Meditation is now proven to be widely beneficial to our cognitive function and mental health. So much so that as a result of the growth in young people’s mental health issues, mindfulness, a form of meditation, has been brought into schools.
Here are a few pointers to get you started.
1. Set yourself a daily target
Meditation is a practice. You are developing the strength of one of your most important muscles, the mind. To do so requires repetition and consistency. Think of it as you would weight training. Do it regularly, three times a week and your muscles will start to grow. But do it once a month and you will see little to no impact on your body. The best idea is to set yourself a daily target to get you started, for example, 5 minutes a day, 4 days a week. Make sure it is something you can commit to. Much like sticking to a strict diet, it is better to set realistic expectations and meet them, than commit to 20 minutes a day and then not meet it. It will only demotivate you and you will stop.
2. Use a guided app
Sitting on your own, trying to focus your mind, can be quite a daunting experience. Do not fear. As with everything these days, there is an app for that! The most popular ones are
Calm and Headspace. You may find some meditation purists saying that’s not really meditation, but as with many things, there is no right or wrong way to try it. Personally, I really struggle with meditation and find that these guides really help me. They also track how many days you have meditated, which can really help with motivation. As I said, practice and repetition are key, so anything that helps motivate me to meditate every day is a good thing. I am also a big fan of the calming voices used on Calm, and the other benefit the app offers such as Sleep stories.
3. Be patient
Let go of the expectation that you will fall into a constant zen-like state after one-day meditating. It is a practice. If you have never meditated before, you will not be able to sit with a controlled mind for 20 minutes any more than you would be able to bench press 20kgs without any previous weight training. Start small, with 5 minutes, and increase your length gradually. At some stage, it will become easier. At some stage, you will start to see benefits in your daily life. Some people have an “ah-ha!” moment, others do not. Everyone’s experience is different. So let go of any expectation and just be patient.
4. Make it part of your routine
This may take some time. It is worth trying out what time of day you prefer to meditate as everyone is different. Some people find it easier to meditate first thing in the morning, some before bed. No matter your preference, meditating around the same time each day or perhaps at a specific point in the day, after your morning coffee, can help build the routine. This makes it easier to stick with.
5. Get a meditation buddy
This was a particularly useful tool I found during my yoga teacher training. Having someone to hold you accountable, other than yourself, can be a great way to stay on track. We actually used more of a group than a one on one buddy system. We had a WhatsApp group where we would share each day after we meditated. The idea was that it held us all accountable to the 30-day meditation challenge we had agreed to. Sometimes we would share experiences, other days we would simply check in with an emoji and length of meditation. Everyone was so supportive that it really encouraged me to persevere. It may be the difference with you building a meditation practice or not. Maybe introduce it to your workplace. Meditations at 11 instead of tea and cake? Mental health is a big focus for organisations these days, your HR team will most likely welcome this with open arms.
So why not give it a go today. Procrastinate no longer. They say if you are too busy to meditate today you should meditate twice. Why? Because people that think they are too busy are exactly the ones that will benefit from fitting meditation into their life.
Remember it will take time, it is a continual practice. Hopefully, soon you will see it less like a chore, and something you actually look forward to each day. In the same way that eating well and exercising can be hard to get started with, usually after some time you begin to crave it. I like to refer to meditation as the CrossFit for our minds. It is so heavily addictive once you start to see the benefits.