Many of us know that our life would be better with meditation… if we could only figure out how to make it stick.
It’s okay to have trouble meditating, especially if we’re a beginner learning how to start meditating daily. We’re human beings living in a world full of distractions, including the ones in our mind. When it feels like everything needs our attention now, it’s very easy for a calm, quiet practice like meditation to get squeezed out.
Even if we do make it to our seat, mat, cushion — whatever — to intentionally spend time with our mind, the mind doesn’t always want to cooperate. Sometimes we might feel bored, frustrated, or like we’re meditating wrong. But like any new habit, all of this is normal and doesn’t mean meditating is impossible. Far from it, especially with the help of this guide. Here, we’re sharing our top tips to make meditation a daily habit, so it feels easier for anyone to build a meditation routine that sticks — starting today.
It’s easier to make meditation a daily habit when we remember there’s no right or wrong way to meditate
Letting go of expectations and knowing our motivation — whether it’s to stress less or be more present — go a long way in making meditation a daily practice
Try meditations to help form a daily practice with Headspace
Meditation can seem hard for a unique reason: we’re teaching ourselves to be comfortable with our mind just as it is, however complicated and jaded, calm and compassionate, or anything in between. This can be challenging, so the mind does all it can to resist.
Maybe we try to avoid certain thoughts by pushing them away or trying to change them. Or maybe we try to stop thinking all together. But that’s impossible to do. The mind will always think, even during meditation. One of the biggest misunderstandings about meditation is that we must “clear” or “empty” the mind, and if we don’t, we’ve failed. We might say something to ourselves like, “Meditation didn’t work. I must have done it wrong.”
Meditation isn’t about achieving anything other than doing it with as much compassion for ourselves and our constantly thinking mind as we can. Truth is, there’s no right or wrong way to meditate. Training the mind to let go is an ongoing process where every day is different. That’s why it’s called meditation “practice,” after all. If we choose to spend time with our mind, focus on our breath, and try to let thoughts come and go, we did it. We meditated.
Hitting any goal is easier when we’re clear about our motivation. Without knowing our “why,” we tend to lose interest and give up after the excitement of trying something new begins to fade.
With meditation specifically, the repetition of the practice can create boredom, excuses, and indifference. We might even convince ourselves that we’ve cracked it and we’re pros after completing a meditation for beginners course, when that’s not quite true.
It takes time and patience to learn how to work with our mind, not against it. During meditation, we’re fundamentally shifting the way we relate to our thoughts and feelings for the better. With each session, we build awareness, increase our kindness towards ourselves and others, and connect with the present moment. And with slow, steady practice, all that starts to filter through to the rest of our life.
So take a minute to think: why do we want to meditate daily? Are we looking to be less reactive when our partner does that one thing? Be less tempted by social media so we can be more present with those we love? Strike a better work-life balance? Catch our breath after diaper duty? Feel less worried about the future? Find time for self-care? It’s okay if this motivation changes over time. But the clearer it is, the easier it will be to apply.
With our “why” as our motivation, it doesn’t take that long to experience the many benefits of daily meditation, either. Research shows that just 10 days of Headspace can reduce stress by 12%. Imagine what 30 days can do. Or 6 months.
But what if we’re having trouble just getting started? Daily meditation might feel easier if we know these basics:
What matters most is consistency. It might be helpful to schedule meditation sessions like an exercise class or appointment. Or we could tack it onto an existing routine, like every time we shower or brush our teeth. If we miss a day or more, it’s okay. We can simply pick up where we left off.
The best time to meditate is whenever we can. It doesn’t matter when (or where) we meditate, so choose whatever time works best. Meditation could be nice to do first thing in the morning before our day begins, or at night in bed. We could always meditate to reset ourselves before our last work meeting, or after we drop the kids off at school. Anytime we feel overwhelmed, we can take a break and meditate instead of pushing through.
We only need a few minutes to meditate. A short meditation can be five minutes or less. If we feel like that’s not enough, a 10-minute meditation is great for beginners. Once we have a consistent practice, we can slowly increase our time.
Be prepared for noisy distractions. We don’t need perfect quiet to meditate. Total silence might be too overwhelming in meditation for beginners. We become extra sensitive to every little sound when things are completely quiet. We can always try earplugs, noise-canceling headphones, white noise machines, or soothing music — like the concentrating-boosting Focus music in the Headspace app.
Sit and dress however feels good. As long as our back is straight, our neck and shoulders are relaxed, and our chin is slightly tucked, we can sit wherever we feel comfortable for the length of the meditation. Cross or uncross the arms and legs, whatever feels natural. Consider loosening any clothing that’s too restrictive, taking off our shoes, or removing any accessory we tend to fidget with.
Try guided meditation to learn from experts. Guided meditation is a type of meditation led by a teacher who explains what to do. They cue us when to open and close our eyes, how to breathe, and break down other meditation techniques. Because they’re experts on how the mind works, they offer friendly motivation and practical advice beginners typically need, like tips for using what we learn during meditation in real life.
