Meditation Routine: A Simple Guide

how to get into a meditation routine

Meditation is a practice that can help us feel more relaxed and aware of our thoughts and surroundings. It is not about achieving anything other than slowing down, checking in with ourselves, and noticing how our mind is working.

There are many types of meditation, but the most common approach is concentration meditation, which involves focusing on a single point, such as the breath. Other types include mindfulness meditation, moving meditation, and compassion-focused meditation.

The benefits of meditation are far-reaching and long-lasting. It can help us to lower our stress levels, understand our pain, connect better with others, improve our focus, and be kinder to ourselves. Research has shown that meditation can have a positive impact on both our mental and physical health, improving sleep, reducing blood pressure, and improving blood circulation and respiratory rate.

Starting a meditation practice can feel daunting, but it is important to remember that there is no one right way to meditate. The most important thing is to be consistent and make it a habit. Start with just a few minutes each day and gradually increase the time. Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down, and try to focus on your breath. When your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back.

Meditation is a simple practice, but it is not always easy. It takes patience and commitment to see the benefits, but it is worth the effort to bring more calm and clarity into our lives.

Characteristics Values
Time Start with 5-10 minutes a day and gradually increase the time over several weeks.
Place A comfortable spot, preferably upright with good posture.
Posture Sit on the floor, upright in a chair, or lie down.
Time of Day Any time of day that works for you.
Frequency A few times a week or daily.
Technique Focus on your breath, and when your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your breath.

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Finding a comfortable position

You can also try lying down, although some people advise against this as it may make you fall asleep. If you are sitting, your back should be straight, your neck and shoulders relaxed, and your chin slightly tucked. Your arms and legs can be crossed or uncrossed, whatever feels natural. If you are wearing restrictive clothing, loosen it. Remove accessories that you may fidget with and take off your shoes.

The important thing is to be in a distraction-free place where your mind and body feel at ease.

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Focusing on your breath

The breath is a powerful tool to help us relieve stress, ground ourselves in the present moment, and re-establish inner calm. The most basic way to do mindful breathing is to focus your attention on your breath, its natural rhythm and flow, and the way it feels on each inhale and exhale.

  • You can do this while standing, but ideally, you’ll be sitting or even lying in a comfortable position. Your eyes may be open or closed, or you can maintain a soft gaze, with your eyes partially closed but not focusing on anything in particular.
  • It can help to set aside a designated time for this exercise, but it can also help to practice it when you’re feeling particularly stressed or anxious.
  • Sometimes, especially when trying to calm yourself in a stressful moment, it might help to start by taking an exaggerated breath: a deep inhale through your nostrils (3 seconds), hold your breath (2 seconds), and a long exhale through your mouth (4 seconds).
  • Otherwise, observe each breath without trying to adjust it; it may help to focus on the rise and fall of your chest or the sensation through your nostrils.
  • As you do so, you may find that your mind wanders, distracted by thoughts or bodily sensations. That’s OK. You can notice that this is happening and try to gently bring your attention back to your breath.
  • To provide even more structure, and help you lead this practice for others, below are steps for a short guided meditation:
  • Please find a relaxed, comfortable position. You could be seated on a chair or on the floor on a cushion. Try to keep your back upright, but not too tight. Hands resting wherever they’re comfortable. Tongue on the roof of your mouth or wherever it’s comfortable.
  • Notice and invite your body to relax. Let yourself relax and become curious about your body seated here—the sensations it experiences, the touch, the connection with the floor or the chair. Do your best to relax any areas of tightness or tension. Breathe.
  • Tune into the rhythm of your breath. You can feel the natural flow of breath—in, out. You don’t need to do anything to your breath. Not long, not short, but natural. Notice where you feel your breath in your body. It might be in your abdomen. It may be in your chest or throat or in your nostrils. See if you can feel the sensations of breath, one breath at a time. When one breath ends, the next breath begins. If you are not able to notice the breath in all areas of the body, that is OK. We are more connected to certain areas of the body than others, at different times of the day.
  • Now as you do this, you might notice that your mind may start to wander. You may start thinking about other things. If this happens, it is not a problem. It's very natural. Try to notice that your mind has wandered. You can say “thinking” or “wandering” in your head softly. And then gently redirect your attention right back to the breathing.
  • Stay here for five to seven minutes. Notice your breath, in silence. From time to time, you’ll get lost in thought, then return to your breath.
  • After a few minutes, once again notice your body, your whole body, seated here. Let yourself relax even more deeply and then, if it is available, please offer yourself some appreciation for doing this practice today.

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Noticing your thoughts

When you notice your thoughts, you can begin to recognise thought patterns and the human tendency to quickly judge an experience as good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant. Over time, you can become more aware of your thoughts and feelings and develop an inner balance.

