Meditation for Beginners: How to Start Meditating
Have you heard a lot about meditation and its benefits for mental and physical health? Are you interested in learning to meditate but don’t know where to start? A meditation for beginners program can teach you the basics—what meditation is, why it's beneficial and how to begin practicing today.
Maybe you’ve tried meditation before but could never really get the hang of it. Or perhaps you’d like to try, but you’re worried it will be hard to stick to. Whatever brought you to this Beginners Meditation Guide, you’ll find some basic tips that will help you build the foundation of a lifelong practice.
One of the world’s most ancient wellness practices has seen a recent surge in popularity thanks to new science, modern technology and growing awareness about mental well-being.
Today, more and more people are turning to meditation as a simple, free and accessible way to bring more peace and well-being into daily life.
If you’re wondering why to meditate, consider some of these common reasons people enjoy this everyday wellness practice:
- Coping with daily stressors and improving mood
- Managing anxiety and depression naturally
- Improving focus or difficulty concentrating
- Reducing sleep disturbances
- Increasing sense of self-awareness and self-compassion
Whatever your reason for wanting to start meditating, the science is clear—meditation has important benefits for our mind-body health.
Benefits of Meditation
For decades, researchers have been interested in what makes meditation so beneficial for our physical and mental well-being. Countless studies have been conducted to investigate which types of meditation are most effective and who benefits from meditation the most, including different personality types or pre-existing conditions.
While there are varying findings, generally, scientists agree that meditation can have positive effects for people who stick with it.
Here are some of the key findings science has discovered that will convince you that meditation is worth trying out.
1. Reduces Stress and Boosts Mood
One of the most well-studied outcomes of mindfulness meditation is its benefits for stress reduction and improving mental and emotional well-being. Studies have found that an eight-week meditation program called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) relieves anxiety and depression symptoms as well as antidepressants.
Even for people without clinical anxiety and depression symptoms, regular meditation has been shown to help people improve their mood and increase their stress-management skills.
2. Improves Concentration
In a world of so many distractions, many people find it difficult to concentrate, which can negatively impact their quality of life. By turning to meditation, you may be able to train your brain to increase your focus and attention span while learning to reduce the effect that distractions have on your concentration.
In fact, studies have found that participants who meditated regularly for only a few months were better at reducing distractions on concentration tests compared to non-meditators. Long-term meditators were found to be better at maintaining focus for longer periods compared to the control group. Overall, meditation works by rewiring the brain to enhance the mind’s ability to hold sustained attention longer.
3. Enhances Sleep Quality
Sleep disturbances affect millions and adult Americans every year. From difficulty falling asleep to trouble staying asleep to ongoing tossing and turning, sleep disturbances can wreak havoc on your mental and physical well-being.
A 2015 study by UCLA researchers found that adults with moderate sleep disturbances who underwent six weeks of meditation training reported fewer symptoms of insomnia and fatigue, as well as reduced depression.
Meditation techniques help put your mind and body into a state of relaxation, and the effects of meditating during the day carry over into bedtime. The more you’re able to control your own relaxation response, the better you’ll sleep at night.
4. Protects Physical Health
Mindfulness meditation isn’t just for reducing stress and making you feel better. It also has important protective effects on physical health. Various studies have found that meditation offers benefits for improving immune and cardiovascular system health, potentially reducing the risk of chronic illnesses.
Recent investigations have discovered that meditation may reduce blood pressure. Stress is one of the primary causes of high blood pressure. Since regular meditation reduces stress, it may have additional benefits for heart health. Additionally, meditation has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body, which is a common immune response to stress and other chronic conditions. Evidence also indicates that meditation may be a natural pain-reliever.
How to Meditate for Beginners
Meditation for beginners starts with getting clear on your personal reasons for practicing. Meditation can be challenging for most people, and having a clear reason why you want to practice it can sustain you on days when it feels like a struggle.
- Do you want to meditate as a way to manage stress and improve mental well-being?
- Are you curious about meditation for boosting concentration or creativity?
- Is meditation a possible way for you to cultivate self-reflection or a deeper sense of meaning?
Meditation is a highly personal journey, and all of these are valid reasons for you to begin practicing.
How to Start Meditating
While meditation appears to be most beneficial the longer you practice it, the recommended goal for beginner meditators is one 20-minute session per day, increasing to two 20-minute sessions daily for more advanced practitioners.
