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Meditation For Beginners: Meditate On Your Own With This Complete Guide

Meditation For Beginners: Meditate On Your Own With This Complete Guide

If you were only allowed to take up one habit, what would it be? For me, it’s meditation. Unquestionably.

Why? Meditation has helped me perform better in every aspect of life. It helps me be more focused and get more done. It makes me more calm and peaceful so I don’t suffer from emotional fluctuations as I used to. More importantly, I have greater control over my mind so I can master the art of living in the present.

Wondering whether meditation can bring so many positive changes to one’s life? Let’s see what science says!

A Harvard research in year 2011 found that meditation can help increase the density of grey matter in the hippocampus of our brains, which is associated with the ability of learning, memory, self-awareness, compassion and introspection. Such restructuring of our brains can improve our mental health and make our minds sharper.[1]

What’s more surprising is meditation can rebuild our brains in only eight weeks! That means you don’t need to be an expert in meditation to reap the benefits.

    ▲ Subjects of the study demonstrated significant change of brain structure after practicing meditation for 8 weeks.[2]

    Thinking of taking meditation as one of your habits but don’t know how to get started? Here are 6 things you can follow:

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    Look for a distraction-free environment

    While an area with total silence is an ideal environment for meditation, it is not a must for everyone. If you think playing some light music can help relieve your stress and make you more relaxed, it’s definitely fine to do so when you meditate. Studies have shown that white noise can help lower our stress level and increase our concentration level.[3]

    If you don’t want to meditate in a totally silent environment but have no idea of what to play, you can try start with this one:[4]

    Meditate with the posture you feel comfortable

    The Quarter Lotus is the most popular meditation posture. You sit on the floor cross-legged and rest your hands on your lap. And your back needs to keep straight throughout the process without slouching.

      But if you are the one with chronic back pain problem, this posture may not be the best choice for you. Actually, what posture you have is not the key for meditation. You can also lie on your bed or the floor to meditate. The most important thing is the posture can make you completely relaxed. Here are some variations for you:[5][6]

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      But please be reminded that if you choose to meditate while lying down, you should keep yourself awake throughout the process.

      Focus on your breathing tempo

      Having the right breathing tempo is important as it can make you highly relaxed and concentrated, which is the ideal state for meditation.[7]

      Close your eyes softly. Breathe as slowly and deeply as you can. Inhale with your nose and exhale from your mouth. If you do deep breathing correctly, you will feel your diaphragm is expanded and stretched.

      Some people may even feel some mild pain in their chests. But don’t worry, it’s acceptable as deep breathing is not our usual way of breathing. The discomfort will fade when we practice more.

      Always aim for longer exhalation than inhalation. If you difficulty in doing so, you can help yourself by counting numbers. For example, count 1 to 3 to make sure you inhale air within 3 seconds, and then count 1 to 7 for exhalation.

      Replace judgement with understanding in your mind

      It’s a common misconception that we need to empty our minds and stop any kinds of thinking when we meditate. That’s not the case. Instead, you should be open towards whatever thoughts or emotions pop up in your mind without judging them.

      Even if negative emotions like frustration, anger and anxiety creep into you mind when you meditate, you should not avoid them but understand why they are formed.

      After all, the ultimate goal of meditation is to understand more of yourself and so you can have greater control of your mind.

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      Never let time disturb you

      Whenever you meditate, always aim to do it for at least 15 minutes. Why? As a beginner, it is challenging for you to get your mind instantly prepared for meditation. If the time is too short, you may not be able to enter the zone before the session ends.

      But if 15 minutes is too challenging for you for the first time, start with 2 minutes first, and then gradually increase the time afterwards.

      Also, remember to grab a timer with you. This can spare your mind from thinking much about the time so you can focus on your breathing and thoughts. If you don’t have a timer yet, try this free online meditation timer !

      Have a guide to keep you on the right track

      You are inevitably prone to feeling lost whenever you start doing something without proper guidance. This is the case for meditation too. Audio guided meditations which provide clear step-by-step instructions can be a great help to you. By listening to what the instructor says, you can shut out the mental self-talk and keep your concentration intact.

      Here’s a good one for you:[8]

      So how do you know you’re meditating instead of just daydreaming?

