How To Meditate And Boost Your Meditation Practices

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated June 12, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Meditation is often seen as a tool that's been used for centuries to help people feel more relaxed, focused, and peaceful. Learning how to meditate usually involves training the mind to stay in the present moment, which may improve both your mental and physical health. If you're just getting started with meditation, it might seem difficult. However, there are a few steps that may help you integrate meditation into your daily routine. Improving your meditation practice may involve finding an appropriate location, setting intentions, and tracking your success. A licensed therapist can serve as your guide as you implement meditation and other healthy habits into your daily life.

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Wondering how meditation could support your mental well-being?

Meditation as a practice 

Meditation typically includes various mental and physical techniques to train the mind and body to be more present and focused. There can be several types of meditation practices, including mindfulness meditation. As a common form of meditation, mindfulness meditation generally encourages people to pay attention to the here and now, simply noticing their thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations without judging them.

Benefits of meditation

People who practice mindfulness meditation often seem more self-aware, less stressed, and can more effectively manage their emotions. With regular meditation practice, you might also notice other improvements, such as the following:

  • Improved mental clarity: Meditation can train your mind to stay in the moment, which may make it easier for you to concentrate on tasks and understand information more effectively.
  • Less anxiety and stress: Mindfulness exercises can decrease stress and anxiety levels, which may allow you to feel more peaceful and relaxed.
  • Improved emotional health: By meditating regularly, you may be able to recognize and let go of your negative thoughts and emotions with greater ease, potentially leading to improved emotional health. 
  • Higher-quality sleep: Adding meditation to your daily routine can help you sleep more soundly. As your mind relaxes and your body releases tension, you may find it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.

If you're new to meditation, you may want to try out different techniques to see which one works most effectively for you. By finding the right method, you can take advantage of the benefits of meditation and potentially improve your mental and emotional health.

Preparing for meditation

Preparing for meditation may involve various factors. For example, you’ll normally want to prepare your space, your body, and your mind. Let’s explore choosing a location, finding the right posture, and setting an intention to guide your practice.

1. Choosing a location

Picking the right place for your meditation can ensure you have a peaceful, distraction-free experience. It can be important to find a quiet, clean, and comfortable spot where you can focus and relax. It may be helpful to use this same location each time you meditate. That way, you can get into the habit of meditating regularly and associate this spot with relaxation and peace. Try to avoid places with loud noises, strong smells, or bright lights, while also noting that different places may work more effectively for some people than others.

2. Finding the right posture

The way you sit or stand during meditation can be key. The right posture can help you stay focused and avoid feeling uncomfortable or strained. You might sit cross-legged on a meditation cushion, kneel, or sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Try to keep your back straight, your shoulders relaxed, and your head in a comfortable position.

You may want to experiment with different postures to find the one that works for you. If you’re unable to sit comfortably, you can also try lying down or standing during meditation. You can also consider seeking guidance from a meditation teacher if you’re unsure about the right posture for you.

3. Setting an intention

Before starting your meditation, it can be important to think about what you want to achieve. Setting a clear intention may help you focus your mind and guide your practice. Your intention can be a simple phrase or a personal goal you’d like to accomplish during your meditation. For example, you may choose an intention like "I will remain present" or "I will cultivate loving-kindness."

As you meditate, it can be natural for your mind to wander. When this happens, you can gently bring your focus back to your intention and continue with your practice. Setting an intention can help you maintain focus and provide a sense of purpose as you learn how to meditate.

Meditation techniques

There can be several different ways to meditate, and it can be crucial to find the method that’s right for you. Feeling comfortable and confident with the technique you choose can help you stick to a meditation routine. Let’s discuss three common meditation techniques.

1. Breathing techniques

Breathing techniques can be an important part of meditation, as they can regulate and focus the mind. One common breathing technique may be basic breath meditation. To do this, find a quiet place, sit comfortably, close your eyes, and pay attention to your natural breath. Don't try to change or control your breath; simply notice how it feels to breathe in and out. If your mind starts to wander, gently bring your focus back to your breath.

