Many studies have shown that meditation has mental and physical health benefits, something that spiritual gurus have known for thousands of years. But meditating can be difficult to do. Here’s how to meditate if you find it hard to sit still and concentrate.
Many people think that in order to meditate properly, you have to clear your mind of thoughts. They try to do this and find it difficult, so they give up on the practice. But meditation isn’t about having no thoughts. It’s simply about becoming more aware of the thoughts that come into your mind. Luckily, learning how to meditate effectively is quite simple.
There are several ways you can learn how to meditate more effectively even when you find it hard to sit still and concentrate.
Make it a habit
If you are not a regular meditator, it can be hard to make yourself sit down for a few minutes every day to quiet your mind. The act of sitting down to meditate can require a huge amount of willpower.
However, if you make meditating a habit, it will become easier. A study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology by Phillippa Lally and colleagues from University College London suggests that an average of 66 days is required to create a habit.
Have a regular space
Having a regular space to do your meditation can help in many ways. Firstly, having a set-aside area can reinforce your habit because every time you see your space you will be reminded to meditate. In addition, a quiet, pleasant space will make the idea of meditation seem more attractive. It’s also important that you have a place where you will not be disturbed as interruptions can seriously interfere with your meditation.
You do not need a special meditation room or fancy equipment, though. A simple upright chair or cushion on the floor is all you really need to start a meditation practice.
However, having other attractive things nearby that help calm your mind can be helpful. I like to sit in front of a candle to meditate and find it helpful to have a relaxing essential oil, such as lavender, perfuming the air. Having plants or other natural items nearby can also help us switch into a calmer state of mind.
Remember to breathe
Many meditation practices start with the breath. The breath is very useful as a starting point for meditation for several reasons. Firstly, it is something you always have available to you. You can take a few deep breathes wherever you are and whatever else is happening in your day.
Secondly, deep breathing triggers the parasympathetic nervous system. This system, sometimes called the rest and digest system is a complementary system to the fight or flight response. When it is triggered, heart rate slows and the body and mind become more relaxed and calm.
So, to begin your meditation practice, you might want to take a few deep breaths into the diaphragm. You should feel your belly rise and fall with every breath. As well as using this technique prior to meditation, it can be a useful quick practice to calm you down whenever you feel stressed or anxious.
Often, the types of people who struggle with meditation are those that take an all or nothing approach to activities. We often want to do things perfectly right from the get-go. However, this is not a useful approach to take with meditation. Meditation is a simple skill, but one that requires time and practice in order to see results. For this reason, it is best to start with just five to ten minutes of meditation at first.
Simply sit upright in a chair or on the floor and take a few deep breaths. Then, focus on the breath coming in and then leaving your body. Alternatively, focus on an object, such as a candle. When you notice a thought coming into your head, try not to focus on it but just let it go. If you find that you have got caught up in your thoughts, don’t worry. When you notice, simply return your focus to the breath or the candle flame.
Doing this simple practice for a few minutes every day can easily be done and will allow you to form a habit that can be built on. As you improve, you can increase this time to 20 minutes at which point you will start to feel a real change in your mind and body.
Don’t close your eyes
Many people meditate successfully with their eyes closed. However, for the beginner, this can often lead to mind wandering and daydreaming. Some people find it easier to meditate if they keep their eyes slightly open and focus on something, such as a lighted candle instead.
Use a mantra
Another way to keep more focused and concentrate on your meditation is to use a mantra.
A mantra is a word, phrase or sound that you repeat to yourself while meditating. You could use the phrase ‘om shanti, shanti, shanti’ which represents all-encompassing peace.
Alternatively, you can just meditate on the word ‘love’ or ‘peace’. You can also use an affirmation such as ‘I accept myself completely’.
Try a guided meditation
Guided meditations are a great way to learn how to meditate and can be very useful for beginners who find it hard to focus. There are many guided meditations available online. Alternatively, you could use a meditation app such as Headspace or Calm.
Join a class
If you really struggle with sticking to a regular meditation routine, it could be helpful to find a class. Having a teacher will help you to learn effective meditation techniques. The class also provides a routine and focus for your practice.
Even experienced meditators often choose to go to groups and classes as the experience of meditating with others can be very powerful.
Meditation really does have great benefits for the mind, body and spirit. If you follow these tips on how to meditate, you will soon find out about the benefits of meditation for yourself.
Don’t give up on your meditation or think that you are not doing it right. There really is no ‘right’ way to meditate and all your efforts will pay off hugely in your life. So don’t give up. It is worth it!