Breathe deep and soothe your mind. A meditation teacher and counsellor shares how to get started – and a few simple exercises to try.
Meditation can be a soothing way to support your wellbeing, helping you to relax, reduce stress and improve your mental health.1
Not only that, it may also benefit your physical health – for example, by helping to improve sleep patterns and manage high blood pressure.1
Ready to give it a try? Megan Sanderson, a qualified counsellor and wellbeing consultant, shares some expert tips.
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What is meditation?
“Meditation is an experience in which you are completely absorbed by the present moment, whilst being in a calm and relaxed state,” Sanderson says.
“I also like to describe it as a form of training for the mind, helping you to focus on one thing at a time without becoming distracted.”
There are lots of different ways to meditate, but many involve sitting comfortably in a quiet place, closing your eyes, and focusing your attention on one thing – such as your breathing or the sounds around you.1
Benefits of meditation
So why meditate? The are some good reasons why it’s so popular all around the world.
A few things meditation may help with include:1
- Managing stress
- Managing symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Getting a better night’s sleep
- Improving your focus on the present moment
- Managing pain
- Managing high blood pressure
- Increasing your self-awareness
7 tips for learning to meditate
If the idea of sitting still and focusing your mind feels challenging at first, that’s completely normal, Sanderson says.
“It's important for beginners to understand that meditation is a skill that takes time to develop,” she says.
“The more you practise it, the easier it becomes.”
Here are a few tips she suggests for getting started with your meditation practice:
- Set aside the time. “10 minutes is a great starting point for your meditation practice,” she says. “I would recommend either first thing in the morning or at some point during the evening.”
- Create a calming space. “Consider lighting, temperature, sound and cushions. You want it to be your own sacred space where you feel safe with little to no distractions.”
- Try different types of meditation. “It may be trial and error until you find one that resonates well with you and your current needs.”
- Set intentions. “Ask yourself – why are you meditating, and what are you hoping to get out of it? This will help keep you motivated and dedicated to the practice.”
- Take the pressure off doing it ‘perfectly’. “A wandering mind is normal during meditation – having awareness of the wandering mind is the art of it.”
- Be patient. “It takes time to still the mind. It’s like training any other muscle in the body – with persistence you will start to feel and notice the benefits.”
- Seek guidance if needed. “Join a meditation class or sign up to an online meditation program and let professionals guide you through it.”
Body scan meditation
One simple technique Sanderson suggests for beginners is a guided body scan.
“This can give you a feel for where you hold tension and stress in your body, and allow you to focus on relaxing those areas,” she says.
She shares a few steps to get started:
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and take a few slow, deep breaths.
- Pay close attention to the physical sensations throughout your body.
- Slowly move your attention through each part of your body, starting with your feet and moving up through your legs, abdomen, chest, back, shoulders, arms, hands, neck and face.
- Spend around 15 seconds on each body part, using your exhale to help relax and soften each area.
Another meditation exercise Sanderson suggests involves simply focusing on your breath.
- Sit or lie in a comfortable place and bring your attention to your breath.
- Notice the physical sensation of air filling your lungs, and then slowly emptying your lungs. Feel your ribcage expand outwards, and then move inward.
- Focus on tracing the breath as it enters your body, moves through your body, and then back out.
- When your mind wanders, simply notice it. Then try to gently bring your attention back to your breath and the movement of it through your body.
You can use these simple meditation techniques whenever you want to feel more relaxed or refreshed. With practice, they can become a beneficial part of your self-care routine.
For more guidance, you might like to look for a meditation teacher or group near you or online, or try apps like Smiling Mind or the free Insight Timer.
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This article contains general information only and does not take into account the health, personal situation or needs of any person. In conjunction with your GP or treating health care professional, please consider whether the information is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.