Another type of breath meditation may be walking meditation. In this technique, you might walk at a slow, steady pace while focusing on your breath and the feeling of your feet touching the ground. This method may help you stay active while keeping your mind focused.

2. Body scan meditation

The body scan meditation generally involves paying attention to the feelings and sensations in your body. This technique can help you become more aware of your body and notice any areas of tension or discomfort. To start, lie down comfortably and focus on your feet. Then, slowly move your attention up through your body, noticing any sensations or tension. Try to breathe evenly and deeply as you do this. This method of meditation may help you become more aware of your physical feelings and allow you to experience a greater sense of relaxation.

3. Mantra meditation

A mantra can be defined as a word or phrase that you silently repeat during meditation to focus your mind. You can choose a mantra that means something to you, like "peace" or "love." The idea is generally to use the mantra to shift your focus away from your thoughts and help you feel calm.

One common mantra meditation may be the loving-kindness meditation. It normally involves repeating kind, compassionate phrases to yourself and others. You might say something like, "May I be happy" or "May all beings be free from suffering." This type of meditation may help you feel more empathetic and positive.

These techniques, along with others like guided meditations, can be tailored to fit your unique needs. It can be important to be patient and keep trying different techniques until you find the one that works most effectively for your own meditation journey.

Tracking your progress and measuring success

How can you know if meditation is improving your life and well-being? Further, how can you recognize additional areas of growth? 

Keeping a meditation journal may be a helpful way to record your mindfulness practice over time. By taking note of how long each session was, how you felt, and what distracted you, you might be able to identify patterns and figure out where to improve. A journal may also help you understand why some days work more effectively for meditation than others and enable you to adjust your habits accordingly.

To start your meditation journal, it may be best to come up with a format that works for you. Write down details like the date, time, how long you meditated, and your thoughts on the experience. Taking a moment to write after each meditation may strengthen your practice and increase self-awareness.

The way you measure success in meditation can depend on your personal goals. Some people might track how long they meditate, while others might focus more on how often they meditate or how they feel afterward. One way to measure your progress may be to keep track of how long and how often you meditate. You can use a timer, your journal, an app, or a calendar to do this. Seeing how much time you're spending on meditation may motivate you to keep going and stay consistent.

You might also consider measuring qualitative aspects of your meditation sessions. Are you able to maintain focus more easily over time? Is your mind wandering less? Has your emotional well-being improved? These aspects can show growth in your mindfulness practice and help you identify areas in which you've made progress.

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Wondering how meditation could support your mental well-being?

Benefits of online therapy

Online therapy may be helpful as an alternative or addition to meditation practices. An online therapist can teach you more about the art of meditation and help you manage various mental health conditions. If you’re looking to connect with a therapist who specializes in meditation, BetterHelp could be a useful place to start. With thousands of licensed therapists available, you can find one who fits your unique needs and preferences. Because online therapy can take place from anywhere at any time, it may be a helpful option if you have a busy schedule or want to participate in sessions from the comfort of your own home.  

Effectiveness of online therapy

Research suggests that online therapy interventions can be just as beneficial as those offered in person. In one study, researchers assessed the efficacy of an online mindful parenting program for mothers with high parental stress. The intervention was eight weeks long and included components like meditations, visualization techniques, and writing exercises. At the conclusion of the program, participants generally demonstrated significant improvements in self-compassion and fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

Takeaway

Meditation may be an invaluable tool for maintaining mental health and reducing stress. However, starting a meditation practice doesn't have to be daunting or complicated. Keep in mind that there may be no “right way” to meditate, and you can choose a method that fits your individual preferences and lifestyle. A simple technique you may choose to include in your daily life is breathing meditation, which generally focuses on observing your breath as it naturally occurs. Consistency can be key to making meditation a habit. Over time, you may notice an improvement in mental clarity, a reduction in stress, and an increased sense of overall well-being. Online therapy can be a useful supplement to meditation, empowering you to address a variety of questions and concerns from anywhere you have an internet connection.
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