Health & Wellness
How to Start a Mindful Meditation Practice
We’re all looking for new ways to feel healthy and better manage stress. Enter mindful meditation. “There are so many benefits to meditation. Things like better cognitive function, lower heart and respiratory rate, lower blood pressure, less response to stress, less reactivity to negative situations, better sleep, enhanced work performance, and lowering the perception of pain in people dealing with chronic illness,” says Dr. Kathy Gruver, PhD, LMT, natural health practitioner and author of Conquer your Stress.
A 2019 study published in the American Journal of Nursing Research also supports the claim that mindfulness training reduces stress, anxiety, and depression levels in patients with depression.
Even those who aren’t experiencing mental health issues can gain psychological benefits from incorporating the practice into their routine.
Ready to get started? Follow these expert tips to help make meditation part of your daily routine.
Start with mindfulness
“Mindfulness is simply going about an activity with curiosity and focus, using all of your senses and remaining in the present moment,” says Dr. Gruver. With that in mind, you can apply mindfulness to any activity, even something as simple as folding laundry. For example, feel the warmth of the clothing fresh out of the dryer. Smell the scented fabric softener.
Using your senses to engage in any activity trains you to respond to situations thoughtfully, says Dr. Gruver.
Try mini meditations
The mini meditation is so simple to learn, and you can do it anytime, anywhere. Dr. Gruver instructs people to concentrate on their breath, and the rise and fall of their chest. On the inhale think, “I am.” And on the exhale think, “at peace.” Repeat with every inhale and exhale. If you get distracted by other thoughts, simply dismiss them and return to your breath.
“Even if you start with five minutes and increase it as you get the hang of it, you will see the benefits,” says Dr. Gruver.
Use technology for guidance
There is a wealth of resources available right on your phone. Some apps include guided meditations, sleep stories, and even mini sessions for specific moments.
Not your speed? Try one of the biggest trends in mindfulness—ASMR, which stands for autonomous sensory meridian response. In short, it stimulates relaxation and induces sleep using a series of repetitive sounds. Learn more about it in this article from the Washington Post.
Choose a time of day that works for you
Whether you squeeze in your mindful meditation after your morning coffee or set aside time before bed is up to you.
“The morning is great for setting intentions and incorporating attributes that we’re looking to set into our lives, while the night is great for relaxation and unwinding from stress,” says Alanna Zabel, registered yoga instructor specializing in mind/body patterning.
If you often find yourself nodding off during your favorite prime time show, the morning may be your best bet. Others may barely get through a morning cup of coffee with their eyes open. It’ll take some getting used to, but remember, it doesn’t have to be longer than five minutes.
Stick with it
Your practice won’t always come easily, and even long-time meditation experts have days when their minds wander. Patience is key, and so is embracing the process.
“You wouldn’t stand up a newborn baby and then [scold him or her] because [they] can’t walk yet. You have to be as loving to yourself as you would be to a child or an animal who is trying to learn something new,” says Dr. Gruver.
The most important thing is to figure out how to make mindful meditation feel right for you. If finding a quiet spot in the backyard mid-afternoon to take a five-minute break and refocus feels right, go for it. Or if you need to decompress after a long day at your desk, take a few moments for yourself in a different room. Notice how you feel after each meditation and make small adjustments. Eventually, you should start to find that you’re better able to handle the stress of daily life, as you develop the ability to pause and respond, rather than react.