If you're feeling stressed out and are looking for ways to relax, meditation is the answer. Although the full rewards of meditation come with experience and practice, even beginning meditators can notice beneficial effects very quickly. If you're new to meditation, here are some easy tips for getting started and using it to decrease your stress levels and relax more easily.
1. Stay comfortable
First of all, find somewhere where you can sit or lie down in a comfortable position, preferably with your back straight. You don't have to sit in uncomfortable postures to meditate, despite the popular image of the meditator as some ascetic type with his or her limbs wrapped up in the painful looking lotus style. This point is important, because if your body is feeling pain or discomfort, this will distract you and make your meditation less effective.
2. Breathe slowly and deeply
There are lots of different ways to meditate, but perhaps the easiest for beginners is simply to sit, close your eyes, and breathe in a slow and deliberate manner. Try to put your attention on your breath as it enters and leaves your body. You'll almost certainly find that your attention wanders – this is annoying, but totally normal. When it happens, just gently bring your focus back to your breath again. You might also find the counting your breaths helps – when you get 10, just returned to zero and start counting again.
3. Don't worry about 'mind control'
While meditation is most beneficial when the conscious mind's chatter slows down, this is something that usually only comes with more experience. In the beginning, as noted above, your mind will wander around a lot. It's important not to feel discouraged or frustrated when this happens, and don't feel like your meditation isn't a success because of it. Just let any thoughts arise as they will, pass through your mind, and let them go. Eventually, your mind will become progressively more empty and quiet as you meditate.
4. Try creating a 'sanctuary'
You might also want to take some steps to make your meditation environment more appealing. Some people like to burn incense or essential oils – this can act as a trigger to let your mind though that it's time to meditate, and eventually you'll start to feel more relaxed as soon as you smell the familiar odor. You might also want to light a candle, or place a few crystals in your meditation area. None of these things are strictly necessary – but if creating a little ritual that gives you the sense that your meditation and time is somehow special and set apart from your daily life is helpful, then it's worth doing.
5. Meditate regularly
It's also important to set some time aside each day for regular meditation. This will help you to get the most from your sessions, because as with anything else, meditation does become more effective with practice. In particular, you'll find it easier to allow your thoughts to slow down and focus the more often you meditate. You don't have to meditate for a long time, especially not at first – in fact, just 10 or 15 minutes a day is plenty to start off with, and this is time that can be carved out from even the busiest schedule. Indeed, it's much better to do a short meditation session every day than just one or two long ones each week.