Health And Wellness

5 Simple Ways To Make Meditation A Daily Practice In Your Life

Photo: getty
woman doing daily meditation outside

What exactly is "meditation?" Do you know how to meditate, or do you only understand it in theory based on what you've seen other people do?

It's easy to picture the meme of a woman sitting on the floor with the caption, "Don't just sit there. Meditate!" 

From the outside, she appears to be doing nothing but sitting. But on the inside, there's lots going on.

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But a lot of people are only familiar with the concept of meditation, rather than the practice itself. And that's OK, because in order to learn how to meditate, you need to start somewhere!

Meditation refers to techniques designed to quiet the chatter in your mind.

The chatter is referred to as "monkey mind," because thoughts can be like monkeys, wildly swinging from tree to tree, branch to branch.

These can be any thoughts: Worries about your day, anxiety about upcoming events, trying to juggle your responsibilities, or even just replaying conversations. In essence, your mind is never "quiet," since it's always trying to look forward or back, but never staying in the present.

Meditation teaches you to notice when your mind wanders and how to gently bring your attention back to the here and now.

It's kind of like training monkeys to be more chill. Or training them to notice when they are wildly swinging from tree to tree and providing them an opportunity to swing with more ease. More grace. More intentionality.

Think of meditation as a way to become friends with your thoughts, even the unpleasant ones. Instead of reacting to thoughts, you “just” notice them. And bring yourself back to the moment. Here and now. Because really, that is all there is. Right here, right now.

So, how do you meditate?

There are guided meditations and unguided meditations.

Either way, you may direct your focus on the breath, deliberately expanding your belly on the inhale and contracting it on the exhale. Or, slowly count to and down from 10.

Another technique is to repeat a soothing word, or mantra, such as “breathe.” Or a phrase, such as, “I breathe in. I breathe out.” Some people meditate by walking with intention — heel, sole, toe bed, one foot at a time, emphasizing the feet’s connection to the Earth.

The only way to learn to meditate is to do it. There is no pass or fail in meditation.

Here are 5 simple ways you can make meditation a daily practice in your life.

1. Keep your reasons for meditating front and center.

More energy and more inner peace. Better blood flow. Decreased anxiety and depression. Improved sleep, mood, and job satisfaction. An enhanced overall sense of well-being.

There are so many benefits to meditation. Keep those that are personally meaningful to you in the forefront of your mind. Think about how the benefits will improve the quality of your life.

This is not some snake oil. Meditation has been around for thousands of years because it works. If meditation were a pill, most people would take it without hesitation.

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2. Be consistent in trying to meditate every day.

Consistency is more important than the amount of time overall spent meditating. Three to five minutes a day provides more benefit than 30 or more minutes once a week.

Each practice will feel different, and you can mix up the types of meditation you practice. Meditation trains the mind so that during times of stress, you can more easily find calm.

As little as one minute a day of meditation helps. Just ask ABC newscaster Dan Harris or read his book, Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics.

3. Use a meditation app for simplicity.

Meditation apps can help you get and stay motivated. Check out apps with guided meditations or interviews with meditation experts who share their meditation hacks.

YouTube has plenty of options, too. So if you don't know where to start, you can search on YouTube for meditation for beginners videos to help you.

4. Switch up the type of meditation you practice.

And even the position and pose of your body. You can sit in a chair or on the floor. You can lay down, or even do a walking meditation.

Experiment and discover what works well for you and what is most comfortable on any particular day. (Meditation cushions are definitely not required!)

Be consistent with when you meditate, so that it more naturally becomes a habit. Many people find the morning a great time to meditate, because they start their day with a clear mind. Do it for that persistent mental chatter, if that's what motivates or inspires you.

5. Don't let perfection be the enemy of good!

There is no such thing as a bad meditation. Remember, the practice is about just that — practicing.

To practice meditation is to notice when your mind wanders and to bring it back gently to the present, whether it be with the breath, a mantra, or some other method.

There is no such thing as failing. Calming the monkey mind is not meant to be a task to perfect.

Meditation is free, easily accessible, can be done almost anywhere, and has huge benefits. You owe it to yourself to at least try it!

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Dr. Elayne Daniels is a clinical psychologist in Boston who specializes in mind-body techniques to improve psychological and physical well-being. She enjoys helping people skillfully befriend their monkey mind.