To help keep your breath steady, picture a balloon inflating and deflating with each inhale and exhale. A tool on the Calm app called the “Breathe Bubble” makes this visual. “It supports people to easily breathe in, hold, and breathe out at a pace that feels comfortable,” says Tamara Levitt, head of mindfulness at Calm (the bubble’s speed is adjustable.)
Find your groove
If you’re quiet and focused on your breath, congratulations: You’re already practicing silent — or unguided — meditation. If it’s working for you, keep it up. But many beginners appreciate having their hand held (metaphorically) through guided meditation, in which a teacher leads you through the session. There are hundreds of techniques to choose from, so it’s important to find a guide and practice that resonate with you. Some common types of meditation include visualization (in which you focus on a mental image, like a stream of sunlight hitting your body), mantra (setting an intention by way of repeating a word, like “abundance,” or a phrase), and body scan (becoming aware of each part of your body as you perform a “self- scan” from head to toe).
Many practitioners combine elements of different techniques, especially when designing meditations in pursuit of a particular goal, like better sleep or sharper focus. An easy way to parse out what works for you is by downloading an app: Calm, Headspace, and Insight Timer all offer guided meditations that are organized by type, time, and goal, like a three-minute body scan to help relax you to sleep, or a five-minute meditation where you visualize something you’re having a hard time with and repeat “May I be kind to myself in this moment” to promote self-compassion. (These three apps also offer meditation boot camps for beginners, with exposure to many different styles, so you can quickly and easily find your favorite.)
Timing is everything
You really shouldn’t check social media before meditating for the same reason you should avoid it before bed. “Checking your email, scanning the news, or glancing at your to-do list forces the mind into a beta brain wave state [a term used in neuroscience],” says Morris. “That is useful for judgment and problem-solving tasks, but also characterized by [states of mind such as] anxiety and hyperactivity, which are not conducive to meditation.” First thing in the morning — before you’ve been bombarded with the news of the day — is an ideal time to practice, says Morris.
Keep it consistent
Some research suggests that “committing to a style of meditation and practicing it consistently allows us to best experience the cumulative effects,” says Ellie Burrows Gluck, CEO, and co-founder of MNDFL, a meditation studio in New York City that also streams live classes. Studies have shown that these beneficial effects include reduced blood pressure, eased anxiety, and help with insomnia.