Once considered the domain of monks and gurus, meditation has exploded in popularity in the Western world. Over the past decade or so, it has popped up everywhere from schools and hospitals to schools and workplaces. It’s been the topic of bestselling books and popular magazine articles, and is equally endorsed your family doctor and Oprah. Given the many benefits of meditation, it’s no surprise it’s gotten so popular. Meditation has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, enhance focus and concentration, alleviate symptoms of depression, improve sleep quality – and much more.
But if you’ve never practiced meditation before, it’s easy to feel like you don’t know how to start. What really is meditating, anyway, and how do you do it? What if you can’t sit with your legs crossed, or you don’t have a meditation room in your house, or you’re not a Buddhist?
The good news is that none of those things matter. Literally anyone can meditate, and anywhere (really!). You don’t need any equipment or special clothes, and you can do it in any position – sitting however you want, or even standing or lying down.
Truly, getting started with meditation will be much simpler than you think. Just find a private space, come into a comfortable position, and close your eyes. Remain still and quiet, notice your breathing, and make an effort to allow thoughts to come and go. It might feel like you’re not doing anything, but you’re meditating! Start with just a few minutes; you can even set a timer so you won’t have to worry about keeping track of time.
This very basic approach to meditation is just one of many different styles. Instead of essentially doing nothing, some people like to repeat a mantra to themselves or do a visualization.
If you’ve never meditated before, it can be helpful to start by practicing along with guided meditations, especially if you want to try a specific style. Dozens of different apps offer recorded meditations (Headspace and Insight Timer are two of the most popular), and a quick YouTube search will turn up both videos and audio recordings you can stream.
Depending on where you live, there might also be meditation classes available. They’re commonly offered at gyms, yoga studios, spas, community centers, churches, and libraries, so look around at places in your local community.
If it doesn’t feel like meditation is making a difference for you, give it some time. Like most things, the benefits come with consistent practice. Even five minutes a day is (much!) better than none at all. For many people, practicing first thing is the morning is the easiest way to make sure it gets done.
And if you find yourself hating one approach, try something else. Maybe you don’t like meditating in silence, but will love recorded meditations. Maybe you hate mantras but will love visualizations. Maybe you’ll prefer to meditate in a group setting instead of at home. With so many different options available, there’s a style that’s right for everyone. It might take a little bit of searching to find what resonates most with you, but the benefits will be worth it.