A Beginners Guide to Meditation

By Alexa Pellegrini

Meditation isn’t exclusive to the New Age. Whether you’re a reiki enthusiast or a true Type A, you can benefit from the healing powers of meditation: increased immunity, an improved parasympathetic nervous system response , and lower blood pressure, to name a few. With meditation, you can start reducing anxiety, tackling depression and incorporating mindfulness into your life from the comfort of your living room.

Why Meditation?

It's no surprise that our cutthroat society has contributed to alarming rates of heart disease, cancer and hypertension, illnesses that all stem from stress. In 2012, Carnegie Mellon University's Sheldon Cohen confirmed that a stressed immune system responds by creating inflammation , which increases the likelihood of serious disease. Unlike medication, meditation is a proven way to reverse and prevent the damaging effects of stress without side effects.

Consider meditation as the healthy ‘me’ time we all need after a difficult day. Instead of spacing out, overeating, smoking, drinking or indulging in another self-undoing habit, meditation can be the better outlet for your tension. Meditation is unique because it allows you to regain control over your emotional responses, your breathing and your body - it puts you in charge of your health. If you’re ready to empower yourself, read on to discover ways to meditate for beginners.

How to Meditate Effectively

How easy is it to meditate? It’s simple! Anyone can meditate regardless of their religious beliefs or level of experience. Meditation is a fantastic exercise for anyone on the go who needs a fast solution for stress. One of the best things about meditating is how accessible it is: you can meditate at the office, on the bus, even in line at the grocery store.

If you’re wondering how best to meditate, you may be surprised to know that there is no right or wrong method. Meditation can be as simple as focusing on your breathing or as complex as picturing yourself achieving one of your goals. Here are six tips to get started:

  1. Work your way up. When you first explore meditation, don’t put pressure on yourself. Start small by meditating for only five minutes per day for at least one week straight, ideally in a tranquil space. This will help you build a routine and work up to longer sessions.
  2. It’s all about your breathing. Whether you’re a beginner or have meditated for years, it all boils down to your breathing. The easiest way to enter meditation is by breathing in slowly through your nose and out through your mouth, counting each inhale and exhale until your mind slows down.
  3. Practice self-acceptance. There’s a key life lesson meditation teaches us: the more we avoid something, the more anxious we feel. Instead of entering meditation with the goal to purge yourself of ‘bad’ thoughts, allow your thoughts to flow through your mind without judgment. Your anxiety will fade away as you replace avoidance with acceptance.
  4. Honor your emotions. If a thought arises during meditation that makes you angry, depressed, guilty or ashamed, explore why you may be reacting this way. Then, imagine a favorite person or role model reassuring you that you’re worthy of both positive and negative thoughts and feelings. This visualization will make it easier to relax and forgive yourself.
  5. Smile! Meditation gives you the perfect opportunity to infuse positive self-talk and body language into your life. Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman of the University of Kansas found that even a forced smile has the remarkable ability to lower your recovery heart rate . Smiling and using loving self-talk as you meditate will further lift your mood and lower stress.
  6. Observe your body. Meditation is an excellent way to get back in touch with your body, especially if you overthink things or tend to live in your head. Pay close attention to the state of your body before, during and after meditation; note how your body feels and how your breathing changes in response to your thoughts. Focus your attention solely on an area of your body where you typically feel stress, such as your shoulders or lower back.

Besides relieving stress, meditation is invaluable for the way it allows us to get back in touch with ourselves. With time and patience, meditation will open doorways to self-awareness and an inner peace that you never thought possible.