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Last Updated on March 11, 2017
Last month I discussed how mindfulness can reduce your stress and anxiety each day, and gave tips on how to practice it without committing to a traditional sitting meditation practice.
Today I’d like to teach you how to quickly, simply, and easily get started with a daily sitting meditation practice to ease your stress, anxiety, and even maybe your pain, too!
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a practice during which you sit quietly, pay attention to your breathing, and just let yourself be in the present moment. You let thoughts and feeling flow without judging them, and gently nudge them on their way once they appear. There is a rather common misconception that meditation means you must have a completely empty mind, but that’s not the case. Thoughts and feelings WILL come up, but the point is to not follow them, engage them, let them snowball out of control into worry. Meditation is about noticing or acknowledging these thoughts, feelings, even aches and pains in your body without judging them.
Practicing sitting meditation daily will help you cultivate the ability to detach from the distractions of your mind and become more present and feel less stress and anxiety each day.
How To Start Meditating
Sitting meditation is a very ancient practice that modern scientific research shows can literally rewire your brain to help ease stress, anxiety, and worries, making you more resilient to the stressors of modern life.
A recent study also showed that after only 80 minutes of meditation (4 sessions of 20 minutes each) there was a 24% reduction in pain. How cool is that?
Beginning a meditation practice is as easy as this:
- Dedicate 3 minutes per day. Yes, that’s all you need to get started! You can work your way up after you establish a daily routine.
- Make sure that you do it every. single. day. Just 3 minutes every day is better than half an hour once a week. Repetition and consistency matter much more than total time.
- Choose a time of day that you will actually take the time to sit down and meditate. For some, this may be first thing in the morning. For others, a mid-day reboot is better. And for some (like myself), meditation before bed is a wonderful way to combat insomnia and help you fall asleep easier. There is no right or wrong time of day to meditate! The only wrong time is when you don’t do it…
- Choose a location where you feel safe and will be free of distractions (like kids, spouses, or pets). Sit however feels comfortable to you, either on the floor or in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. You can sit cross-legged if that’s comfy, and you can try adding a pillow or bolster underneath your bottom so that your knees are lower than your hips (this will make it easier to sit comfortably for longer periods of time). You can also practice meditating while lying flat on your back with your arms at your side. I will do this sometimes, in bed, as I am preparing for sleep.
- For those 3 minutes you have set aside, simply focus on your breathing and your experience in your own body. Notice how you feel in the present moment, how your body feels. Meditation is about bringing awareness to your current state without bringing any judgement. You can do a full body scan, starting at the top of your head and working to the bottoms of your feet, making sure to release any tension along the way. Or, you can simply just notice how it feels to breathe in and out for those 3 minutes. Allow yourself to breathe fully, deeply, filling your lungs and your belly. But don’t force anything that feels unnatural. Taking full breaths should feel good, not strained.
- I recommend using a timer so that you don’t lose track of time. I prefer to use an app that has gentle bells and gongs, rather than something that sounds like an alarm clock.
- Explore guided meditations, too. I use and love the Stop, Think, and Breathe app (it’s also available on the web, too). It’s free and suggests a guided meditation based on your current mental and physical state.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but if this is all you do each day you will notice changes and reduction in feelings of anxiety and stress. And, I think you’ll plant a seed within yourself to want to learn more. There are SO many books written on the topic of meditation, but here are some places you can get started:
- Turning the Mind Into An Ally by Sakyong Mipham
- The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation by Thich Nhat Hahn
- Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
- Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation, a 28 Day Program by Sharon Salzberg
- Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment and Your Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Do you already practice mindfulness? Do you already have a meditation practice? Who are your favorite teachers? Tell me in the comments!