In theory, meditation sounds magical: All you have to do is sit still for few minutes and boom — you'll gain inner peace and nail that zen glow. Yeah, not so fast. It actually takes a fair amount of practice, especially if you're not-so-patient by nature. After all, sitting still is tough when you’ve got a million things racing through your mind or a ten-mile-long to-do list on your phone.
But that's the thing. If you're crazy busy, that's all the more reason to try out meditation for the benefits you're probably craving right now, like less brain fog, reduced stress and an overall calmer outlook. And it's win-win because when you’re done, you can continue with your bustling day and probably be even more productive.
Before you get started, here are a few things you need to know
- Believe it or not, the main idea behind meditation isn’t necessarily quieting your mind. It’s taking the time to notice and reflect upon what is going on inside, outside, and even beyond you. Quieting the mind is just a positive side effect.
- You don’t need a single supply to meditate. Yes, soft pillows and flickering candles can make meditation more enjoyable (and photogenic), but don’t let a lack of accessories — or a special nook, for that matter — hold you back.
- Everyone can meditate. It is not exclusive to any one society, religion, or culture.
5-step seated meditation for fidgety folks and busy bodies
1. Pick a place
Ideally, choose a spot where you can sit undisturbed for several minutes. (Silence your phone, close the door, draw the shades.)
2. Set a timer
Decide how long you’re going to meditate, then set a timer so you won’t be tempted to look at the clock. Beginners: Try just five minutes to start.
3. Settle in
Make yourself comfortable. You can sit on the floor, a cushion or a chair, or you can even stand up (just try not to slouch). No need to be as still as a statue — feel free to shift positions if you get uncomfortable — but adjust and then settle back in.
Bring your attention to your breath, without trying to change it. Often, without even trying, your breath will become slower and deeper as you focus on the act of breathing in and out.
Yup. That's it. It’s the simplest yet hardest, step. Try to observe what you are feeling — even if the whole process feels mentally uncomfortable — without judging or changing it.
Still can’t sit still?
So many of us are so used to near-constant movement and sensory input (ahem, Instagram), we've gotten pretty bad at just staying quiet and focused. If you really, really can’t stop fidgeting, consider moving meditation or an alternative meditative practice like one of these:
Yoga or tai chi
Movement-based practices including gentle, slow yoga asanas (poses) or tai chi can offer many of the benefits of meditation while still letting you move around.
Have you ever heard of “runner’s high?" That's actually a meditative state! And that means running can be so much more than just exercise — it can be meditation in motion.
If the pace of running isn't your thing, try mindful walking. Simply go for a walk (preferably outside), and focus your attention on each step and each breath.
It might be painting, drawing, playing an instrument, knitting, or some other type of artistic practice. For meditative purposes, try to let it be free-form creation and don’t focus too much on the finished results.
Whether you just sway along with music or really get down, dance can be totally meditative when you don’t worry about what you look like. Just going with your natural sense of movement is freeing.
Now stick with it!
One-time meditation won't give you nearly as many benefits as making time to meditate on a regular schedule. There's a snowball effect here: the more you do it, the bigger impact it has. Try these tricks to help you keep up the habit.
Meditate in the morning
First thing in the morning is often the best time to meditate. As the day goes on (and that to-do list gets longer) it’s easier to make excuses. Try to carve our five minutes each morning.
Make yourself accountable
Tell a friend or family member that you’ve started meditating, and have them check in with you daily to make sure you’re sticking to it.
After a week of daily meditation, pat yourself on the back and give yourself a treat. It may be a fancy new pen for journaling, a scented candle or (mindfully) indulging in a matcha latte.