Stressful moments happen all the time. Say a car cuts you off while you’re driving your kids to school or your boss emails you demanding an assignment and all of a sudden you’re cursing under your breath through gritted teeth. While you can’t always prevent these situations from happening, you can squash the anxiety they cause. Enter: meditation.
A study published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience found that participants who practiced 20 minutes of meditation significantly curbed their anxiety. That’s not all, though. According to a study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, meditation even wards off signs of depression (especially in those who are at high risk) and reduces chronic pain.
Of course, getting your Zen on is easier said than done though, right? Maybe you’ve tried to sit back, relax, and shut the world out—only to be interrupted by your significant other, dog, phone, your… well, you get the picture. Believe us, committing to a daily meditation practice is doable. Set yourself up for success by following these five tips.
Start Small—and We Mean Really Small
“I tell newbies not to bite off more than they can chew,” says Dallisa Hocking, a meditation expert in Las Vegas. Meaning: Don’t try to meditate for 20 minutes at a time right off the bat. In fact, Joy Rains, a meditation guide in Maryland and the author of Meditation Illuminated: Simple Ways to Manage Your Busy Mind, suggests beginners meditate for just two minutes per day. You’re less likely to get frustrated if you ease you way into things, she says. Once you’re comfortable meditating for two minutes, then you can try increasing your sessions to five minutes, and so on and so forth. While majority of research done has shown benefits after 20 minutes of meditation, we all have to start somewhere.
Pencil It into Your Schedule
Committing to a daily meditation practice is all about consistency. “Regularity is much more important than length of time,” explains Rains. Tie it into another activity. For example, “Consider meditating after brushing your teeth,” recommends Rains, “so that it starts to become second nature.”
In addition to meditating at the same time every day, you should also meditate in the same place. But while you want the spot you choose to be comfortable, your bedroom should be off-limits, warns Hocking. “That tricks the brain into thinking meditation is sleep time,” she says. Instead, set up a chair in a quiet room. “It’s good to have a regular place,” says Rains, “because then you’ll start associating it with meditation.”
Keep Your Practice Simple
If you’re looking for an easy meditation for beginners, follow Hocking’s advice: Take three deep cleansing breaths and then continue to breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. As you breathe in, say or think, “let,” and as you breathe out, say or think, “go.” Sit up straight and release any tension by relaxing your body. You can place your hands in whatever position is most comfortable.
Don’t Be Discouraged if You Can’t Fully Focus
If your thoughts stray, don’t give up—in fact, that’s supposed to happen. “Your mind might wander every two seconds, but it’s the nature of the mind to do that,” explains Rains. She advises focusing your thoughts on an anchor like your breath, “a neutral point of awareness that doesn’t stimulate the mind more,” while you meditate. Just keep bringing your thoughts back to that anchor anytime they start to get out of control.
Share Your Intentions on Social Media
If in January, you made a New Year’s resolution to go the gym every day and posted about it on social media, then you already know how accountable the online audience makes you feel. Think of doing something similar when it comes to your meditation practice. “Posting about it in a public setting can help hold you accountable,” says Hocking. Writing things down in a journal may also have a positive impact. “When you see your progress, this helps keep you motivated,” says Hocking.
Do you have a meditation practice? What’s your motivation?