A beginner's guide to meditation

By Hannah Ervin,
updated on Jul 20, 2021

A beginner's guide to meditation

Discover how to reclaim the moment thanks to meditation, with our handy guide to get you started

Meditation is certainly having a moment right now, with so many people sharing its numerous benefits – from increasing self-awareness, to reducing stress by helping you to gain perspective. So, it’s no surprise that Google reports an average of more than 74,000 searches for meditation every month, as people hunt for more information about it to use in their own lives.

To help cut through that noise, we’ve put together a simple meditation guide for you – with a quick five-minute meditation you can incorporate into your day-to-day routine, and reap the rewards.

So, what is meditation?

In its simplest form, meditation is the conscious practice of bringing yourself into the present moment. It’s a process of calming your body and mind using techniques such as breathing, or visualisation.

And it’s incredibly popular – in fact, it’s estimated 500 million people across the world meditate. With a broad range of benefits, people are drawn to the practise for different reasons, including its ability to help increase clarity, focus, motivation, resilience, and positivity, while also being able to reduce stress, anxiety, and worry.

But if the word ‘meditation’ immediately conjures up an image in your mind of a retreat where you sit for hours on end in silence, don’t worry, it’s not. These stereotypical pictures can make wellbeing concepts seem unattainable, but the reality is that meditation comes in many forms. It’s not a case of having to clear your mind of all thoughts (both intimidating and impossible), it’s more a way of noticing your thoughts and creating space in your mind. It is in this space that you can find peace.

The important thing to know is that there really isn’t a ‘checklist’ to follow. A good meditation session will always give you exactly what you need at that point in time.


Where to start

One of the simplest ways to start on your meditation journey is to follow a guided meditation. The beauty of these is that all you have to do is sit back, close your eyes, and listen as you are talked through the process. You could download a specialist app, go to a meditation practitioner who will give you personal support, or why not try one of our free Happiful meditations on Youtube?

Preparing for mediation

Ahead of starting a meditation session, there are a few useful steps I’ve outlined below to help you make the most of the experience:

  • Find yourself a quiet spot – you want to make sure you won’t be disturbed for the duration of the mediation (and ideally a short while after).

  • Wear comfortable clothes, to help you focus on the moment, and not restrictive or uncomfortable fabrics.

  • Decide whether you are going to sit (if so, make sure your back is supported) or lie down (don’t lie down if you are very tired and may drop off to sleep).

  • Create the right atmosphere. Think about soft lighting, perhaps close doors, or light a candle. Also consider the temperature, and either open/close a window, or grab a blanket if needed.

  • Switch off your phone, or at least silence alerts if you are using it as part of the process with a guided meditation.

  • Set your intention for the session. This is so you know the purpose or outcome you would like, such as whether you want to relax, quieten your mind, or let go of stress. You can then use this to select a guided meditation that best serves your intention.

While it’s good to create a calm and private environment for meditating, don’t worry if you do get distracted. This is perfectly normal – just try to notice when it happens, consciously decide to let the distracting thought go, and return your attention to your breathing, or the voice you are listening to.


A meditative moment

A particularly popular form of meditation that can be really quick and easy to incorporate into a regular routine is a mantra meditation. This involves deciding on a phrase that sums up the outcome you want, which can be particularly helpful if you are looking to improve your mindset, e.g. if you want to feel more positive, energetic, or motivated. Simply think of three things you would like to feel, and this can become your mantra.

Ready to have a go? Here is a simple, five-minute mantra meditation you can try right now:

Start by making yourself comfortable, whether sitting or lying down. Adjust your body so that it feels settled.

Now, take in three deep, relaxing breaths – in through your nose and out through your mouth. Notice your lungs filling with cool air, and how it warms slightly before you exhale.

Kindly let your breathing return to its own natural rhythm. It should be a steady tempo, like waves on the shore.

Make a conscious decision to let your body relax.

Take your attention to your face, starting with the muscles around your eyes. Really notice how this area feels, and try to let go of any tension you may be holding here – let it melt away like warm water on ice.

Allow this feeling to continue to sweep across your face and through your scalp – try to notice every muscle group and consciously release that tension.

Keep it going down through your shoulders, down your arms, to your fingertips.

Now let the relaxation melt down through your body, all the way to your feet. Take your time, and go at your own pace.

Once you reach your toes, you should now feel fully relaxed.

In this meditative state, repeat your chosen mantra – e.g. “Right here, right now, I feel relaxed, calm, and happy” – three times. On your last repetition, when you have fully connected with the words, add in “and I will carry this through with me for the rest of the day”.

Allow yourself a moment to enjoy the feeling. Then take your attention back to your breath, reconnect with your limbs, take in another deep rewarding breath, and on the outward breath blow away any feelings of stress, tension or negativity. You will now be well on your way to enjoying the rest of your day.

Meditation doesn’t need to be intimidating. It’s a practice you’ll learn as you go along. You don’t need to be ‘good’ at it, you just have to take yourself through the process to start feeling the benefits. The more you practise, the easier it will become.

I wish you all the best on your meditation journey, I’ve no doubt it will be a most rewarding experience.

If you think you would benefit from support and guidance, you could contact a qualified meditation practitioner. These can be found on the Happiful app or by visiting www.counselling-directory.org.uk

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