Once we’re familiar with the practice, we can try unguided meditation, which we do on our own.
It might also be easier to make meditation a habit if we can remember there’s no pressure to “get it right.” As long as we show up to take time for ourselves, we’re doing great. Even if we’ve missed several planned sessions and start to think, “I’m not cut out for this.” Or we try it and think, “I’m not good at meditating.” Those are just thoughts. We can notice them, let them go, and get back to being kind to our mind.
There are short-term and long-term benefits to meditating every day. Let’s break it down with a bit of science and some practical examples.
Just one meditation with Headspace can reduce mind-wandering by 15%. One study even showed that relaxation techniques can lead to biological changes that are associated with health benefits — in minutes.
IRL, this means we can use meditation as a form of SOS. Feeling overwhelmed by a full day of meetings? Take a few minutes to press pause and reset with a 5-minute meditation. Feeling panicked over a mistake? Calm the nervous system with a quick breathing exercise. Or, find many other SOS meditations in the Headspace app. When we finish, it’s likely we’ll be in a better place to move forward with our day.
Have more than a few minutes? 10 minutes can help us feel less stressed and more relaxed. An hour-long guided meditation has been linked to reduced anxiety one hour post-meditation.
For thousands of years, meditation has been an effective practice in training the mind to be present. In recent times, it’s become backed by science, too. Research shows that when we intentionally sit with the mind, the brain rewires itself to improve emotional regulation, problem solving, resilience, and focus — a process called neuroplasticity.
Personally, we might not be able to tell exactly what’s happening to our brains, neuron by neuron. But we can certainly feel the impact meditation benefits have on our life. Over time, we’ll sleep more soundly, stress less about the small stuff, become more resilient through the big stuff, act more compassionately, and live happier and healthier. Research shows that 30 days of Headspace can improve our satisfaction in life.
Follow these expert tips to make it easier to build a daily meditation routine:
Whether we’re total beginners or not, let’s not jump in with the Olympics of meditation. A one-minute breathing exercise can go a long way. Next, we can try a 3-5 minute guided meditation. From there, we can try 10-15. Finding a comfortable, achievable length will help meditation feel more like treating ourselves than a chore. With just a few minutes a day, we can build up our tolerance for uncomfortable feelings and learn to let them go.
The less we think about meditating, the less opportunity we give our mind to talk us out of it. So, just meditate when the urge strikes, whether we need a break from work or to soothe the mind before bed. Don’t forget that we can meditate out in life — on the bus, in a breakroom, in a waiting room, on a walk, in the bathroom at a party. Meditation is always available to us.
If we need a little more structure, consider doing it first thing in the morning, when most of us tend to be more motivated and before the distractions of the day kick in. Not only will the regularity help us establish a meditation routine, but it will also set the stage for a mindful day.
Adding meditation to an existing routine makes it much easier for us to stick with it. Say we meditate every time we get out of the shower, brush our teeth, or make our morning coffee. Or, block it off on the calendar, like we would a fitness class. These actions serve as a little reminder to get us going and create space for ourselves, even if we’re really busy.
The best thing about meditation is that we can do it anytime, anywhere. If it’s hard to meditate at the “same time, same place,” it’s okay because it’s not mandatory. Every day is different. And if we miss a few days, we can always come back to a short meditation. Being flexible allows us to build discipline without all of the pressure. Showing up for ourselves is all that matters.
Starting with the basics of meditation can help us learn the foundational techniques that we’ll build on with every practice. But we can also explore meditations that relate to exactly what we’re going through. Headspace offers hundreds of meditations to fit any mood. Try a meditation course on sex and relationships to help us deepen our connections. Freaking out about news and climate anxiety? We’ll help you sit in this place of uncertainty with more comfort and ease. Need to focus at work or school? Learn strategies to be mindfully productive and avoid burnout.
Even if it might seem like it, don’t forget: we’re not alone in whatever we’re going through. If we’re craving a sense of community, Headspace offers monthly live meditations and weekly podcasts in the app that we can tune into as a group and connect with others.
Meditation isn’t magic, even if we wish it were. Feeling stress, anxiety, and other uncomfortable feelings is a part of life. Meditation isn’t going to get rid of them. But it does give us the tools to recognize and better understand those feelings and manage them less reactively. In this way, taking time for ourselves is a little magical.
And when we boil it down, meditating is just a little moment of self-care where we get to be calm and still and take a break from the craziness of our regular life. Doesn’t that sound nice? It doesn’t have to be so serious, regimented, or conditional. If we think it does, let’s remember that we can let unhelpful thoughts go. Now, let’s build our meditation routine one step at a time.
The Headspace app has hundreds of guided exercises to help you build your practice, plus plenty of other content to watch and listen to help you get more familiar with meditation and mindfulness.
If you’re ready to meditate, then search for these three meditations in the app. A happier, healthier you is a few breaths away.
Basics course. Learn the fundamentals of meditation and mindfulness.
Breathing Into Stress meditation. A short breathing exercise to settle the mind.
Five Mindful Minutes course. Make mindful breaks a priority.