Beginner’s Guide To Basic Meditation & The Benefits

Beginner's Guide To Basic Meditation

Meditation, once regarded as an esoteric practice, has now permeated the mainstream, captivating a diverse global audience with its profound health benefits. Recent studies underscore the significance of meditation, revealing its capacity to reduce stress, enhance cognitive function, and improve overall well-being. 

For instance, a research published in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice confirms that mindfulness meditation can substantially alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. As more individuals seek effective ways to manage the stresses of modern life, the allure of meditation’s health-promoting properties continues to grow, reflecting a broader shift towards wellness-oriented lifestyles.

So, with that being said, how does one start meditating? Let’s keep reading to understand the beginners guide to meditation.

What Does Meditation Mean?

Meditation refers to a set of techniques designed to promote heightened awareness and focused attention. The practice typically involves the deliberate regulation of attention and is often used for increasing calmness, enhancing relaxation, and improving psychological balance. Here’s a concise look at its definition, supported by academic sources:

History Of Meditation

Meditation has been practised for millennia, originating as early as 1500 BCE in the Indian subcontinent. With Hindu traditions such as Vedantism, meditation took the form of “Dhyāna,” aiming to help the practitioner achieve a deeper understanding of life and existence. Over centuries, meditation practices spread and evolved across different cultures, including Buddhism and other Asian religions.

For instance, early Buddhist texts depict meditation as central to the spiritual path, focusing on mindfulness and contemplative practices to cultivate a deeper understanding of reality and achieve enlightenment. In China, figures like Daoxuan played significant roles in the evolution of meditation within Chinese Buddhism during the early Tang dynasty, integrating meditation deeply into monastic life and spiritual practices. 

Today, meditation has transcended its religious origins to be embraced in secular contexts worldwide, largely due to its perceived benefits for health and well-being. Modern meditation focuses on techniques like mindfulness, where practitioners are encouraged to maintain attention on the present moment in a non-judgmental manner. This practice has been popularised globally, partly due to its promotion as a therapeutic tool, with numerous studies highlighting its benefits for mental health, stress reduction, and overall quality of life.

Beginner’s Guide To Meditation

Beginner's Guide To Basic Meditation
Basic meditation 101

Here’s a breakdown to get you started on your meditation journey:

1. Setting the Stage

Find a quiet space
Choose a comfortable and distraction-free environment. This could be a corner in your room, a park bench, or even your office chair, as long as you feel undisturbed.

Get comfortable
Sit or lie down in a position that allows you to relax without slouching. You can sit on a chair with your back straight and feet flat on the floor, or try a kneeling position with a meditation cushion for support.

Set a timer (optional)
If you’re new to meditation, starting with short sessions (5-10 minutes) is recommended. Setting a timer can help you stay focused and avoid feeling overwhelmed.

2. Focus on your Breath

Close your eyes gently (optional)
This can help you turn inward, but it’s not essential.

Bring your attention to your natural breath 

Feel the sensation of your breath entering and leaving your body. Notice your chest and abdomen rising and falling with each inhalation and exhalation.

Don’t try to control your breath
Simply observe it without judgement. If your mind wanders, gently guide your attention back to the breath.

3. The Wandering Mind

It’s natural for your mind to wander
Thoughts, worries, and plans will inevitably pop up. Don’t get discouraged! Acknowledge the thought without judgement, and then gently bring your attention back to your breath.

Be patient
Learning to meditate takes practice. The goal isn’t to achieve a blank mind but to develop the ability to observe your thoughts without getting caught up in them.

4. Finishing your Practise

When the timer goes off (or when you feel ready) 

Slowly shift your attention back to your surroundings. Wiggle your fingers and toes, and take a few deep breaths.

Open your eyes gently (if closed)

Take a moment to appreciate the calmness you may be feeling. 

Additional Tips

Practise regularly
Aim for daily meditation, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Consistency is key to experiencing the benefits.

Be kind to yourself
Don’t get frustrated if your mind wanders. That’s part of the process. Just keep gently bringing your attention back to your breath.

