Meditation for Beginners (And Why You Might Want to Give it a Try)

Meditation for Beginners (And Why You Might Want to Give it a Try)

When many people think of meditation, they often imagine monks and monasteries. In short, there are several myths surrounding the practice of meditation, to the point where it can be difficult to figure out whether there’s actually any real value to meditating, let alone how to go about it.

In reality, meditation is a legitimate practice that carries several benefits, and you certainly don’t have to be a monk to do it. For example, meditation can help reduce your stress levels. In this article, we’ll show you how meditation works and discuss its benefits. We’ll also guide you through a simple meditation exercise you can try at home.

Let’s get to it!

Introducing the Concept of Meditation

The first thing we need to clear up is there’s more than one type of meditation. For example, there’s Zen meditation, which attempts to gain insight into “the nature of existence”. You also have Kundalini yoga, which is a type of meditation that incorporates movement. Another popular type is mindfulness meditation, which is intended to help you become more aware of your surroundings and each moment.

If you’ve never dipped your foot into the field of meditation before, this can all sound a little confusing. However, you don’t need to concern yourself with studying the different types of meditation right away. For now, suffice it to say most ‘styles’ of meditation share a few common characteristics:

  • Finding a comfortable position with your eyes closed.
  • Focusing on your breath.
  • Not letting your thoughts get away from you.

Most types of meditation take place in a sitting position, but this can differ. Although the techniques may change, meditation’s ultimate goal is usually to achieve mental clarity and calmness. Regardless of who you are, those are probably two things you can stand to benefit a lot from in your day-to-day life.

In fact, anyone can incorporate basic meditation techniques into their life and reap its rewards. Even if you can only spare ten minutes of your day, that can be enough to sit down, focus on your breath, and try to reach a state of mental clarity.

Why You Should Try Meditating

Meditation isn’t going to give you superpowers, nor is it a magical remedy for physical or psychological ailments. However, several studies have shown there are concrete benefits to practicing meditation. For example:

Overall, you can think of meditation as a skill you can practice to improve self-discipline and better manage your emotions. What you get from meditation may vary depending on your personality and the types of exercises you practice.

If you’re struggling to pick up meditation, there are a lot of cool apps that can help you get started. Meditation and tech seem like an odd match, but we’ve personally tried a couple of these and found them to our liking, such as:

  1. Headspace (Premium with a free trial available): This app guides you through daily meditation exercises for specific purposes, such as dealing with anxiety. The narrator’s voice is smooth as butter, and you can choose how long each session lasts.
  2. The Mindfulness App (Premium with a free trial available): Like our previous pick, this app also guides you through a broad library of daily meditation exercises. However, it also integrates with several health apps, which makes a great option if you like to track your numbers.

Before we proceed, we should also point out that meditation certainly isn’t for everyone. However, we recommend you give it a chance without skepticism or expectations that are either too high or low. Instead, give it a shot as you would a mental exercise and stick with it for a few days to see if it can help you.

Meditation for Beginners (3 Steps to Get Started)

As we mentioned before, there are a lot of types of meditation you can try out for size. For this section, we’re going to go over a simple mindful meditation exercise that’s perfect for beginners. That way, you can try it on for size (hopefully several days in a row) and see if meditation is your thing.

Step #1: Find a Comfortable Place to Sit

The first thing that pops to mind when you think about meditation is a guy sitting down with his legs crossed and both palms together. That’s a perfectly valid meditation posture, but it’s far from the only one.

To give you an idea of the possibilities, check out some of the most common meditation poses. If this is your first time meditating, we recommend you keep it simple and stick with a chair or sit on a pillow. That way, it’ll be easier for you get comfortable, which will make it easier to meditate for longer periods of time.

Regardless of which position you choose, posture is essential when it comes to meditation. To get this right, here’s what you should keep in mind:

  • Keep your back as straight as possible.
  • Find a comfortable position for your hands, such as resting them atop your knees.
  • Relax your shoulders back.
  • Tilt your head down a bit, so it stays in a natural position.

Most popular meditation postures stick to those fundamentals. What usually changes is how you position your legs and hands, but you can get creative once you have a little practice under your belt.

Finally, it helps a lot if you can find a place that’s somewhat quiet for you to meditate. One of the tenets of meditation is learning how to keep your mind from wandering, but at the start, that’s considerably more difficult if someone is blasting Metallica from down the hall.

