If you’ve never practised meditation before, then it can seem a mysterious and daunting habit to start incorporating into your routine. Beginners might think that meditation is reserved for the likes of life coaches or hippies, but this isn’t how the ancient practice should be viewed.
Instead, meditation should be looked at as a transformative practice that can kickstart you on a journey of mindfulness to a more conscious life. Its mental health benefits should also be noted, and they might explain why over 8 million people in the UK currently meditate.
If you’re interested in joining them, this is the perfect guide for you. Here we get to the bottom of what meditation is and provide some tips to start meditating yourself. We also explain some simple meditation techniques and the benefits you’re likely to see from continued meditation.
What is meditation?
Before starting meditation, it’s best to know what we’re actually attempting to do and what successful meditation looks like. In short, meditation involves training the mind to focus and redirect the thoughts it has. It is about carving out dedicated time for yourself to cultivate self-awareness and let go of stress.
Through meditation, the goal is to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state. If done ‘properly’, meditation is meant to leave you feeling clear and balanced afterwards. Luckily, meditation is not restrictive, and there are many ways to practise it.
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Contrary to many people’s beliefs, you don't have to sit in silence or cross your legs to meditate. The key is to approach meditation with an open mind and find a routine that resonates with you, your lifestyle, and the time you have available.
Can you learn meditation on your own?
Yes, you can. While some people might find that joining a meditation class is a good way to start the practice, you are more than able to teach yourself. One great way is to follow this guide and our tips and tricks. These can help assist you in starting your yoga journey.
Another useful way to teach yourself is through meditation apps, namely Headspace. Headspace has hundreds of meditations available which can help with sleep, stress, mindfulness and overall happiness.
You can also use platforms like YouTube or audio meditations on Amazon or Spotify. Here you can find instructions and simple walkthroughs you’re able to follow at your own pace.
If sitting still isn’t for you and you struggle to learn this way, then you can also explore alternative forms of meditation like walking, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, or yoga. Our guide to the 10 best yoga poses for pain and stress relief includes many poses you might use while meditating.
How to meditate: three simple meditation exercises for beginners
With dozens of meditations available, it can be confusing for beginners to start off. That’s why we’ve put together these three simple meditation exercises. Each one can help you form a solid foundation of meditation knowledge, which you can later build on as you become more advanced. All three are for novices and incorporate different meditation techniques.
1. Simple breathing meditation
To practise this form of meditation, you need to focus on your breath. You start by taking three deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Now, inhale to the count of four and exhale to the count of eight, repeating this cycle three times.
Then, continue doing the same breathing exercise (four in, eight out) but do so exclusively through your nose for five minutes. This quick and simple meditation focuses your attention on your breath, calming your mind and improving concentration.
2. Mantra meditation
This form of meditation couples both your breathing and spoken word. To start, you should find a comfortable position and start to take deep breaths. Choose a mantra—whether it's the traditional ‘Om’, a word like ‘love,’ or a personal affirmation like ‘I am…’. This is what you will be saying out loud.
Every time you exhale, you should be saying the mantra and extending the last syllable. Repeat the mantra continuously for about 10 to 15 minutes, directing your attention to the sound and vibration it creates. Afterwards, close your eyes for a few seconds and reflect on your experience.
3. Walking meditation
To practice walking meditation, start by finding a quiet and open space. Stand still and ground yourself by becoming aware of your breath. Start walking slowly, paying attention to the sensations in your body and the movement of your feet. Focus on each step, feeling the contact with the ground. Maintain a relaxed posture and a gentle pace.
Be present and observe any thoughts, emotions, or physical sensations that arise without judgment. Engage all your senses, noticing the sights, sounds, and smells around you. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the sensation of walking. Continue for a predetermined period, and when finished, pause to reflect on the experience.
5 top tips for starting meditation
When you’re new to meditation, the main difficulty is to push aside the stress of everyday life and not get lost in your thoughts. You want to try and brush away the noise of the day to reach a state of calm where you are not thinking about what the next hour, week, month, or year holds. To help you on your journey to achieving this state, we’ve put together some tips for learning to meditate:
1. Choose comfortable clothing
It’s best to choose comfortable clothing when doing yoga so you can engage properly with the practice without distraction. You don’t want to be uncomfortable or cold, as this will take your mind away from meditation. It doesn’t matter whether you choose sports trousers or stay in pyjamas - the important thing is that the outfit doesn't pinch. Yoga clothes are also ideal.
2. Create the right atmosphere
Create a calming and distraction-free environment to support your meditation practice. Find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed and declutter the space. Consider using a candle, incense sticks, or essential oils in a diffuser to set a soothing ambience that engages your senses. Remember to set your phone to flight mode to avoid interruptions.
For help in creating the right atmosphere check out our guides on how to use essential oils, with advice from aromatherapy experts.
3. Adopt an appropriate posture
Posture plays a crucial role in meditation, enabling a smooth and flowing breath. Aim for an upright position, whether in the lotus position, cross-legged on a mat or chair, or even lying down. Relax your shoulders and rest your hands gently on your thighs or lap. If sitting cross-legged is uncomfortable, use a meditation cushion or yoga block for support. Basically, find the posture that suits you best.
If you think your posture needs some work, then we have a guide for that as well. Check out our guide on how to improve your posture.
4. Create a routine
As with most things you want to become a habit, consistency is key. The more frequently you practice, the easier it becomes to centre your thoughts, detach from everyday stresses, and experience deeper relaxation. A good guide is to start with just three minutes a day, preferably in the morning or evening.
Gradually increase this duration as you develop your practice. Remember, there's no right or wrong way to meditate, so be patient and avoid putting any pressure on yourself. If you want to do meditation in the morning, it might help to visit our guide on how to create a morning routine to boost your mood.
5. Extend meditation into everyday life
How do you know you have meditated ‘properly’? Simply by feeling clear and balanced afterwards. To maintain this pleasant state for as long as possible, you should not jump up immediately after meditation and go straight into everyday life, but consciously try to transport the relaxation and energy you have gained into the rest of the day.
The benefits of meditating
The likely reason you have decided to give meditation a go is to try and achieve one of the many benefits it can provide. Regularly practising can have a profound impact on many people’s well-being, and knowing the benefits can help motivate you to continue with your meditation. Here are the main benefits of meditation:
- Inner clarity and deep relaxation: meditation techniques help you achieve a state of inner calm and relaxation, allowing your body and mind to unwind and find clarity.
- Enhanced immune system: regular meditation practice has been shown to strengthen the immune system, improving its ability to fight off infections and diseases.
- Improved sleep: meditation promotes a peaceful and relaxed state, aiding in falling asleep faster and enjoying deeper, more restorative sleep.
- Heightened concentration: by training your mind to focus and stay present, meditation enhances your concentration and attention span in daily activities.
- Greater body awareness: through meditation, you develop a heightened sense of body awareness, becoming more attuned to physical sensations and cues.
- Lower blood pressure: consistent meditation practice has been linked to decreased blood pressure levels, potentially reducing the risk of heart disease and improving overall cardiovascular health.
If you want to see more wellness content and recommendations for experts, then check out The Recommended’s wellness section. Here you can find guides to mindfulness habits to boost your everyday happiness, tips for better focus and concentration, and how to create a productive workspace, reduce stress at work and improve desk posture.
Finn Byrne is a Digital Writer for Immediate Media. He works across several brands including The Recommended, RadioTimes.com, MadeforMums and BBC Gardeners’ World. Finn has previously written for publications including MyLondon, The Mirror, The Express, and The Star. When not writing Finn enjoys spending time on the football pitch and getting stuck into a book.