You don’t need to totally clear your mind, FYI.
In theory, meditation sounds easy—you sit in one place for a while, not doing anything (even thinking).
But when you realize you have no idea how TF to magically make your mind go black—cue anxiety, which is basically the opposite of how meditation’s supposed to make you feel.
Before you give up and turn on another episode of Riverdale, know that meditation for beginners does exist—you’re not expected to be a guru from the get-go. To ease into getting your “om” on, just remember:
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1. You don’t need to to meditate for hours.
You don’t even have to last 20 minutes, tbh. For many first-time meditators, doing nothing other than sitting quietly with your thoughts can feel (and sound) totally strange. So, go ahead and toss any “go big or go home” mentality.
Instead, aim for shorter chunks of time and build from there: Try three to five minutes if using a guided app, says Andy Puddicombe, meditation and mindfulness expert and co-founder of meditation app Headspace. Better yet, if you’re going at it solo, try just 60 seconds at a time.
2. Practice focusing on different areas of your body.
For those who get easily distracted and have a “restless” or anxious mind, doing a body scan—focusing on different sensations from head to toes—can help redirect your attention away from your thoughts. Counting breaths—like, breathing in for five seconds, holding for five seconds, then breathing out for five seconds, can also do the trick, says Puddicombe.
3. Do it while you’re drinking your morning coffee.
Puddicombe’s fave way to make meditation fit more naturally into your routine: couple it with something you already do daily, like drinking coffee. (You never forget to caffeinate, so you won’t forget to meditate when the two are linked.)
Practicing in the a.m. also guarantees you won’t “forget” to meditate later in the day. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to start your day off on the right (read: calmer, more centered) foot, says Puddicombe.
4. Find a spot and just sit there for a while.
You can practice on the floor, on a cushion, or, hey, cross-legged under a tree like a traditional monk—all that matters is that you’re in a position that is comfortable and will help you remain attentive (read: your bed might not be the most productive meditation space).
Once you find a location that works, make it your go-to zen zone, so that your body and mind start to associate it with meditation time. But this isn’t an excuse to avoid meditating on the days you can’t practice in your place. Remember, you can meditate anywhere from your bedroom to the bus, so it’s important to be flexible, too, says Puddicombe
5. Definitely don’t force it.
You know how when you’re really trying hard to fall asleep, it’s pretty much impossible to do so? Same goes for meditation. “When you try really hard to go to sleep, you only move further away from sleeping. So, if you try to make, say, relaxation happen when you meditate, you will get anxious and frustrated,” Puddicombe says.
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The more you practice, the less you’ll feel compelled to force yourself to chill—it will just happen.
6. Don’t expect to completely clear your mind.
Contrary to popular belief, meditation is not about clearing your mind or stopping your thoughts. Sure, your mind might be calmer at some sessions than others. But, let’s be real, there will be times when your mind just won’t stop buzzing.
When you notice your mind has wandered (ahem, when last night’s date pops into your head), don’t panic or beat yourself up. Instead, just shift your focus back to your current exercise, be it breathing or body scan, or just tune back into your guided meditation.
7. Don’t necessarily search for silent spaces.
Yes, being in a quieter space is typically easier for beginners, but some people actually prefer meditating in busier places (like maybe waiting in line at Starbucks)—so don’t be afraid to try different things out to see which one works for you.
I know what you’re thinking: But shouldn’t meditation be quiet? That’s a myth, says Puddicombe. “Never be put off from meditation with the amount of noise around you, even when you’re a beginner,” he says. That’s because—not to sound super-corny or anything—meditation is all about what’s going on inside of you, not your surroundings.