Step #2: Focus on Your Breath and Body

The primary technique used in mindful meditation is to focus on your breath and the way your body feels. Focusing on your breathing gives you something to rest your mind on, making it easier to concentrate.

Being conscious about the way your body feels, on the other hand, is all about exercising awareness. The idea is that concentrating on the way your body feels will center you at the moment, just as your breath does.

At this stage, you should be sitting comfortably in the pose we described during step number one. Now, take note of these steps and keep them in mind as you move forward:

  1. Close your eyes slowly and continue to focus on your breath.
  2. Breathe in through your nose and exhale through the mouth.
  3. Starting from the bottom of your body, ‘scan’ each of your limbs. Stop for ten seconds to become aware of it, and make your way up. You should do this without moving.

In practice, this process should serve to calm you down and clear your mind. In our experience, when you’re new to meditating, it’s natural to be a bit twitchy and restless. However, by focusing on each part of your body, you’re training yourself to concentrate on something other than external stimuli. By the time you’re done, you should be feeling much calmer.

Step #3: Try to Keep Your Mind from Wandering for at Least 10 Minutes

This is where things get tricky. The goal of mindfulness meditation is for you to become more aware – or mindful – of your surroundings and the way you interact with your thoughts.

At this stage, you should be sitting down, with your eyes closed (well, not right now) and breathing in an out slowly. Getting to that stage was the easy part, though. Now, you want to remain in that position, breathing in and out for at least ten minutes, which is a good length for a short session.

The problem is, when we’re still, our minds are built to wander away into random thoughts. You’ll find yourself thinking about errands you have to run, that fight you had back in third grade, emails you need to respond to, and pretty much everything in between.

Instead of telling you to ‘clear your mind’, let’s approach this more methodically. Here’s what you should do to get through those ten minutes:

  • Keep focusing on your breath and the way your body feels.
  • Pay attention to the sounds and smells around you and remain aware of them, all while staying in the same position.
  • Whenever you feel your mind wandering, acknowledge it, and try to ‘pull back’ to your breath.

That last part is the one that takes the longest to master. Most people still struggle with it even after they’ve been meditating for a while. The trick is not to let it frustrate you when your mind wanders. Instead, be mindful when it happens and pull yourself back when you notice. At all points, your breath should be the anchor that keeps you centered in your session.

If you want to, you can set a timer to tell you when your ‘time’ is up. Alternatively, you can wing it and see how long it feels comfortable for you to meditate. In any case, don’t go for a loud alarm since you don’t want to spoil your mood by being jolted out of it right after a good session.

In our experience, even a short meditation session can help clear your mind and increase productivity. It’s not magic, though, so the way you feel right after may vary depending on how well the session went. However, with a little practice, you should soon see both short- and long-term benefits to meditating!

Conclusion

On paper, meditation might not sound all that complicated. You sit down and clear your mind, which is easy, right? The thing is, getting to the point where you be mindfully aware of your thoughts and focus entirely on your body requires a lot of practice. However, you don’t need to be a meditation guru to start reaping its benefits, such as reduced anxiety and an improved attention span.

In this short guide in meditation for beginners, we’ve outlined these steps for your first exercise:

  1. Find a comfortable place to sit.
  2. Focus on your breath and body.
  3. Try and keep your mind from wandering for at least 10 minutes.

Have you ever tried meditating? Tell us how it went for you in the comments section below!

 

How to Get More Energy Starting Today

How to Get More Energy Starting Today

It’s the middle of the day and you already feel like you’re not going to make it without a nap or a shot of caffeine. We’ve all been there, and it’s a bummer. If you find yourself in this situation often, chances are there’s something about your lifestyle that’s affecting your energy levels, and you need to correct it if you want more sustainable energy.

Think of your body as a machine. If you don’t treat it right and carry out some maintenance, it won’t work at 100%. In this article, we’ll talk about some of the most common causes behind chronic tiredness, and go over several tips to increase your energy levels.

Let’s get to it!

 

Why You Don’t Have Enough Energy Throughout the Day

When you’re feeling tired, you’re not at your most productive. It’s normal enough to be a bit exhausted after a long day of work. However, if you feel like you lack energy all the time, there’s likely an underlying problem you need to address. Some of the most common causes of chronic tiredness include:

Those are just a few of the potential causes behind your lack of energy. In most cases, diagnosing the problem is easy enough. If you’re sleeping five hours every night and pounding five espressos to get through the day, you’re probably aware that’s not sustainable. You can push yourself a bit for a few days if needed, but over the long term, that pace will damage your body and impact your productivity.

