5 Ways to Start a Meditation Practice for Stress-Relief

Meditation is having a moment.

Most of us have tried it—whether through an app, at one of the many meditation studios popping up around the country, at an event, or simply with a mindful walk in nature. Many of us have also struggled with actually sticking to a regular practice.

With countless studies linking meditation to reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, that should be reason enough to make your practice a habit. But habits are really hard to form—like a new friendship or hobby, you have to massage it into your schedule.

Our advice? Start by dedicating yourself to one week of daily meditation practice along with the following five tips.

1. Set aside a realistic amount of time daily

Telling yourself that you’re going to meditate for 30 minutes a day when you’re first beginning a practice isn’t setting yourself up for success—don’t jump right into the deep end on day one.

“It’s more about consistency than duration,” says Chrissy Abrams, meditation expert, and founder of Vancouver-based meditation program, mndsight. “If you can build a practice where you show up for yourself one-minute a day for the first week, that’s way better than doing 30-minutes one day and then never doing it again.”

2. Start with what you already love

Oftentimes people think meditation is too spiritual and daunting, something where you have to light some sage, count mala beads, and sit in lotus pose holding crystals, but actually, you should do whatever feels authentic. While there’s always the right time and place for a traditional practice, Abrams says to keep it lighthearted and incorporate it into something that you love to do.

“If you’re a person that walks to work every day, see if you can add one element to it. Maybe take out the headphones, put your phone down, count how many sounds in the city you notice, or if you’re a creative and work from home, see if you can give yourself 20-minutes of free writing or painting.”

3. Anchor it to something that’s non-negotiable

If you can link your meditation practice to something that’s non-negotiable for you, that can accelerate the process of bringing it into a habit.

“One of the things I can’t miss in the morning is brushing my teeth, so I always tell people if brushing your teeth is non-negotiable, put toothpaste on your toothbrush, place it next to the sink, and go and meditate,” says Abrams.

If you can’t start your day without a fresh cup of coffee or matcha latte, turn the coffee maker or kettle on, go meditate for five minutes, and come back to a fresh pot.

4. Realize that the practice of meditation doesn’t have to look any particular way

Maybe your meditation happens during boxing class where you’re intensely focused, on an airplane while your close your eyes behind an eye mask, on a long drive, or while you’re in the shower.

“You can do it anywhere, anytime—on a New York City subway, on a date, while giving a speech, during a job interview, or even the first time you sit down to dinner with your potential in-laws,” says Biet Simkin, a NYC-based meditation instructor and founder of Center of the Cyclone.

5. Try using an app

While using an app may seem counter-productive—since we assume meditation should be about disconnecting from technology and turning off screens for a moment—it’s a really great way to build a regular practice. There are so many apps out there with a huge variety of meditation styles from beginners to experts.

An absolute favorite is Headspace, which is great for beginners since it starts slow with a mandatory intro to meditation.

After that, you can choose a path or focus to follow, like decreasing stress or building stronger more meaningful relationships. Buddify is also great if you like to have choices (stressed about flying? There’s a meditation for that). Just be careful because it can become kind of like Netflix where you’re paralyzed with scrolling through choices, instead of actually meditating.

Check out these six meditation apps to try now.

The Bottom Line...

Meditation allows you to build a deeper connection with how you show up in the rest of your life, but sometimes with adopting a new meditation practice, it’s hard to see or feel a physical result right away, which makes it easier to give up on.

When you go to a fitness class you’re building muscles and you can feel how sore you are the next day, so you know it was worth it. “We don’t get to feel the benefits of mindfulness until we’re tested in a stressful situation or we’re given an opportunity to slow down,” says Abrams. “It’s in those moments then you really realize how thankful you are for your practice to give you access to calmness, or awareness, and soak up beauty around you.

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Alicia Rae Olafsson

Alicia-Rae Olafsson is a freelance writer, adventurer, and travel enthusiast based in Vancouver, British Columbia. You can find her work at lululemon athletica, B.C. Living Magazine, The Georgia Straight, The Snipe News, 24 Hours Vancouver and Fame'd Magazine.

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