  • Recognise that your mind will wander. It is natural for your attention to leave the breath and wander to other places. Simply return your attention to your breath when you notice.
  • Be kind to your wandering mind. Don't judge yourself or obsess over the content of your thoughts. Just bring your attention back to your breath.
  • Notice the physical sensations in your body. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage, and belly as they move with each inhalation and exhalation.
  • Try a body scan meditation. Mentally scan each part of your body, noticing sensations and how each part feels.
  • Practice observing your thoughts without getting sucked into them. Let thoughts come and go, like clouds in the sky or bubbles in a stream.
  • Be aware of the steady stream of commentary and advice you give yourself. Recognise it and turn down the volume, like you would on a television set.
  • Notice the spaces between thoughts. Rest in the awareness of thinking itself and the moments when you are not thinking.
  • Don't try to catch every single thought. Simply notice when you are caught up in something so completely that you have lost awareness of your breath.
  • Create some space. When you realise you've been distracted, use this moment of awareness to gain clarity and learn more about your habits and tendencies.

Remember, meditation is a practice, and it takes time to develop the skill of noticing your thoughts. Be patient with yourself and keep practicing!

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Being patient with yourself

Meditation is a practice that trains the mind, similar to how fitness trains the body. It's a skill that takes time to develop, so be patient with yourself.

Start Small

Beginning a meditation practice can be as simple as taking a few minutes out of your day to sit, breathe, and try to remain focused on your breath. Even a short meditation of five minutes or less can be beneficial for beginners. You can slowly increase the time as you build a consistent practice.

Be Consistent

Consistency is key. Ideally, you should meditate a few times a week or daily. However, it's okay if you miss a day or more. Just pick up where you left off. You can also try to schedule meditation sessions like an exercise class or appointment, or tack it onto an existing routine, such as brushing your teeth.

Be Prepared for Noisy Distractions

You don't need perfect quiet to meditate. In fact, total silence might be too overwhelming for beginners. It's normal for your mind to wander, and you can always gently bring your focus back to your breath.

Be Kind to Your Wandering Mind

Don't judge yourself or obsess over the content of your thoughts. Meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg recounts that her first experience with meditation showed her how quickly the mind can wander. Simply acknowledge and accept that your mind will wander, and gently bring your attention back to your breath when you notice.

Be Patient with Your Progress

Meditation is a journey that looks different for everyone. You might find that you're experiencing more impatience or negative emotions as you begin to meditate regularly. This is normal, as you are gaining more clarity and are able to identify these feelings. Remember that patience is an inherent part of a calm and clear mind, and it will develop as you continue to let go of the noise and resistance in your mind.

Meditative Motion: Moving Mindfully

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Making it a habit

Meditation is a practice that requires consistency and patience. It is important to remember that it is a process and that the benefits of meditation will emerge over time. Here are some tips to help make meditation a habit:

Start small and slow

Begin with short meditation sessions of 5 to 10 minutes each day. Gradually increase the duration over several weeks. Starting small will help you build a consistent practice without feeling overwhelmed.

Find a comfortable spot

Create a special place in your home for your meditation practice. Find a quiet and distraction-free place where your mind and body feel at ease. It can be as simple as sitting on a chair, on your bed, or on the floor with a pillow or yoga mat. The key is to be comfortable and upright, maintaining good posture.

Make it a daily routine

Try to meditate at the same time every day and turn it into a daily ritual. You can meditate in the morning to set a calm tone for the day, or in the evening to release tension before bed. Consistency is key, and by making it a daily habit, meditation will become an integral part of your routine, just like brushing your teeth!

Be kind to yourself

Remember that meditation is a practice of non-judgmental awareness. Be patient and compassionate with yourself, especially when your mind wanders. It is natural for your mind to wander, and each meditation session will be different. Gently guide your attention back to your breath when you notice your mind drifting.

Use guided meditations and apps

Consider using guided meditations and meditation apps to support your practice. Apps like Headspace, UCLA Mindful, and Simple Habit offer a variety of guided meditations for beginners and can help you stay motivated with push notifications.

Combine with existing routines

Another way to make meditation a habit is to combine it with your existing daily routines. For example, you can meditate after your morning shower or before brushing your teeth at night.

By following these tips and making meditation a habit, you will be able to experience the benefits of reduced stress, improved focus, better sleep, and an overall sense of calm and well-being.

Frequently asked questions

Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit, either on the floor or in a chair, and focus on your breath. If your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath.

If you're new to meditation, start with just 5 minutes a day and gradually increase the time.

Find a comfortable spot to sit, either on the floor or in a chair. You can meditate anywhere, but having a special place in your home can be beneficial.

There is no best time – it's whenever works for you. However, meditating at the start of the day or in the evening before bed can be beneficial.

Concentration meditation involves focusing on a single point, such as your breath, and is a good technique for beginners.

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