While the practice has been around for thousands of years, meditation has exploded onto the scene in the Western world within the past decade or so. Back in 2012, the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) found that eight percent of American adults, or 18 million people, practiced meditation–and that number has grown significantly since then.
Every day, people are trying meditation for the first time, but if you’re new to the practice, it can be tough to know where to start. Below, we offer 12 tips for building your meditation habit–from choosing the right time of day to lighting scented candles for the right ambience.
Decide why you want to meditate.
Maybe you want to become more focused, increase your productivity, reduce stress or all of the above. These are all totally valid reasons to start meditating, but you need some kind of motivation besides “everyone else is doing it.” Building a meditation habit takes work, and you’ll need to keep your reasons in mind whenever the going gets tough.
If you’ve never meditated before, don’t try to do it for an hour right out of the gate. Ten or 15 minutes is a good benchmark to shoot for, and you can do it for as little as five minutes. The key is to pick an accessible amount of time that you can easily work into your schedule. That way, you can’t say, “I don’t have enough time to meditate.” Anyone can find five minutes a day.
Set a timer.
When you meditate, set a digital timer to keep track of how long you’ve been at it. Make sure that it’s a silent timer, as a ticking one will distract you while you’re trying to meditate. The timer will also wake you up in case you fall asleep during your session, which actually happens to beginners more often than you think–especially if they’re lying down.
Decide on a time.
You don’t need to meditate at precisely 8:12 a.m. each day, but choosing the same general time and sticking to it will help you build the habit. For example, you could do it each morning after you wake up, or each evening right before you go to bed. By connecting it to your existing routines, you’ll create a “trigger” for yourself that will remind you to meditate each day.
Physical discomfort will distract you during your meditation session. Take off your shoes and change into loose, comfortable clothes. Find a position that works for you. Some people like to lie down on a mattress or the floor, while others like to sit in a chair. If you prefer to lie down on the floor, you might need a mat to provide a little extra cushion.
Focus on your breath and body.
Clearing your mind can be difficult when you first begin meditating. To give yourself something else to focus on, tune into your breath and body instead. Breathe deeply, but don’t try to control the rhythm. Moving from your head to your feet, relax each of your muscles and dispel any stress.
Use aromatherapy to set the mood.
Creating the right ambience can help get you into the right mindset to meditate. Many people enjoy lighting scented candles, plugging in an aroma diffuser or smelling essential oils to help them prepare to meditate. If you do choose to light candles, make sure they’re in a safe location that can’t be knocked over by pets or children since you’ll be closing your eyes when you meditate.
Put on soothing music.
Soothing music not only helps you get in the right mindset, it can also cover over other distracting sounds that can potentially interrupt your thoughts. Look for calm instrumental music that will help you zone out. Many people find that lyrics, drums and other distinct sounds distract them instead of helping them to meditate.
Dim the lights.
Bright light can distract you during meditation, so many people like to close the blinds, draw the curtains or dim the lights. However, this can make you more likely to fall asleep, so be aware of this if you’re prone to drifting off. If you’re worried about falling asleep when you dim the lights, you can sit up instead of lying down, which will help you stay awake.
Try a meditation app.
If you’re not sure what to think about during meditation, a guided meditation app can help you. These apps offer different themed sessions, such as body scan or loving-kindness meditations, and instructions that will walk you through each one. If you’re not sure how to meditate, or what kind of meditation to try, these apps provide a great starting place.
Be patient with yourself.
It takes several months on average to form a habit, and sometimes longer depending on the individual. Don’t expect yourself to be a pro meditator after only a week or a month. Your mind is going to wander sometimes, and you may not get the results you want right away. Be patient with yourself and keep at it. You’ll eventually reap the rewards!
Find a meditation community.
Many people enjoy meditating alone and find the me-time valuable. However, connecting with a community of fellow meditators can be really beneficial to your practice. It’s nice to build relationships with fellow beginners who are going through the same things you are, as well as to connect with more advanced meditators who can give you tips on improving your meditation.
Meditation takes time and dedication to fully achieve the benefits, but it’s worth it for many people. Start small and don’t take on too much at once, or you’ll be more likely to fail. Even just five minutes of meditation a day is a great starting place. Give yourself plenty of time, and follow these 12 tips to further build your habit and turn meditation into your favorite time of day.