      We all struggle between mental turbulence and mental dullness every day. That’s what we call emotional fluctuations in another term. Through meditation, we aim to find our inner equilibrium, which is the sweet spot in this image:[9]

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        ▲ Through meditation, you can strike a mental balance.

        When you reach your inner equilibrium, you will experience unprecedented calmness, mental clarity and sensitivity to the surroundings.

        But honestly, this is hard for beginners. So better indicators should be the ability to get less influenced by your emotions and feel concentrated more easily.

        When do you know you’re having progress when you play sports or musical instruments? That’s the moment when you need less time to perform a skill. It’s the same for meditation. You should look for spending less time to get into the zone in the beginner level.

        Common problems you may encounter when you start

        Q: My mind just keeps wandering and I can’t stop self-talk when I meditate. What should I do?

        A: Keep your mind occupied with a simple task. You can play a game of counting your breathing when you meditate. And it would be good if you keep changing the rules in the process. For example, you can start by counting 1 to 10 in sequence, then count backwards, and finally only count the odd numbers or even numbers. The key of this game is to maintaining the sensitivity of your mind and your focus.[10]

        Q: It’s hard for me to be fully relaxed. Should I start meditation first and calm myself by tuning my breathing tempo afterwards?

        A: No, you should never meditate when your mind is highly agitated. Doing this will only weaken the effectiveness of meditation. Make use of some external means, like doing exercise, listening to soft music, taking a shower or talking to your friends, to de-clutter your mind first.

        Q: I feel sleepy and just can’t help nodding off when I meditate. But I find this relaxing to me. Is this state acceptable for meditation?

        A: There’s nothing wrong if you meditate only for relaxation. But if you want to reap the benefits of having a sharper mind and better concentration through this habit, you should train your mindfulness and alertness. When you feel sleepy, you can straighten up your back, lift up your chin a bit, and inhale more deeply. Then you will feel more awake when you meditate.

        Reference

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        Last Updated on October 15, 2018

        Why Am I So Tired? 10 Reasons You’re Extremely Tired And How to Fix It

        Why Am I So Tired? 10 Reasons You’re Extremely Tired And How to Fix It

        “Why am I so tired?” is a question that people ask themselves pretty frequently. Everyone gets tired at one point or another, particularly after something like an illness, a long night up with a sick child, or a busy week at work. When tiredness is persistent, however — when you feel tired as soon as you wake up in morning or when sleep doesn’t seem to help, no matter how much rest you get— it may often indicate a deeper, underlying problem.

        While there are a lot of possible reasons for tiredness, here’re some of the most common causes of fatigue:

        1. Dehydration

        If you want to boost your energy levels, first check whether you are dehydrated. The human brain is 85% water, and needs to maintain this level in order to perform its essential functions.

        If you fail to drink enough water, the brain extracts fluids from your blood to compensate for the deficit. As a result, the oxygen levels in your blood drop, reducing the amount of energising oxygen available to your organs and tissues. Fatigue and sleepiness set in rapidly, leaving you more vulnerable to the 2 pm post-lunch crash that many of us experience.

        You cannot cure this crash with caffeine – the only long-term, effective solution is to drink hydrating fluids throughout the day.

        2. Lack Of Exercise

        A workout will surely leave you feeling even more tired, right? Wrong! As counterintuitive as it may sound, physical activities have an energizing effect. Moving your body releases endorphins, increases your heart rate, and boosts your concentration.

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        Try to fit in at least 30 minutes of medium-intensity exercise every day. It’s easiest if you can make this part of our everyday routine, either as soon as you wake up or right after work.

        3. A Poor Diet

        The food you eat has a direct impact on sleep quality and the amount of rest you get every night. For maximum energy, stick to protein, slow-release carbohydrates, and a moderate amount of healthy (unsaturated) fats. The majority of your food should be plant-based, high in fiber, and low in sugar. These choices will prevent blood sugar fluctuations, which can leave you feeling exhausted.

        An easy way to make sure you stick to a good diet is through meal preparation. It’s easy to just get take-out when you’re tired after work, but if you have a meal ready for you in the fridge, you’ll be less tempted by pizza or cheese.

