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How to meditate

10 Sep 2018
Tips and resources for meditation to boost your mental health.

Meditation can help you feel calmer, focus better and move into a clearer headspace.

People have been meditating for thousands of years, and many psychologists believe that it can lower your distress and help you think more clearly.

There are lots of ways to meditate. Here are a couple of tips that are easy to learn and some awesome resources to help you practice.

 

Notice what you’re feeling

Some people think meditation is all about sitting still and “turning off” – this sounds like it should be easy, but that’s often not how it works.

Let’s say you get into position, close your eyes, and you’re ready for total bliss. You start to breathe and you… need to scratch. You want to adjust your legs. You get bored. You think about other stuff, then you get annoyed that you’re thinking about other stuff, then you get annoyed about being annoyed because that’s thinking about other stuff as well. You open your eyes. Surely the time must be done by now.

It’s only been three minutes.

The idea of mindfulness meditation isn’t to become totally chilled out straight away. The idea is to notice. All kinds of thoughts and feeling are going to pop up – distraction, boredom, annoyance, discomfort, pain, and nice feelings too – because they always do.

When you meditate, you’re not getting rid of all those feelings and thoughts. But instead of reacting to them like we normally would, we just watch them. You’ll be surprised at how quickly they change and disappear on their own.

The more we practice this the better we get at responding – rather than reacting – when things happen in other parts of life.

Follow these tips to start your meditation

 
Get in position

You don’t have to twist your legs into a yoga position to meditate. Just settle into a comfortable position on a chair or on the floor. During the day, it’s normally better to meditate sitting up, because you’ll be more alert. But if you’re lying down before bedtime, meditation might be able to help you get to sleep.

Notice your breath

Many kinds of meditation focus on breathing. Take a couple of deep breaths to begin with, then let it return to its normal pattern. Notice the feelings as the air flows in and out of your nostrils. If you get distracted by a thought, gently guide your mind back to your breath – it’s a great anchor for your attention.

Scan through the body

Being aware of your senses is a great way to move into the here and now. Start at the top of your head, and slowly move your attention through each part of your body to observe how you feel. Do you feel tingling? Itching? Warmth? Cool? Tightness? Looseness? Tension? Relaxation? Pain? Pleasantness?

Be kind to yourself

When you notice you’re distracted, don’t give up or beat yourself up about it. This is all part of the process. Just gently guide your attention back to your breath, feelings, or the sounds around you.

Check out these mobile apps

Meditation might be an ancient practice, but 21st century tools can support you to do it. It’s really helpful to have someone guide you through your meditation, especially if you haven’t done it much before. Here are some fantastic apps that can help you learn using nothing but your phone.

Smiling Mind

This non-for-profit Aussie app is made by psychologists. It has different mediations for different age groups, so you’ll be able to find the perfect one for you. Download it from Apple or Android.

Headspace

It may have the same name as us, but this UK meditation app is totally different thing! Its free ten-minute sessions are a great introduction to how mindfulness works. Download it from Apple or Android.

Stop, Breathe & Think

This American app asks you to enter what you’re feeling before and after you meditate. Tracking your feelings over time is a great way to understand the patterns in your life and see the progress you’re making. Download it from Apple or Android.

Insight Timer

Picky about the person guiding your meditation? Insight Timer has a huge free library of tracks with different guides, styles and techniques. They also have a cool timer tool you can set yourself for silent meditations. Download it from Apple or Android.

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