Start Your Year off Right With This Easy Guide to Meditation

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You’ve heard it from pretty much everyone you know, and from every corner of the Internet — meditation is great. It can reduce stress, decrease anxiety, improve self-awareness, enhance attention span, and give you a deeper sleep. Meditation is basically the fountain of youth, it’s just easier to get to. So why haven’t you tried it yet?

Oh right, because chilling out is way easier said than done.

When your brain is fighting to stay afloat in an endless cycle of stress from all directions, re-calibrating for relaxation can feel like losing a battle. But even though it might be a little challenging, the benefits of meditation are well worth forfeiting your emotional armor. Everything takes work, so why not try something that’s sole purpose is your personal joy?

Trust me—this guide makes meditation so easy, you could do it with your eyes closed.

Pick a soothing mantra.

A mantra can be a phrase or single word you repeat to lull yourself into a relaxed, focused mental space primed for meditation. Something positive – meditation is a no negative self-talk zone.

It’s like the dial tone for meditation.

Your mantra is intended to center your mind around a single constant thought that will eventually become the background for your meditation, helping to avoid the endless barrage of intrusive ideas that typically lands us with a headache by 3 pm.

Your mantra can be anything.

Some use the Sanskrit mantra “So Hum,” which translates to “I am.” Others create unique phrases with personal significance or use their mantra as an opportunity to repeat a powerful manifestation. If a mantra doesn’t feel like your thing, you can always start by focusing on your breathing.

Find your meditation space.

Now that you’ve got a mantra locked down, find a comfortable, quiet place to sit with it. Meditation works best when it’s practiced in a tranquil environment free from interruption.

Avoid distractions.

Yep, that means phones and other electronics turned off. Can’t tune out when the notifications are rolling in! Some people find white noise like rain sounds helpful when they’re getting zen, and in that case, airplane mode should do the trick. But no cheating!

No, you don’t have to sit in some complicated yoga pose.

Meditation is about feeling calm and comfortable, not sore and stressed. If a supportive chair or cushion feels better than sitting cross-legged on the floor, follow your bliss!

But it’s a good idea not to lay down either.

Lying down with your eyes closed can turn meditation into a comfortable napping zone a lot quicker than you’s think. Try to stay upright, but make comfort the top priority.

Wear something comfortable.

Sensing a theme? Comfort is as key to meditation as limiting your external distractions, and a comfy temperature appropriate outfit fits the bill for both.

Set a time limit.

It’s a good idea to decide how long you’re going to meditate before you start. Whether it’s five or twenty minutes, set the time aside beforehand and stick to it.

But don’t let a timer kill your vibe.

If a ticking clock is distracting, use a calm alarm sound or another non-intrusive way to mark the end of your meditation.

Get a good stretch in.

You’ll be sitting in the same spot for a little while, so it’s a good idea to work the kinks out before you settle in. Release any tension with some light stretching to avoid physical discomfort.

Now that you’re comfortable, take a deep breath and close your eyes.

Meditating with your eyes closed can make it easier to focus on centering yourself without the added challenge of visual distractions.

Or keep your eyes open.

If you get sleepy during meditation, it can help to stay alert with open eyes instead. Just remember to keep your optical focus soft, and avoid visual distractions.

Most importantly, keep on breathing.

A steady inhale, exhale rhythm is the foundation for all meditative practice. Try to focus solely on your breathing.

Really feel the breath throughout your body.

Settle into a breathing pattern and focus on the rising and falling of your chest. Don’t worry about “doing it right.” You shouldn’t have to put in too much effort. Just do what feels natural.

Remember your mantra?

Now is its time to shine. Repeat your chosen word or phrase silently to yourself until your mind is focused around it.

If a mantra doesn’t work for you, focus on an object.

Centering your attention on a candle, crystal, plant, or picture you love can be just as effective as repeating a mantra.

You’ll know when it’s working.

Place your object at eye level so you can gaze at it comfortably, and allow your peripheral vision to blur. When you’re completely focused on the object, you should feel a deep sense of calm.

You can also use mental images as a meditative guide.

Imagine a flower opening and closing its petals as you inhale and exhale, picture gentle ocean waves moving with the rhythm of your breath, or make up your own soothing visual.

Basically, go to your happy place.

Envision a mental sanctuary, and explore it with your imagination. You shouldn’t have to put in the effort to build this place, but instead, allow it to unfold in your subconscious.

Don’t worry too much about “emptying your mind.”

Meditation shouldn’t feel forced, so don’t beat yourself up if your mind wanders to that to-do list or what you want for dinner. If you do get off course, just refocus and relax.

Check in with yourself.

After a few minutes of deep breathing and focus, scan your body for any tension or discomfort. Are your shoulders rising up? Is your neck stiff?

Pick a starting point and work your way around.

Feel the sensations of every individual body part, and consciously release any physical stress from contracted muscles.

Then take an overall pass.

Now that you’ve relaxed every part of yourself individually, enjoy the serenity of your body as a whole.

You can let that mantra taper off, too.

If it hasn’t already happened naturally, feel free to get quiet and just focus on your guided breathing. Your mind and body should feel totally at peace. When you feel ready, slowly return from your relaxed state and complete your meditation.

Make it a habit.

Just like any kind of exercise, scheduling meditation as a part of your daily routine will make it easier, and help you feel more of its impact on your overall health. Even if it’s just a few minutes in the car on your lunch break, it counts!

Try a guided meditation

If you’re looking for a little more direction, consider a group meditation class, step-by-step app, or instructional online video to lead you to your bliss.

Bring mindfulness into everyday life.

When you’re not meditating, try to remember your calm, focused breathing and use it to keep your cool in high-stress situations.

Stay grounded when you can’t make time for a full meditation.

Even on your busiest days, you can always take a moment to become present in your body and take stock of how you’re feeling. Wherever you are, focus on a nearby object or specific sensation in your body to ground yourself and realign with reality.

Don’t give up!

Yeah, sitting still and telling your brain to be quiet is easier said than done. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a shot! Finding your zen takes time, and chances are you won’t achieve inner peace after your first sesh. Keep trying, and let these steps guide you on your path to enlightenment.