Just say the word “meditation,” and you might be immediately infused with a sense of calm. You imagine a quiet, expansive nothingness that helps you focus and regroup.
But what if you can’t shut off your brain when you try to meditate? What if all the noise of everyday life — your to-do list at work, dinner plans, the pile of laundry that never seems to get folded — creeps back in?
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Meditation for beginners just starting out is filled with common stumbling blocks, from struggling to quiet a busy mind to feeling anxious about meditating “the right way.”
Here’s how to master meditation for beginners — even if you don’t feel calm when you close your eyes.
Mind your environment
An important tip for meditation for beginners involves creating a calm, peaceful environment. Dim the lights, find a comfortable seated position and use white noise or soft music to help eliminate outside distractions.
If your mind is prone to wandering, your peaceful environment will remind you to stay calm, quiet, and connected to your breath.
Meditation for beginners should involve trying a guided meditation, which can be helpful to those unfamiliar with meditation practice. Learn more about our favorite meditation apps here.
Accept where you are
Those new to meditation might not experience peace and quiet right away. But part of a beginner’s practice is simply to notice what you’re thinking about, says yogi Amanda Mascarelli.
“The struggle to focus is integral to the training process of learning how to regulate one’s emotions and find a sense of detachment,” explains Mascarelli at Yoga Journal.
You can choose to follow your anxiety down a rabbit hole, or you can acknowledge that you have a lot on your mind.
Rather than allow yourself to dwell on the issues that worry you, take a step back, notice, and observe any issues that happen to be present. And try not to judge yourself — they’re just thoughts, after all!
Soon you’ll be able to notice each of your thoughts without reacting to them, a key component of any meditation practice. But it takes time to master — so just keep practicing.
Imagine the problem floating away
If you’ve ever tried meditation for beginners, you know how powerful visualization can be.
During “Shavasana,” or corpse pose, a yoga instructor might ask students to imagine their bodies rooting themselves into the ground, growing heavier or more liquid.
You can use a similar approach during meditation to quiet your mind. Over the course of five cycles of breath, imagine each item on your to-do list, or each stressful encounter from the day, floating away like a balloon.
As you focus on your breathing and letting go of the stress of the day, you’ll begin to relax — soon, the problems you were worried about will begin to fade into the background.
And even if they don’t — it’s ok! The important part of meditation is to acknowledge and observe your anxieties, without allowing them to control you or your behavior.
Don’t forget to breathe
Sometimes acknowledging your worries and watching them float away simply isn’t enough to quiet an anxious mind.
This is when beginners can use the cycle of their breath to help them meditate and focus their attention, says meditation instructor Kate James.
“Our brains want to be busy so to focus on the breath can be a nice thing to do,” James told Coach. “Essentially meditation is finding an anchor, a point to bring our attention back to.”
If you feel your mind wander during your meditation practice, focus deeply on each inhales and exhales, allowing yourself to be fully present in the moment of your breath.
This should quiet any anxiety and help you stay calm, focused, and relaxed.
Give yourself space for clarity
Perhaps one of the most important reasons to practise clearing your mind? You create more space for clarity, focus, and insight, says Dustin Brown, owner of the Melbourne studio Warrior One Yoga.
“We’re always thinking or talking or on our phone, and even if we’re just sitting, we’re probably in deep contemplation – not just sitting and being fully present,” Brown explained to Coach.
“But we have lightbulb moments and realisations when everything else is quiet,” he added. “It gives you a moment to reflect, ‘Am I happy with the direction of my class, my day, my week, my life?'”
Just keep practicing
If any of these tips on meditation for beginners seem overwhelming now — don’t worry. The more you practice meditation, the easier it becomes.
If it helps, remind yourself that meditation is pretty straightforward, says Deb Shapiro, co-author of Be the Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World.
“To meditate is to just be quiet and still,” Shapiro explained to Best Health. “Nothing more. In that quiet and still space we meet ourselves just as we are.”
Over time, a regular meditation practice should help you feel increased clarity and focus, while gradually lessening any stress and anxiety.