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Looking for a healthy way to get rid of stress and relieve anxiety? Try meditating. Here, 12 tips to get you started -- it's easier than you may think!
Set aside five minutes
Meditation is the practice of sitting quietly and focusing on one thing, such as your breath or a repeated phrase or prayer. And anyone can benefit from it. “Spending just five minutes a day in meditation can help us shift from feeling overwhelmed by our day-to-day stresses -- work, family, money, etc. -- to hitting pause and choosing to not be overwhelmed,” says Sara Ivanhoe, a yoga and meditation instructor at YogaWorks in Los Angeles.
Focus on your breathing
“The easiest type of meditation for beginners is one that focuses on the breath,” says Ivanhoe. In our techno-centric lives we have created “a pattern of attention deficit in our daily lives,” she adds. “But by sitting quietly and focusing on your breathing, you can create a pattern of concentration and stress relief that will bring calm to your life.”
Ready to start a five-minutes a day meditation practice? First, recognize that meditation is not simply “zoning out.” It’s taking five minutes and, with intention, learning to relax on command. “It is a skill,” says Ivanhoe.
Tune out daily distractions
Find a place where you will not be interrupted for several minutes. Turn off the phone, lock the door, fold down your computer, turn off the stove and find a way to put all distractions on hold. This quiet place can be in your house, your office, a peaceful outdoor spot or even in your car.
Try setting an alarm for five minutes so you don’t have to worry about how long you’ve been sitting. Once you’ve started to practice on a daily basis, you might find that you can meditate just by focusing on your breath -- without counting -- for up to 20 minutes.
Sit up tall either in a chair, or on the floor. Don’t lie down. Lying down can make you so relaxed that you fall asleep. The goal with meditation is to teach the body that it can be relaxed and calm, yet awake and energized.
Find a comfortable position
Close your eyes, slightly bow your head, and place your hands in a comfortable position. Rest your hands on your knees or let your arms hang at your sides. Find a position that feels comfortable enough to sit for five minutes without moving.
Allow yourself to become still. Don’t forcefully hold yourself still, rather, allow yourself to become so relaxed, there is no need to move. Fidgeting is basically unfocused energy that doesn’t know where to go. Becoming still is actually a state of being that you can get better at with time.
Breathe in, breathe out
Close your mouth and your eyes and, without trying to alter the breath at all, begin to “watch” your breath flood in and flow out. Notice the pacing and watch where the breath goes in your body.
When you feel completely calm, inhale deeply through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Repeat two more times. These three breaths are your body’s signal that you’re ready to begin.
Count down from ten
Inhale deeply once more and on the exhale, mentally say “ten.” Inhale and silently say “nine,” continuing to count down until you exhale on zero. When you get to zero, start over again. Very often, your attention will drift before you get to “five.” If you find that you have started to think of something else (unanswered email, dinner plans, your children’s homework, etc.) don’t stop to solve the problem or feel bad about lapsing. Simply direct your attention right back to the flow of your breath and start the count over.
Make time to mediate
At first, try to sit and focus on your breath for five minutes once a day. Some days it will be easier to meditate than other days. Do not judge yourself on the “bad” days. Instead, focus on the positive by reminding yourself that you took a few minutes to ground yourself and focus. Even if you weren’t able to get through the meditation technique, you turned off the phone, closed the door, and took a few minutes to reorient yourself.
Try white noise to stay focused
If you have trouble staying focused on your breath, consider listening to some white noise. Ivanhoe doesn’t recommend music because it’s too tempting to either hum along, or to be distracted by the rhythms. She recommends a smart phone meditation app call iTanpura which features a variety of droning -- but not unpleasant -- sounds that she says help some people stay focused.
Figure out your ideal time to meditate
Experiment with meditation at different times of the day. Some people like to do this breathing meditation first thing in the morning when they feel energized and haven’t had to face any of their daily stresses. Others find that doing it on a lunch break gives them momentum to get through the rest of the day with a clear head, says Ivanhoe.
Remember that it gets easier