Some people are masters at clearing their minds for meditation, and others (like me) struggle to make meditating a regular part of life. Meditation is a skill, and it’s completely normal to feel frustrated, bored, or even disappointed when you first start out.
Like any other skill, getting good takes practice. Studies show that benefits can include reduced stress, better control over anxiety, and enhanced self-awareness. But if you want to reap those rewards, meditating needs to be part of your regular routine.
These meditation tips will help any beginner get started in the right direction.
1. Meditate first thing in the morning
It’s easy to say you’re going to meditate every day, but let’s be realistic. Even if you’re not particularly busy that day, it’s so easy to keep putting off this simple practice. And when it’s new, sometimes you simply forget. You have a better chance of meditating every day if you do it in the morning.
If you have kids to take care of or a job to get to, you only need to wake up a few minutes earlier than usual. Those first few minutes in the morning might be the only minutes you get all to yourself, so take advantage of them!
2. Keep track of your practice
I’m the type of person who loves planners and checklists. If something is on my calendar or on a to-do list, my brain is automatically geared toward getting that thing done. That’s why I keep track of my meditation every day.
After my practice, I write it down on my calendar. My goal is to see a continuous streak, and this helps me see how well I’m doing (or how much I’m slacking).
3. Set a timer
When you first start meditating, minutes can feel like hours. I was getting distracted because I kept looking at the clock and thinking about how much time had passed.
To avoid this, try setting a timer. With this meditation tip, you don’t have to think about the time.
4. Put your phone in another room
When setting a timer, it’s best if you don’t use your phone. Cell phones are incredibly distracting. Even if the screen is black, you could still be thinking about how easy it would be to just pick it up and start scrolling.
You can use the timer on your oven or microwave instead. And if you have to use your phone, at least put it on the opposite side of the room.
5. Start with only two minutes a day
I know there are people who can literally meditate for hours. But if you’re a beginner, that’s not you. Don’t think you need to start off by meditating for long periods of time.
One of the best meditation tips I have to offer is to start small. You can do just about anything for two minutes, so start there. After a week of two-minute sessions, double it to four minutes. Keep slowly adding time until you get to your goal.
6. Don’t feel like you have to sit cross legged
When you picture someone meditating, you most likely see them sitting cross legged on the floor. But the truth is, few people actually find that position comfortable.
There’s no rule that says you have to sit with your legs crossed during meditation. One of the most useful meditation tips I’ve heard is to sit however you feel comfortable. You can sit on a comfy chair, your couch, or even your bed. If you’re sitting up, it’s best to try to keep your spine straight. But you can also lie down in your bed if that feels better to you!
7. It doesn’t matter if your eyes are open or closed
Keeping your eyes open during meditation can leave you vulnerable to distractions, but closing your eyes can also be a mental distraction if it feels awkward. The key here is to do whatever feels natural.
If you need to close your eyes, then do it. But if you feel like you need to force your eyes shut, go ahead and leave them open. And, you can try letting your eyes rest in a soft gaze. Your eyes won’t affect your practice—unless you let them.
8. Don’t worry when your mind wanders
The whole point of meditation is to practice mindfulness and quiet your mind to create a more relaxed state. So when your mind starts to wander, it can be extremely frustrating. Go easy on yourself.
Dr. Jennice Vilhauer writes in Psychology Today that it’s completely normal for minds to wander during meditation. When it happens, she recommends acknowledging that your mind has wandered and then consciously reigning it back in.
One great way to do this is to focus on your breath. Notice yourself breathing in and out, and focus on which part of the breath you notice the most. Is it the air going in and out of your nostrils? Or is it the rise and fall of your belly and chest? Whichever aspect is clearer to you, focus on that.
Any time you find your focus going to a distracting thought, return to the breath and notice how your body feels as you breathe in and out. Remember, even experienced meditators aren’t always clear-headed, and a wandering mind is no reason to give up on meditation. Returning to your breath is one of the best meditation tips to help you redirect your mind.
9. Try out different kinds of meditation
There is more than one way to practice meditation. If whatever you’re doing right now isn’t clicking, then move on and try something different.
Different types of meditation include evaluative, facilitative, med-arb, and transformative.
10. Try guided meditation
If you’re struggling to start regular meditation on your own, you might want to try out guided meditation. In this practice, you follow a teacher who leads you through the basic steps.
It doesn’t matter if you sit with this teacher in person or if the session is through audio or video only. It’s not hard to find in-person meditation classes, but many people also find success with guided meditation apps. Headspace has a popular app, and there are also apps like Calm, Insight Timer, Let’s Meditate, and Sattva.
11. Stretch first
Stretching out your muscles will help prepare you for sitting still. Stretch your legs, arms, and back before you settle into your chosen meditation position.
Some people also choose to do yoga before meditating. These two practices go hand in hand, and yoga can help prepare your mind to rest. (Check out our yoga tips for beginners if you are new to the practice.)
12 Let go of expectations
Forget about what you think meditation should be like. You might forget all of these meditation tips, but remember this one: Your practice is exactly that—YOUR practice.
Let yourself experience your practice without trying to force it. Recognize the thoughts and emotions you have at the time, and accept them for what they are. It’s best to go into each session with a clear mind and zero expectations.
13. Don’t judge a session as “good” or “bad”
Along with letting go of expectations before you start, you also need to let go of the judgement after you finish. Meditation isn’t something that’s meant to be graded. There are no “good” or “bad” sessions.
The fact that you sat down and did your best is all that really matters. If you notice yourself putting judgement on your practice, recognize what you’re doing and move on.
14. Meditate with friends—or meet new friends through meditation
Meditation doesn’t have to be a solo activity. If you’re a social person, try recruiting friends to join you in your journey. If your friends aren’t interested, join a class or group with like-minded people.
Many yoga studios offer meditation classes, and you could even join a Facebook group where people ask questions and discuss the basics of meditation. Feeling connected to others might help you stay on track.
15. Get the kids involved
Parents often have a hard time making meditation a regular part of their lives. Life with kids can be chaotic and busy. But there’s no age requirement for meditation. Teaching kids to meditate can help them grow emotionally and learn to recognize and balance their own emotions. Here’s a helpful article on how to get your kids started with meditation.
Want more ideas for easy ways to improve your well-being? Check out our article on how physical activity improves your quality of life.