March 21, 2024 | Sarah Ng

How Meditation Can Change Your Life


Why Should You Meditate?

Meditation may not be able to cure every ailment, but it's a powerful tool to help regulate your nervous system. It can significantly lower stress, improve your ability to connect and focus, and quiet your mind. It may also help you understand your pain.

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How To Meditate

You don't need much to meditate: a quiet space to sit. But though you don't need a fancy gym membership for this practice, it isn't always as easy as it looks.

Woman in green t-shirt an blue pants meditating in bedroomAndrea Piacquadio, Pexels

Find A Calm Place To Sit

Choose an environment that is peaceful and quiet.

Photo of Man in Gray T-shirt and Sitting on Wooden Floor MeditatingEren Li, Pexels

Set A Timer

Meditating for long periods might be a struggle in the beginning. If you're new to the practice, try meditating for as little as five or 10 minutes. As you continue your journey, you can increase your time limit.

Photo of Man in Green T-shirt and Black shorts on Sitting on Floor MeditatingMikhail Nilov, Pexels

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Be Aware Of Your Body

Finding a comfortable seat is key. Make sure you're sitting in a position that you can hold for an extended period of time: cross-legged, kneeling, or in a chair.

Photo of  Woman in a white shirt and green pants Sitting on Sofa MeditatingROMAN ODINTSOV, Pexels

Notice Your Breath

Tune into the movement and sound of your breathing. Try to follow your breath as you take deep, long inhales and exhales.

Photo of Woman in a white tank top and black pants Sitting on Rug MeditatingGustavo Fring, Pexels

If Your Mind Wanders, Center Yourself

It's natural for the mind to wander, but meditation will help you stay in the present moment. If intrusive thoughts creeps in, notice them—and then return your breath.

Photo of Concentrated man meditating in Lotus pose on mattressMonstera Production, Pexels

Be Gentle With Yourself

If you do find yourself losing focus, don't be too hard on yourself. Instead of obsessing over making a perceived mistake, just let it go, and return. Be kind to yourself.

Photo of Woman in Red Crew Neck T-shirt MeditatingMikhail Nilov, Pexels

End Your Practice With Grace

When your meditation time comes to a close, exit the practice slowly. Take in your surroundings: the sounds and smells. Scan your body, mind, and emotions. If you closed your eyes, open them.

Photo of Woman in Green tank top and Black Pants Sitting on Floor next to a dog Meditatingcottonbro studio, Pexels

How Often Should You Meditate?

For meditation to be truly effective, you should try to meditate at least once per day. Even five minutes can be effective.

Photo of Woman in a red t-shirt and white pants Sitting on Couch MeditatingMikael Blomkvist, Pexels

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Improve Your Attention Span

According to the neuroscientist Amishi Jha's research, practicing meditation for just 12 minutes a day, five days a week, has enormous benefits—notably improving one's ability to pay attention.

Man in Black Crew Neck T-shirt and Black Pants Sitting on Brown Wooden Floorcottonbro studio, Pexels

How To Get Better At Meditating

Meditation begins with the breath, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Mindfulness techniques can extend beyond the breath. Other anchors we can return to might be external factors, such as sound or unexpected changes to our awareness as our mind wanders.

Woman in Pink Crop Top and Jogging Pants Sitting on Floor MeditatingKoolShooters, Pexels

Breaking Out Of Autopilot

Underneath it all, meditation underlines how our minds control us. First we think, and then we take action. But sometimes operating on autopilot can leave us feeling stuck—especially if there are behaviors we'd like to change.

Photo of Woman in a brown tank top and brown pants Sitting on Rug MeditatingIvan Samkov, Pexels

Take Control

Beneath all of our habits, we have some incredibly efficient default brain signals—but not all of these are desirable. Mindfulness works against our autopilot mode. It means that we're trying to take control over our decisions and reactions. But like anything, this takes tremendous practice.

Photo of Mature woman in a black tank top and black pants Sitting on Rug MeditatingMikhail Nilov, Pexels

Improve Neuroplasticity

The more we practice being intentional, the more skilled we'll become at it. Trying new things will improve neuroplasticity. We want the intentional brain in control.

Calm woman in a black t-shirt and black pants meditating with closed eyes at homeJan Kopřiva, Pexels

Make Reminders For Yourself

Making time for meditation needs to become a habit. Try reminding yourself by putting out your yoga mat as a visual signifier. Any time you walk by it, you'll be aware that you have to meditate. You can also put down your intentions in writing. Put reminders in your journal or on sticky notes.

Photo of Man in White T-shirt and White Jeans on Sitting on Floor MeditatingMikhail Nilov, Pexels

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Keep Your Reminders Updated

To keep your autopilot brain on its toes, try updating your reminders to keep them fresh. Write brand new notes. You can even inject comedy into them to make them even more memorable.

Close-up of Woman Writing in Notebook in BedAnete Lusina, Pexels

Make Patterns In Your Daily Life

"If this, then that" messages can help your intentional brain as you navigate through your day. For instance, "If the phone begins ringing, then take a deep breath before picking up". This turns an autopilot reaction into an intentional action.

