At this point you've heard of all the amazing benefits of meditation ad nauseam. I know I don't need to sell you on it! You may be a young adult in Los Angeles dealing with anxiety, depression, a major life transition, or just the stress of being an urban millennial. Whatever the case may be, you're looking for tools to help you manage stress, overwhelm and turbulent emotions that often come your way. You might've tried meditation and thought "this is too hard," "I don't know what I'm doing" or "this is time-consuming, and I'm way too busy for this." If this sounds like you. this article is for you! Below are my best pointers for people who know that meditation is a good idea, but haven't quite figured out how to adopt it as a consistent habit in their self-care routine. Scroll down for my 8 pointers:
1 | What's the best way to get started?
Start slow and start easy. If you begin with a lofty goal like meditating for an hour everyday, then you'll likely feel discouraged as soon as you have a setback and you may give up the idea of developing a meditation practice before you even get started. Instead, commit to trying a 5-minute guided meditation today the next time you have a short break.
Guided meditations are easy to find online and they demystify the whole process — all you have to do is find a quiet spot where you won't be disturbed and follow along with the recording. Work your way up over time by increasing the length of meditation, as you feel capable of doing so.
2 | I'm so busy. How can I incorporate meditation into my day?
The easiest time for many people to start meditating is before bed, because this is a time when people are already naturally winding down and have decided they are done with their work and tasks for the day. Find a comfortable seated position (if you lie down you might fall asleep!) and play your guided meditation aloud or through headphones. Over time, you may not need guided meditation once you find a meditative technique you can use on your own (such as focusing on your breath, etc.)
What I've been doing as of late is waking up 15 minutes earlier in the morning than I need to and doing a 15 minute meditation at my office before seeing clients. I find that it puts me in the right mindset to start my day. What this also does is it gives me an extra buffer for if there is an unexpected setback in the morning routine (L.A. traffic, for instance!) reducing my stress in general. If I miss my 15 minutes in the morning, I can do a 5- and a 10-minute meditation in between clients.
3 | What type of meditation should I be doing?
The type of meditation you chose to do is much less important than the commitment to finding peace, silence and stillness for yourself on a consistent basis. You're better off spending 20 minutes meditating with any old technique than spending 20 minutes researching the "best meditation style." In the end, we're all different and have varying preferences and sensory systems, so what works well for one person to deepen their experience of the moment will be different from the next person.
I tend to recommend mindfulness meditation because it's the style I know best and has helped me in many ways. I also find it easy to learn as the premise is about simply bringing a non-judgmental awareness to the present moment, and observing thoughts, feelings and sensations as they come and go.
4 | How often/long should I be meditating?
There is no specific prescription for how long or how often you meditate, but the benefits are cumulative, meaning the more consistent you are with your practice the more benefit you will receive. There's a wonderful book called One Moment Meditation that resonated with me when I read it because he explains that quality goes further than quantity in meditation — you're better off spending 5 minutes in blissful silence than 30 minutes of quasi-focus. A good rule of thumb to follow is the more hectic your life is, the more self-care you should be engaging in to balance out the detrimental effects of stress.
5 | I've tried, but I feel like I just can't meditate. What should I do?
Guess what? That's almost everyone's experience when they first start! And, also, guess what? There's no such thing as "not being able to meditate." Everyone can choose to bring their awareness to the present moment. The challenging part is continuing to draw your awareness back into the moment each time it drifts away. But just because your mind is wandering doesn't mean you're "doing it wrong" or you "can't meditate" or that you're "bad at meditating." It simply means you're just starting with your practice.
Think of meditation not as the focus itself, but as the process of re-focusing. It doesn't matter if you need to re-focus 1,000 times...that's meditating. It's also called a practice for a reason...you're always practicing, even if you've been meditating for decades.
6 | What if I can't sit still?
This is common! Some people have a very difficult time sitting still for a prolonged period of time. If you think that the idea of sitting in stillness will deter to from even trying meditation I recommend you engage in some form of mindful movement, such as yoga, tai chi, mindful walking or transformational movement to get you started in your practice. What I find is that getting the body moving can quell some of the restlessness that one experiences in early phases of a meditation practice while still gaining many of the benefits of bringing one's awareness to the present moment.
7 | Is there an app I can use to make this easier?
The best meditation app is the one you most connect to and will use most often — try a few out and see what works for you. Meditation should feel like a bit of a challenge but shouldn't be painfully difficult either. If you find an app that makes it simple for you to take a few minutes out of your day for yourself, you've hit the jackpot.
I personally love the Insight Timer, which can be used in a number of ways. There are thousands of guided meditations to choose from (for those who need some guidance) and there's also a simple meditation timer that one can set for however long or short as they choose (yes, there is such thing as a one-minute meditation!) that chimes when their meditation is complete. They've recently added more features such as tracking the amount of time spent in meditation and the number of consecutive days, which can help motivate you to be more consistent with your practice.
8 | How do I make meditation a habit, instead of a one-time thing?
I've recently started a 21-day meditation challenge with a couple of friends/colleagues of mine who are also interested in developing a more consistent meditation practice. I have also taken group meditation classes and workshops at a nearby studio to deepen my practice. I find that when I get involved with a like-minded community, I'm more committed to the process than if I try to go at it alone. There's also the added accountability which I find helpful, especially when starting a new habit.
Now it's your turn!
- What's your current status when it comes to meditation? Are you a beginner, intermediate or advanced practitioner?
- Do you find it challenging to commit to a consistent meditation practice?
- What are the tools you're using that work best for you?
- What resources and tools mentioned above are you most excited about trying?
Please share in the comment section below. I'd love to hear from you. Thanks for reading and be well.
about the author
Hi! I'm Natalie. And my passion is helping people live more peaceful, meaningful lives. Through holistic therapy in Pasadena and here on the blog, my mission is to provide people with the support and tools they need to live their best life.