Explore different meditation techniques
There are many types of meditation. As you become more comfortable, you might want to explore guided meditations or mindfulness techniques that incorporate focusing on bodily sensations or sounds.

Health Implications Of Meditation

Meditation has been extensively studied for its numerous health benefits. Below are some of the key findings from research studies regarding the positive implications of meditation on health. 

Reduction in Psychological Stress

Meditation practices like mindfulness and focused attention help regulate the body’s stress response by modulating the release of stress hormones such as cortisol. By promoting a state of relaxation, meditation decreases the activity of the sympathetic nervous system (responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response) and enhances the parasympathetic nervous system’s activity, leading to a reduction in heart rate, blood pressure, and improved breathing rate. These physiological changes contribute to lower stress levels and better emotional regulation.

The study also found moderate evidence of improved anxiety, depression, and pain through meditation, highlighting its benefits in managing psychological stress.

Enhancement of Emotional Intelligence and Stress Reduction

Meditation enhances emotional intelligence by improving self-awareness and the ability to recognise and manage one’s emotions and those of others. Regular meditation practice can lead to better emotional regulation skills by increasing the density of grey matter in brain regions linked to self-awareness, empathy, and emotional regulation. These changes can help reduce perceived stress and improve overall mental health.

Additionally, greater meditation experience was associated with higher emotional intelligence and less perceived stress and negative mental health.

Cognitive and Brain Plasticity Improvements

Meditation influences brain plasticity—the brain’s ability to change structurally and functionally in response to experience. Regular meditation increases the thickness of the prefrontal cortex, enhances connectivity between brain regions, and improves the brain’s ability to process information. These changes may protect against age-related cognitive decline and increase overall cognitive resilience.

Neurological Health Benefits

Meditation can lead to significant changes in brain areas involved in concentration, decision-making, and sensory processing. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have shown that mindfulness meditation increases activity in the prefrontal cortex, enhances the brain’s ability to process information, and reduces activity in the amygdala, which is responsible for processing fear and anxiety.

A study provides evidence of the positive effects of mindfulness on physical and mental health, cognitive performance, and neurological health through neuroimaging studies.

Comprehensive Health Enhancements

Meditation practices contribute to an overall improvement in health by reducing markers of inflammation and increasing telomere length, which are indicators of cellular ageing. Meditation also enhances immune response, which can help the body in fighting diseases more effectively. These benefits are reflected in better physical health, reduced incidence of age-related diseases, and improved mental health.

Transformation Of Meditation In Modern World Plays A Role In Improving Your Wellbeing 

Meditation, once perceived as a mystical practice shrouded in the annals of ancient cultures, has now been widely accepted and scientifically validated for its myriad health benefits. This beginner’s guide serves as a comprehensive introduction to both the art and science of meditation, outlining practical steps to embark on this transformative journey. 

By integrating meditation into daily routines, individuals can tap into profound benefits including reduced stress, enhanced cognitive capabilities, and improved emotional intelligence, all of which contribute to a holistic sense of well-being.

As more individuals turn to meditation in pursuit of mental tranquillity and physical health, this practice is poised to become an integral component of modern preventive healthcare. 

With regular practice, meditation not only cultivates a deeper connection with oneself but also fosters a resilient foundation for facing the complexities of contemporary life. Thus, whether you are a novice seeking solace or an adept meditator deepening your practice, the journey of meditation offers a pathway to profound personal growth and wellness.

Written by

Priyom holds a Ph.D. in Plant Biology and Biotechnology from the University of Madras, India. She is an active researcher and an experienced science writer. Priyom has also co-authored several original research articles that have been published in reputed peer-reviewed journals. She is also an avid reader and an amateur photographer.

Written by

Priyom holds a Ph.D. in Plant Biology and Biotechnology from the University of Madras, India. She is an active researcher and an experienced science writer. Priyom has also co-authored several original research articles that have been published in reputed peer-reviewed journals. She is also an avid reader and an amateur photographer.

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