The main takeaway is, if you feel tired all the time and you think it’s impacting your personal and work life, you need to make some changes to your routine.

 

How to Get More Energy Starting Today

In this section, we’ll teach you how to get more energy by making some lifestyle changes. For each method, we’ll talk about how long it takes to see results and how you can go about putting it in action.

 

Let’s get into it!

 

1. Cut Down on Your Caffeine Intake

Cutting down on coffee and other energy drinks may sound counterproductive. After all, you want more energy, and those types of drinks are all about giving you a quick boost.

The problem is, drinking too much coffee can affect the quality of your sleep, which can lead you to feel tired the next day. Caffeine stays in your system for anywhere between four to six hours. This means if you drink a cup at 6pm, you may still feel its effects by 10–12pm.

Usually, that’s about the time you’d want to go to bed during the week, so you can get at least 7–9 hours of rest. Of course, your mileage may vary, but the later you drink coffee in the day, the greater the affect on your rest.

Putting sleep aside, overindulging with coffee can also increase your heart rate and anxiety levels. Of course, we won’t tell you to cut it out of your life entirely. According to some studies, you can drink up to four cups of coffee a day and stay within the ‘safe’ range.

Even so, if you’re up to four cups a day, we’d recommend cutting back to three, to be safe. Anything over four cups and you need to lower your intake, which is the kind of change you can put into action right away.

 

2. Drink a Glass of Water

It costs almost nothing to have a quick glass of water, and you can do it in minutes. Surprisingly enough, some studies show a lot of people aren’t drinking enough water throughout the day. This is a big problem because even slight dehydration can impact your brain function and energy levels.

If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t usually reach for the water bottle when you’re feeling thirsty, it may be a cause behind your low energy levels. You’re going to find a lot of varying information on how much water you need to drink per day. However, the prevailing wisdom is that your body requires around eight glasses of water per day, as a rule of thumb.

To be safe, we recommend carrying a water bottle around with you. Also, make an effort to go for a glass of water instead the next time you’re jonesing for a soda or another type of sugary drink. While the sugar may give you a quick boost of energy, the resulting crash can play havoc with your productivity.

 

3. Take a Short Walk

We’ll talk more shortly about how exercise can affect your energy levels. However, you’ll be happy to know even minimal amounts of physical activity are often enough to give you a quick energy boost.

Case in point – a study showed the energizing effects of a brisk ten-minute walk were about equivalent to a cup of coffee. If you work in an office, you can give this exercise a shot by taking a walk or two around the block during your next break. If you can’t leave the premises, a long set of stairs can do the trick as well (plus, it’s excellent exercise).

The best part is, you don’t need to break a sweat to reap the benefits. As long as you’re not strolling around at a snail’s pace, even those ten minutes of exercise should be enough to wake you up a bit during the middle of the day.

If you’re a coffee drinker, try replacing one cup of brew a day for a ten-minute walk and see how it works out for you. Also, feel free to make the walk longer if you have the time for it!

 

4. Take a Look at Your Diet

There’s a reason why people make such a big fuss about healthy eating. It’s not just because it can go a long way towards getting you a six-pack – following a proper diet can also have a significant impact on your mood and energy levels.

For example, too much coffee can leave you feeling anxious, as we mentioned earlier. If you overdo it with sugar, you’ll crash at some point, and you probably won’t get much done for the rest of the day.

Those are just examples of foods affecting your energy in the short term. However, eating a balanced diet is also essential over the long term. If you regularly overdo it with food, you’re going to feel sluggish constantly. The same goes if you’re not ingesting essential nutrients. For example, a lack of iron is a quick ticket to fatigue and sometimes depression.

Fixing your diet isn’t something you can do overnight though. You can start making healthy food decisions right away, but for them to stick, you’ll need to follow a plan. If it’s within your means, we recommend consulting a nutritionist who can give you advice on a diet that works for you. Otherwise, there are plenty of great resources you can check out online for information on how to eat more healthily.

 

5. Develop Healthy Sleeping Habits

If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re going to feel tired – it’s a simple equation. You can mask the tiredness with coffee, follow a healthy diet, and try umpteen other tricks. However, science says you need around six to eight hours of quality sleep per night. However, it’s a change that can take a while to implement.

