in their life.
I talked here about the benefits of combining meditation and exercise. I didn’t say too much about how to actually start meditating, though.
If you’re in this boat and want to enjoy the benefits of meditating but don’t know how to get started, this post is for you. Here are my four best tips for getting started with meditation.
1. Use an App
If you’re someone who has absolutely no ideas where to begin when it comes to meditation, I think an app is a great tool to start with.
There are tons of meditation apps on the market these days, and they’ve really helped to lower the barrier to entry for a lot of people. There are apps that feature guided meditations, apps that just provide you with a basic timer, and apps that include lectures and more information on how to meditate and get the most out of it.
Insight Timer is my favorite meditation app. It’s free (like, really free, meaning you don’t have to pay for it after week-long trial) and has tons of guided meditations, plus a basic timer you can set and use if you prefer to meditate without anyone talking to you.
2. Don’t Overthink It
Almost every time I hear people talk about meditation, I hear something like this: “I’m bad at meditating because I can’t turn my brain off and stop thinking.”
If you’ve ever said something like this before, I’ve got news for you: You don’t have to turn your brain off and stop thinking! Meditation doesn’t have to be this self-flagellating practice where you berate yourself every time you fail to “empty your mind.”
The point of meditation, at least the type of mindfulness meditation that I practice, is to become more aware. If your thoughts wander while you’re meditating, you haven’t failed. The key is just to acknowledge that your mind wandered and then get back to focusing on your breath.
My mind wanders all. the. time, and I don’t freak out about it. I just acknowledge that it happened and then get back to it and try to stay present.
Remember, too, that meditation is just like anything else in that it takes practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. If you tried meditating once and got frustrated because your mind didn’t stop wandering, keep trying.
You wouldn’t say exercising isn’t working for you because you did lose five pounds after one workout, would you (okay, maybe you would, but that’s a different issue we need to address)? The same approach applies to meditation.
3. Start Really, Really Small
I think another reason people struggle with meditation is because they try to take on too much, too soon.
Twenty minutes doesn’t seem like a long time, but 20 meditation minutes are like 20 treadmill minutes. They feel way longer than normal minutes, probably because you can’t distract yourself with TV or music or podcasts or anything else.
Don’t force yourself to start meditating with a 20-minute session. Try getting started with just a five-minute session. Or, hell, even a one-minute session. One minute of mindfulness is way better than zero. Start there and slowly work your way up.
Again, I’m going to compare meditation to exercise. If you’ve never exercised before, you wouldn’t dive straight in with a two-hour lifting session. You’d start slow with just a few exercises (at least, ideally, that’s what you’d do).
The same goes for meditation. Don’t dive in and try to meditate the same way someone who’s meditated for years does it. Ease in and start really, really small.
4. Read 10% Happier
One of the most helpful books that I’ve ever read in my life is 10% Happier by Dan Harris.
This is the book that first got me interested in meditation, and I will be forever indebted to Dan for the way he approaches the subject and explains it here.
Dan has a podcast, too, and I recommend listening to it to learn more about meditation, mindfulness, and generally being a better person, but the book is really where it’s at. If you only read one meditation-related tome in your life, it ought to be 10% Happier.
What are Your Favorite Meditation Tips?
There you have it: my four favorite meditation tips. Do you currently meditate? If not, what’s holding you back? If you do, what are your favorite tips?