Close-up Photo of Woman in Black Coat Using SmartphoneAndrea Piacquadio, Pexels

Other Forms Of Meditation

We've already looked at what seated meditation entails, but there are also other ways to engage in meditation. You can also meditate while lying down or walking. Instead of focusing on the breath, you will turn your attention to other parts of the body.

A Woman Lying on Yoga Mat With Eyes ClosedArina Krasnikova, Pexels

Body Scanning

To try a body scan meditation, become aware of your body. Do this slowly, tracking every part of it—down to the tips of your toes or up to the top of your head. This will allow you to check in with your entire body.

Slim woman lying in Shavasana pose on yoga matKarolina Grabowska, Pexels

Only Notice The Sensations

While body scanning, stay focused on the sensations in your body, but try to leave your thoughts out of it. As always, let go of judgment and worry as best you can.

Photo of a Woman in a white tank top and blue pants Lying by MortarLos Muertos Crew, Pexels

Take It Slow

If you'd like you can try using a sequence to scan your body. Start at your toes and move upward—through the feet, legs, pelvis, and so on—until you reach your face and head. Let your mind hold on each part for a brief time before moving forward.

Photo of Woman in a white shirt Lying on the floor with a Tibetan Singing Bowl on her ChestMikhail Nilov, Pexels

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You Might Fall Asleep

Meditation is a relaxing practice, so you may find yourself dozing off. That's alright. Just wake yourself up again by deeply breathing or changing position. If you were body scanning, return to where you left off.

Photo of Woman in black Sports Bra and black pants Lying Back on a Yoga MatThirdman, Pexels

Meditating While Walking

Meditation might sometimes feel like a chore—a box to check off on our ever-growing to-do list. However, there is a way to elevate some of our daily movements with mindfulness. Enter: walking meditations.

Woman in Brown Sleeveless Dress and Blue Jeans Standing on Gray Path Road,Noelle Otto, Pexels

Walk Naturally

To begin your walking meditation, there's no need to speed up or slow down. Move at a comfortable pace. Position your hands wherever is most comfortable: at your sides, behind your back, or even over your stomach.

Photo of Man wearing a brown shirt blue jeans and yellow backpack Walking on Road Surrounded by TreesClem Onojeghuo, Pexels

Try Counting

As you become aware of your intentional steps, counting them might be beneficial. For instance, if you're confined to a smaller area, you can mindfully count 10 of your steps, pause for a moment, and then repeat.

Person wearing a brown sneakers and blue jeans Stands on Brown PathwayTobi, Pexels

Note The Sensation Of Every Step

With every meditation practice we are noticing. With every step you take, notice the movement of your feet and legs—how they lift and descend, as well as the shifting of your weight. There may be more to notice about walking than you ever realized before.

Photo of a Man in a red jacket and blue jeans Walking on Seashore Under Blue and White SkyGabriela Palai, Pexels

Stay Safe

If you're attempting a walking meditation outside, it's important to stay safe. Focus on your sensations but still be aware of your surroundings.

Back View of a Backpacker Walking on a Grass FieldOriol Segon Torra, Pexels

Loving-Kindness Meditation

Loving-kindness meditation is about practicing how you feel toward yourself and the world around you. It's about consistently reminding yourself that everyone deserves happiness: you, your friends and family, the people in your community, and humanity in general.

Woman closing her eyes against sun light standing near flower plantOleksandr P, Pexels

Remind Yourself Of Your Own Goodness

Center yourself as a good person. Remember the kind-hearted things you've done and celebrate everyone else's potential for virtuousness.

Photo of Woman in a white t-shirt and brown pants Sitting on the CouchIvan Samkov, Pexels

Repeat A Silent Mantra

Some basic phrases to repeat to yourself are: may I be safe, may I live easily, may I be mentally content, may I be healthy. As you cycle through these phrases, ease into the rhythm of the words, and give all your focus to each phrase.

Calm woman in lotus pose meditating after awakening at homeAndrea Piacquadio, Pexels

Envision A Circle

Eventually, you can try envisioning a circle. Think of yourself as the center of this circle. Visualize everyone that has been good to you—anyone whose love has affected you. They can people you've met, or even people from history or figures you've read about.

Photo of Woman in a white shirt top and black pants Sitting on a Blue Sofa MeditatingAnna Tarazevich, Pexels

Surround Yourself With Good People

At the center of this circle, surrounded by the people that best embody goodness, continue to repeat your mantras. Do this without any judgment.

Tranquil man in white track suit sitting with closed eyes and crossed legs on floorSHVETS production, Pexels

Heal Your Relationship With Yourself

When the session comes to an end, slowly release the image of the circle, but for another couple minutes continue repeating the loving phrases. If you had a poor relationship with yourself, this will help heal it and allow you to move forward in a positive way.

Photo of Woman in a green t-shirt and green pants Sitting on Rug MeditatingMarcus Aurelius, Pexels

Start Your Journey

Now that you have some basic tools for meditation—as well as a few methods to approach the practice—it's time to begin. Start with brief sessions, but make an effort to try meditation every day. If you stay consistent, it could set you on a new path—and even change your life.

Photo of Woman in a gray t-shirt top and black pants Sitting on Rug MeditatingKlaus Nielsen, Pexels


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