But for those who are just starting out, meditating for 20 minutes straight can be extremely challenging, and can discourage people easily. Instead, think of meditation as a skill that you build over time. Experts recommend starting with a simple one- to two-minute session for beginners.
Here’s a recommended schedule for how to start meditating:
- Week 1: Meditate for 1-2 minutes once or twice daily for one week.
- Week 2: Increase your meditation sessions to 4-5 minutes once or twice daily for one week.
- Week 3: Practice for 7-8 minutes per session once or twice daily for another week.
- Week 4: After achieving a 7- or 8-minute long session, increase your meditation session to 10 minutes, twice daily if possible.
After four weeks, you’ll have laid the groundwork for a solid meditation practice. Continue to add two-minute increments each week until you’ve achieved a 20-minute meditation session by week seven or eight.
In the beginning, it may be easier to practice in shorter but more frequent sessions until your skills have increased.
Meditation Techniques for Beginners
Meditation is an umbrella term referring to a type of mindfulness practice that involves concentrating on a single point of focus. Over the years, people have practiced many kinds of meditation, and each one is a slight variation of the other.
Researchers have found that different meditation techniques produce different results and that some people receive more benefits from one type over another.
Here are some common meditation techniques to try.
Mindfulness Meditation for Beginners
Mindfulness meditation is a type of meditation that cultivates present-moment awareness. When practicing mindfulness meditation, focus your attention on one point of concentration, such as the sensations in your body or even your own thoughts. Mindfulness meditation for beginners can also involve focusing on a particular sound, word or image to help keep your thoughts fixed on the present moment.
An important part of mindfulness meditation is to practice non-judgmentally, meaning that when your thoughts inevitably wander, you gently return your mind to the present moment without self-judgment.
By becoming aware of when your mind wanders, you increase your ability to recognize and manage stressful or anxious thoughts.
Chakra Meditation for Beginners
Chakra meditation refers to a tradition in yoga and other healing practices that address the energy centers of the body. According to this ancient tradition, the body contains seven energy centers, or chakras, running from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. These energy centers are said to become blocked or dulled due to stress or other afflictions, preventing the flow of energy through the body.
During a chakra meditation, you mentally focus your attention on each of the seven chakras throughout the body, helping to create greater mind-body awareness.
Chakra meditation can be good for beginners because it provides an easy way to bring more mindfulness to sensations throughout your body.
Transcendental Meditation® for Beginners
Transcendental Meditation® is a meditation program taught by certified trainers of the Maharishi Foundation. Students practice TM® twice daily for 20 minutes, during which they aim to transcend consciousness. Whereas the purpose of mindfulness meditation is to become aware of your own consciousness, the TM technique is meant to help the practitioner go beyond their own thinking.
The results of TM are said to happen spontaneously and without concentrated effort. By using Transcendental Meditation mantras, practitioners are given a mental tool to help achieve a state of tranquility more easily. There are various Transcendental Meditation mantras to choose from, but they all involve chanting a meaningless but soothing sound, the most common being “Omm.”
Transcendental Meditation may be a better technique for beginners who struggle with lots of distracting thoughts during mindfulness meditation.
Meditation Tips for Beginners
Whether you’re practicing mindfulness meditation, a gratitude meditation or you’re attending a meditation center for the first time, there are some basic tips for all beginners to make meditation an enjoyable and beneficial practice.
- Try guided meditations: Meditation is easier for beginners when you have a trained teacher guiding you through a session. Look for guided meditations on YouTube or a mindfulness app to teach you some of the basics.
- Create a meditation space: An essential part of meditating is getting yourself into the right environment. Your meditation space may include the perfect meditation cushion or chair, meditation candles or meditation music on YouTube or Spotify, all to help put you in a more relaxed state.
- Incorporate meditation into daily life: Meditation is accessible to you anytime, anywhere. Try a meditation session while sitting on your bed in the morning, or at your desk when you need a relaxation break. Daily life can be full of mindful moments—some people even practice shower meditations to help them relax and enjoy a cleansing ritual.
Relax The Back Guided Meditation for Beginners
If you're interested in trying guided relaxation, join Brandi Healy during our Facebook live event on Tuesday, May 4 at 11 am Pacific time. Like our Facebook page to receive a notification of this event.
If you'd like to know more about how to prepare for guided relaxation, visit our Relax The Back YouTube channel.
For those interested in developing their meditation practice, shop Relax The Back for wellness products to help you create your meditation space. From meditation chairs with back support to weighted blankets, Relax The Back has all the meditation essentials to help you achieve total bliss.