There are so many reasons to start incorporating meditation into your daily routine. Meditation is proven to have various positive effects on the health. The most obvious area where meditation helps in daily life is mental health. People who meditate are said to handle stress better, have reduced anxiety, and improved mental focus. Other areas where meditation has positive effects are with improved immune function and heart health.
The hardest part of starting a meditation practice is the actually getting started. The most frequent complaints about starting a meditation practice are time constraints and people being generally unsure if they’re doing it correctly. When people get frustrated that they’re not “doing it right”, they’re likely to give up before they’ve even gotten started. But meditation doesn’t have to be hard or time-consuming to make it work. In fact, it’s super easy to begin what could become a lifelong practice.
Ko Im, an NYC-based yoga and meditation instructor, gives us insight into how anyone can get started on this beneficial practice.
Starting off with just a few minutes a day will set you up for success. Anyone can take two minutes out of their day to start meditating. “You can start in a way that feels good to you,” Im says. “If you like rituals”, she continues, “sit for a few moments quietly before you brush your teeth”. “Start by just beginning,” Im concludes. Actually making an effort to meditate for a few minutes means you’re already ahead of the game. Try two minutes for a week, and then see if you can work your way up to three.
Let Your Breath Be Your Guide
The secret to meditation is to focus on your breath. Start by focusing on lengthening your inhales and exhales, like you would do in a yoga class. Counting breaths is a good way to stay focused. Try counting to ten inhales and exhales, or try counting down from ten. If the mind wanders, and it probably will, know that it is perfectly normal and steer your attention back to the breath. Your mind wandering is all a part of the process of learning to meditate.
Let Go Of Any Judgement
Some days it’s easier to meditate than others. The irony is that the days that you need meditation the most, on your most stressful days, will often be the ones where it is hardest to do. Im suggests not being too hard on yourself if you have an “off” day. “Stick with it and don’t judge when it’s good or bad,” Im says. “Every sit, every day, is different.” If you have a day where, try as you might, you just can’t focus on your breathing, then save your energy for the next day.
If you’re able, make yourself a safe and comfortable space in your home where you can go to do your practice. Taking this time for yourself and making it a ritual will make you more likely to stick to it. For some, lots of fluffy pillows and blankets make for the perfect meditation setting. For others, sitting cross-legged on the floor works just fine. Some people like to go out into nature for their meditation. “If you can’t sit still, do a walking meditation and focus on what’s around you”, Im says. It’s all about making yourself comfortable in your surroundings because if you’re not comfortable, you won’t be able to focus.
The trick to unlocking meditation’s numerous health benefits is to turn it into a habit. Carve out that two minutes each day, and then gradually build up to longer intervals. Next thing you know, you’ll be meditating for ten, or even twenty minutes. Don’t give up if you’ve had a bad session or two. Go back to your practice the next day with a fresh mind and open heart. Sticking with it is the only way to make it work.