Of all the wellness trends that have exploded into the mainstream in the past 10 years, meditation is one that’s worth a try. It’s well-researched and has been shown to reduce stress, improve sleep and build overall emotional health. Even with these proven benefits, meditation can be an intimidating habit to start.
Luckily, most of the prohibiting factors are widely believed myths, and we’re here to debunk five of the most popular.
For most of us, finding total silence can be a pretty impossible task in itself. Luckily, you don’t need it for meditation. It might actually be more helpful to put on some calming music or do a guided meditation when you’re first starting out. Having something to focus on besides your thoughts will be beneficial.
Sure those perfect photos of monks sitting cross-legged with their thumb and first finger touching and resting on their knees look serene, but in reality, it’s not comfortable. Sitting in a position that’s comfortable for you is essential for a good meditation — just choose whatever that is, and you’ll be fine. You can even try meditating while exercising or during your commute to work if sitting still is distracting.
It’s easy to say you don’t have time to fit meditation into your day, but the reality is most people have at least five minutes they could dedicate to finding some headspace. Many guided meditations are designed for those short on time, and you’ll still reap the benefits. On days when you find you can spare a few more minutes, try extending your normal practice to 10–20 minutes.
This might be the most misunderstood part of meditation. There are many ways to meditate, but getting frustrated because you can’t stop thinking about all the different things going on in your life is the quickest way to abandon a daily practice. Instead, acknowledge your thoughts as they pass through your head and gently refocus your mind on being present. It’s helpful to have a simple point of focus like your breath or a mantra so when you do find your mind wandering, (which is normal), you can steer it back to that.
One study found that for new learners, just four days of practicing meditation reduced fatigue, improved mood and increased mindfulness. In two different studies, participants who meditated for eight weeks showed decreased anxiety and stress reduction. Like anything, the more you practice, the better you’ll get and the more you’re likely to get out of it — but everyone has to start somewhere.