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How to Start Meditating in a Few Easy Steps

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Meditation is a powerful exercise. The mind and body practice may help with anxiety, depression and insomnia among other potential benefits, according to the National Institutes for Health. But if you’ve never tried it, the thought of sitting down, slowing your thoughts and simply breathing may sound a little strange or even intimidating. The good news: Meditation gets easier the more you practice it, and you don’t need anything other than yourself to get started. Ready to begin? Tap into a calmer you with these basic pointers.

Start small.

There’s no need to meditate hours on end to see benefits. People who completed a 10-minute mindfulness exercise on their phones each day for 10 days experienced better moods compared to a control group, according to a 2014 study. Start by setting aside two or three minutes at a time and work your way up to longer interludes.

Get comfortable.

Sitting crossed-legged isn’t the only way to settle into mindfulness. Pick a pose that you find easy to maintain, such as sitting in a chair with two feet flat on the floor and your hands in your lap. Aim to keep your head and neck aligned with your spine—upright, but still relaxed.

Focus on your breath.

Attune yourself to your breath without controlling its cadence or speed. Simply notice how it feels in your body. You may recognize how it moves in your nose, shoulders, ribs, belly and chest.

Observe wandering thoughts without judgment.

It’s normal for passing thoughts to pop up, so just notice them as they come and return your focus to your breath. Don’t feel discouraged by distractions. Instead of trying to clear your mind entirely, make it your goal to notice when your attention has drifted sooner. With more practice, you’ll find focusing on your breath will get easier.

Find a designated time.

While it’s not necessary to meditate at a set time every day, doing so may help solidify meditation as a habit. Some practitioners find it helpful to meditate first thing in the morning before other tasks come up. Here’s another way to make it stick: Commit to daily practice for at least 11 days. Beginners who meditated for 11 days were more than 90% likely to continue for a twelfth day, according to data from the goal-tracking app Lift.

Try a guided meditation.

Feeling a little lost? For some more pro help, look no further than your phone. Beginner meditators may find popular apps such as Headspace or Insight Timer helpful resources. The instructors will guide you through different exercises, whether it’s a simple breathing routine or an attentive body scan, so you can simply focus on the directions as they come.

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