        Find out more about healthy meal prep here: 10 Meal Planning Apps You Need To Have To Get Healthier Easily

        4. Skipping Breakfast

        Physician Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan advises that eating breakfast is key to maintaining a good level of energy throughout the day. When you eat breakfast, you are sending calming signals to the areas of the brain responsible for avoiding danger, along with those that instruct the body to conserve as much energy as possible.

        Ingesting food signals to your brain that there is enough food available to ensure our survival. This encourages it to stay relaxed, which in turn, promotes restful sleep.

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        Some great ideas for a healthy, filling, and make-ahead breakfasts include overnight oats, smoothies, and freezer-friendly breakfast burritos.

        Or if meal-prepping isn’t your think, stock up on easy but healthy breakfast foods like multigrain cereal, yogurt, and fruit: 20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time

        5. Poor Quality Of Sleep

        We all know that it’s important to wind down a couple of hours before bed. But did you know that it’s what you do throughout the day that promotes good-quality sleep? It’s not just about the number of hours you sleep, but how restful and deep that sleep is.

        TO feel rested, try to regulate your everyday routine to make your sleep deeper and better. Get up at a regular time in the morning to ensure that you get regular sunlight.

        Eat nutritious foods in moderate amounts, and make sure you stay hydrated. Go to bed at the same time. And before bedtime, avoid screens that can give off harmful blue light and also keep you stimulated when you need to prepare for a restful night.

        Read more about how to develop a routine that will get you better sleep: Poor Sleep Quality Comes from All the Things You Do Since Morning

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        6. Sleep Apnea (A Person’s Airways Get Blocked off While They Are Asleep)

        Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder where a person’s airways get blocked off while they are asleep, causing their oxygen levels to drop while they are asleep. This often causes people to stop breathing at night and then to jerk themselves awake (this can happen over 30 times an hour).

        Because of this, people with sleep apnea can feel short of breath and have low energy levels. Mouthpieces and other devices to aid in breathing as well as the use of a special breathing machine to keep oxygen levels in a safe zone.

        If you feel tired all the time and think you might have sleep apnea, consulting with a doctor is important. Do a sleep study, as this can often reveal if there is an underlying problem causing your tiredness — and once a diagnosis is made, treatment to help you get your energy back begins.

        7. Depression

        Depression is the most common mental health disorder in the United States (and in many other countries of the world as well). It is marked by persistent feelings of sadness or unhappiness but has physical symptoms, too. Apart from fatigue, people may also experience changes in sleeping and eating habits and difficulty concentrating.

        Treatment can often center on anti-depressants, counselling and lifestyle changes like stress management to help manage this condition. You can take a look at these 15 Ways To Overcome Depression And Sadness.

        Many people also benefit from activities like yoga and meditation, which help regulate both the body and mind.

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        8. Hypothyroidism

        If a person has hypothyroidism, their thyroid gland does not produce adequate levels of these important hormones— and the result can be a persistent and unrelenting fatigue, even if someone is getting enough sleep. Other common symptoms of this disorder include mood swings, weight gain and feeling cold all the time.

        Fortunately, simple blood work can reveal if there is a problem and it can be treated with artificial thyroid hormone pills like Synthroid. Check here for signs of having a thyroid problem. If you suspect that you might have hypothyroidism, talk to your doctor.

        9. Anemia

        People with anemia are not able to make enough red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the their bodies. This is often due to a lack of nutrients like iron or B-12 and can be caused by problems such as heavy periods, bleeding in the digestive tract or pregnancy (due to the increased demands of the growing baby).

        However, in most cases, this can be resolved with treatments like changes in diet, iron supplements or B-12 shots.

        While here are some drinks you can try to relieve symptoms of Anemia, it’s best to do a blood test and consult your doctor in case of any hidden medical conditions.

        10. Cancer

        While you shouldn’t be freaking out about cancer just because you are tired, it is a fact that fatigue is one of the symptoms of cancer. Other common symptoms can include unexplained weight loss and the presence of palpable lumps or growths. This disease is marked by the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells that can do damage to surround tissues and possibly spread to other parts of the body.

        Diagnosis is usually by biopsy and treatment often focusses on radiation, chemotherapy or surgery— and generally when a diagnosis is made early, the outcomes for the patient are better.

        Featured photo credit: Lily Banse via unsplash.com

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