By quality sleep, we mean not spending hours tossing and turning in bed. This can happen because (among other reasons) you stayed up later than you should have, used your smartphone to close to bedtime, or had caffeine too late in the evening.

A lot of people brag about being able to function on fewer hours of rest. However, research shows that once you dip below the six-hour threshold, it affects your overall health, even if you can get through the day.

If you’re not accustomed to getting a good night’s sleep, there are several things you can do to rest better:

  • Avoid using computers or mobile devices right before going to bed, since they can impact your melatonin levels.
  • Don’t ingest coffee or other stimulants for at least six hours before bed.
  • Try exercising more so you’ll have an easier time falling asleep.
  • Make an effort to stick to a sleep schedule, so your body gets used to it.

Developing healthy sleeping habits can take a while if you’re not used to it. For some people, it might take weeks for the new routine to stick. However, once you start getting more rest, you should feel your energy levels increase drastically. Chances are you won’t even need as much coffee to get through the day, so that’s another victory!

 

6. Start Exercising Consistently (Even If You Start Small)

When you’re feeling tired, the last thing you probably want to do is squeeze in a workout. However, sticking to an exercise routine has been shown to increase energy levels over the long-term.

We’ve already talked about how a quick walk is enough to make you feel less sluggish. However, you need to step it up if you want to see significant results. Studies suggest that to reap in moderate benefits, you need at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week. For the best possible results, though, you’ll need to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day with moderate intensity.

However, most of us don’t have the time to work out every day, so we need to compromise. A minimum of three hour-long workouts per week strikes a good balance of a lot of people, and you can increase this if your schedule allows for it.

The trick is to find some exercise that doesn’t feel like a chore, so you’ll want to incorporate it into your routine over the long term. If you hate jogging, give swimming a try. If that’s too tame for you, check out a boxing class. Chances are there’s at least one physical activity you’ll love, so look for it and get started as soon as possible!

 

Conclusion

If you want to increase your energy levels, you need to take good care of your body – there’s no way around it. However, there are several things you can do if you just need a quick energy boost. For example, drinking a glass of water or taking a quick walk are surefire ways to wake up a bit.

Over the medium to long-term, you’ll want to develop better habits to keep your energy levels up, though. This means improving your diet and exercising regularly, among other things, which can be tough yet rewarding.

 

What do you do when you need a quick boost of energy throughout the day? Share your tips with us in the comments section below!

How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

Sometimes, we fall into the trap of being jealous of someone else’s success instead of celebrating it. This doesn’t make us bad people, but does mean we could put too much stock in comparing ourselves with others. Quite frankly, this is a surefire way to make yourself feel terrible.

Learning how to stop comparing yourself to others is a skill you need to cultivate if you want to live a fulfilling life, both in and out of the office. In this article, we’ll talk more about why comparing yourself to others can be such a bad thing for you. Then we’ll discuss three steps you can follow to eliminate this behavior from your life.

Let’s talk self-improvement!

What Makes Comparisons So Essential to Your Progress

In short, being able to make comparisons is one of the most efficient ways of gauging progress. For example, it’s usually a smart move to compare your salary with what other people in similar positions and locations are earning. Without those comparison points, you can’t ascertain if you’re getting paid what you’re worth.

Of course, the counter-argument here is that as long as you make enough money to live well, making comparisons is unwarranted. However, using data to make smarter decisions is, well, smart – and comparisons are a key part of the process.

To put it another way, comparing yourself to other people can be a valuable skill to determine what improvements you need to make to your own life. It can also provide you with an assessment of your own career’s progress. However, what you shouldn’t do is let those comparisons alone dictate your mindset and planning, which we’ll talk more about next.

Why You Shouldn’t Compare Yourself to Others

Although comparisons are a natural part of life, they’re also something that can affect you negatively. For example, imagine having a colleague (let’s call him John), who’s handsome, funny, fantastic at his job, well-liked, and even a badass guitar player.

Of course, John is amazing, but unfortunately, few people can live up to the standard. If you let yourself fall into the trap of comparing yourself with him, it’s not going to be fun for you. Depending on your mindset, these comparisons can make you feel insecure, affect your work, and even sour your relationship itself with John. Over time, these constant comparisons can breed resentment, which is obviously something you don’t want to happen.

