This story was originally written for Fitness First
Technically, meditation is simple. But for some people, it can be one of the hardest things they’ll ever do. On one hand, all you need to do is sit in a chair, close your eyes and clear your mind.
But have you ever actually tried to do that?
Within two seconds your head might get pummelled by thoughts: emails you haven’t responded to, groceries you have to buy, that fight you had with your best mate in 1998…
But meditation isn’t about emptying your head of thoughts. To begin with it’s an exercise in being more aware of your thoughts and learning to disengage with the mostly unhelpful chatter that goes on.
Eventually, you learn to stop paying attention to that chatter. Sure, it might still be there, but after a while you don’t get carried away with your thoughts. They just sort of float by.
What’s left is stillness – a bit of peace and quiet. And who doesn’t need that these days?
But it’s called meditation practice for a reason: you need to be consistent. So here are five steps to get you going.
Set time and prioritise it
You need to schedule a regular time to meditate. By having the same time locked in every day, it becomes a part of your life more easily. Mornings are usually best. Your day hasn’t got on top of you and your mind is more settled.
Ten minutes is a good place to start, but if you feel overwhelmed by that, just do five until to feel ready to do longer.
You don’t have to sit on a cushion with your legs crossed. Sitting on the couch or a chair is totally cool. Just as long as your back is straight and you’re comfy, you’re good to go.
Once settled, focus on the sensation of your body in contact with the seat. Feel your feet on the floor. Become a little heavier by relaxing into the position more. If you’re holding tension anywhere, use your exhale to let it go.
Find your breath
Now sit your attention at your nostrils. Breathe normally – don’t change anything. As you inhale, pay close attention to how the air feels as it enters your nostrils. Keep following that sensation as your breath moves down the back of your throat, you chest and into your stomach.
When you naturally exhale, again follow your breath. Feel how your stomach gently contracts, then keep following that exhale until it leaves your nostrils.
Don’t overthink your breathing. Just notice how it feels with each inhale and exhale.
Just be cool
If your mind is busy, you might find it hard to stay focused on your breath. There’s no point getting frustrated by that. Just keep bringing your focus back to the tip of your nose each time you’ve noticed your mind has wandered off with the thought fairies. Even if you have to do it 30 times, that’s completely fine. Eventually it’ll happen less.
If you’re struggling, count each exhale to 10. You’ll notice when your mind has wandered because you’ll get to 15 or forget what number you’re at. Just start again if that happens.
The key is to not put pressure on yourself. Just accept that every time will be different and whether you can stay focused or not, it’s perfectly okay.
Handy meditation apps
If you’d like to try guided meditations, my top three are: Headspace, 1GiantMind and Insight Timer.
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