The Beginner’s Guide to Meditation

by Heather Caplan, R.D.

Editor’s Note: This post was written by our healthy living contributor Heather Caplan, R.D., a registered dietitian from healthy living destination Spright, which offers simple, helpful everyday eating and fitness guides.

Meditation may seem a little out there, maybe a little crunchy, and maybe just a yoga thing, but it’s also one of the most widely used self-care tools the world has to offer. Its indisputable benefits keep it on the top of trending topics and have won over the likes of media leader Arianna Huffington (who has an online meditation course), productivity guru Tim Ferriss, and bigwigs like Russell Simmons and David Lynch.

Thousands travel across the country to Wanderlust Festivals, celebrations of mindful living that bring together meditation, music, and yoga. Even meditation teacher Gabrielle Bernstein has been crowned “a new thought leader” by Oprah Winfrey and “a new role model” by The New York Times. It’s hip, to say the least, but it’s also effective. Cred aside, meditation may significantly improve your mental and physical health. It turns out it’s not hard, either…

So what is it?

Meditation is meant to calm the mind, bring awareness to thoughts, and connect the breath to the body. You can zone out without tuning out. Medication can be anything that helps you relax, makes you happy, or produces that "aha" moment.

And what isn’t it?

Meditation is not “silencing” the mind—that’s nearly impossible. It is not just for the elite, the yogis, the zen masters, or those who don’t mind sitting still for minutes on end. It's not something that has to be done in one specific way.

How can you do it?

Actually, meditation can be done in a variety of ways! Personally, I consider easy running, leisurely hiking, listening to music, journaling, reading, walking, yoga, and relaxation all forms of meditation. For me, in doing some or all of the above, I find my mind relaxing, rejuvenating, and refocusing on things that matter. Or sometimes I notice my mind not focus at all—instead, it just takes a little break. Either way, meditation happens when you hit the pause button on life's busy things and tune into your own mind for a little while.

If you’re still thinking, “This sounds so hokey,” I get that. Here some approachable beginner methods for meditation:

• Do your favorite type of exercise (run, swim, hike, etc.) with an easy effort, and pay more attention to your mind than your muscles.

• Go to your favorite spot to relax (bed, couch, backyard hammock, pool deck) and put on your favorite “chill” tunes.

• Go for a walk at sunrise or sunset. No music, no phone calls, no chatting—just you, your thoughts, and the sky.

• Try (any type of) yoga. (Tip: Don’t try a “heated’ or Bikram class if this isn’t your norm! For newcomers, they tend to be anything but calming.)

• Write something! Find a quiet space, grab a pen, and see what your mind comes up with.

• Give any or all of the above a try for at least five minutes. Don't be all “This is crazy!” yet—give it a chance! Once you figure out what works for you, keep going back to that.

The gist? Meditate however you want to at least a few times per week. There's a reason it's been a top healthy habit for thousands of years and still goin' strong!

Want to do some further reading about meditation? Check out these online resources:

• Mindful.org

• Chopra Meditation Center (includes an optional 21-day meditation guide)

• The Free Mindfulness Project

Want some guidance from an electronic expert? Download the apps below, which are helpful for beginners and experts alike.

Have you ever meditated? What has been your experience?

Explore: meditation

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