The thing is, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be as amazing a guy as John is. However, there’s a difference between striving to be a better person in general and wanting to become better than someone else. With the former, there’s no pressure, because as long as you’re working on improving yourself, you’ll always be on the right track. However, if you use someone else’s situation as your goalposts, you’ll constantly feel bad if you’re not up to their level.

In other words, striving to achieve more than you did yesterday is a better goal than looking to be better than someone else, mainly because the former is totally within your control. Let’s talk more about how to do so.

How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others (in 3 Steps)

If you’re worried that this next section will simply be a lecture don’t be. We’re also going to help you figure out how to stop comparing yourself to others, since just like John, we’re cool like that!

Step #1: Take Stock of Your Strengths and Weaknesses

As cool as John may be, we’re willing to bet there’s at least one area in life where you’re more skilled than he is. Maybe you’re a talented programmer or you have an amazing eye for design.

Conversely, there’s probably skills or parts of your life needing a bit of improvement. However, this is nothing to feel bad about, since we’re all works in progress.

At this stage, you should make an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, and the medium (such as on your computer, or using pen and paper) is up to you. When finished, you should have a clear picture of what your skill set looks like. With this information, you’ll know what areas you need to improve, so you can stop comparing yourself to other people.

If you’re having problems with this step, here are some tips to help get the ball rolling:

    • Ask your friends or coworkers for their honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses.
    • Remain open to constructive feedback – and don’t take it personally.
    • Take note of everything you’re told, then ask yourself if you think those assessments are accurate.

Receiving feedback from the people around you can be a humbling experience. However, it can also lay the groundwork for improving yourself, so it’s almost always a smart move.

Step #2: Make a Mental Note When You Compare Yourself to Others

At this stage, you should have an accurate idea of your personal pros and cons. This means you can get to work on improving yourself any way you see fit. However, you also need to avoid comparing yourself to others so you don’t become frustrated with the process.

For a lot of us, controlling and changing how we think can be one of the most difficult tasks to achieve. To give you an example, imagine you’re on a diet and you have a craving for a big, tasty chocolate cake. As you may be aware, ignoring this craving takes a lot of willpower. The approach in this instance is to acknowledge your craving, then think about how the indulgence would set you back in your goals.

The same can be applied to comparisons. One method that may help is to simply note whenever you find you’re making comparisons with someone else. Just the act of acknowledging it can be enough to help you break out of the habit, and you can even rope your friends in for support too.

We can apply the same approach to negative comparisons. When you feel upset because you’re not at someone else’s level, make a note of it, give yourself a quick telling off over your thoughts aren’t helpful, then get on with your day. After all, being productive rather than feeling sorry for yourself is always a better alternative.

Step #3: Focus on Improving Yourself Gradually

The key (and arguably best way) to avoiding comparisons of yourself with others is to try and improve constantly. Since you’ve already discovered your weaknesses, you have a set of areas to begin improving, and some goals to reach.

For example, if you’re a chronic procrastinator, you can try and exercise self-discipline each day to avoid wasting time. If planned and implemented correctly, this process should become a habit, essentially achieving the improvement you set out to accomplish.

The knock-on effect is that eventually, you’ll have no need to compare yourself to others as you’ll have hopefully recognized the effort you’ve put into improving yourself. However, it’s important to understand that this process takes time – sometimes years – regardless of the specific aspect of improvement.

Also, bear in mind that if you become frustrated, you’re more likely to revert to your old patterns. To combat this, take the time to simply appreciate each success you make. Each day you go without procrastinating, for example, is an opportunity to pat yourself on the back. You could also give yourself milestones, and reward yourself at each point.

Ultimately, when you accomplish something you set out to do, you deserve to feel good about it. Over time, these small successes should help boost your confidence, and stop you from comparing yourself with others.

Conclusion

It’s only natural you compare yourself with others. After all, some things are only evident through comparison. However, falling into a pattern where you constantly feel bad about where you are in life in comparison to others can be toxic. This goes both for yourself and for those relationships.

Learning how to stop comparing yourself to others is one of the best ways to lead a less stressful life, and here are three steps to help you get there:

  1. Take stock of your strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Make a mental note when you compare yourself to others.
  3. Focus on improving yourself gradually (and appreciate your successes).

Do you have any questions about how to stop comparing yourself to others? Ask away in the comments section below!