How to Practice Basic Meditation for Stress Management

Rear view of woman meditating in lotus position

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Meditation has many health benefits and is a highly effective way to relieve stress and maintain a healthier lifestyle. With practice, meditation becomes both more of an easy habit to maintain and more of an effective one as well, given that it builds resilience to stress over time. Putting in the effort to learn and practice meditation can actually transform your experience of stress in your life.

There are many different ways to meditate, and this technique is one of the most basic. With practice, you can use this technique to feel inner peace whenever you need it.

How to Begin a Basic Meditation Practice

Here's how to begin a basic meditation practice:

Step 1: Get Into a Comfortable Position

Choose where and how you'll sit. Many people like to sit in a comfortable chair while others prefer to sit cross-legged on the ground. You want to be able to completely relax while still staying awake.

Ensure that your posture is correct. It is easier to stay awake through long meditations if your back is straight. If you begin your meditation practice with this in mind, your body will become used to the position as you move on to longer periods of time.

Tip: Should you feel your shoulders slump while meditating, simply straighten back up. A straight back will also prevent soreness during longer meditations.

If you choose to sit in a chair, sit toward the front of the seat and place your feet firmly on the floor. This will improve your posture and help you concentrate on your practice.

Step 2: Close Your Eyes Gently

When you are in a comfortable position, look into the distance with a soft gaze, then slowly lower your lids. Keep your jaw slack and slightly open as well. You want to relax all of your facial muscles.

Tip: Do not squeeze your eyes tight. If you feel your face tighten, slowly open your eyes, refocus on that soft gaze and lower them again.

At this stage, your goal is to relax every part of your body. If you feel some tension in certain parts of your body, take a deep breath and allow it to relax you.

Step 3: Put Thoughts Aside

While you can't control your thoughts, you can control how much power they have over you. This doesn't mean you should ignore or suppress them, but simply remain calm, note them, and then use your breathing to bring you back to the moment. Learning to do this during your meditation practice can help you to let things go in the rest of your life as well.

Tip: If you get carried away in your thoughts, don't be hard on yourself. Take a moment, without judgement, to observe where your mind went off to and then return to your breathing.

Step 4: Keep Going

That’s it, really! Keep putting aside any thoughts that may pop into your mind. The quiet spaces between thoughts will become longer and more frequent the longer you practice.

A Few Tips to Help Your Meditation Practice

Here are a few more tips to keep in mind as you move along on the road to mediation.

Give it time

Meditation takes practice and a lot of it. If you’re expecting to do it "perfectly," you may actually create more stress than you relieve. There is no "perfect" meditation session and if you go into it with an expectation of perfection, you may let yourself down and won’t want to stick with it.

Start Small and Work up to Longer Sessions

Begin with a short session of 5 minutes. After you are comfortable, move to 10 or 15 minutes until you are comfortable meditating for 30-minute sessions.

With practice, this type of meditation becomes easier and more effective. You will come out of a meditation session feeling relaxed and refreshed, ready to face the rest of your day.

Track Your Time and Set Goals

It can be easy to lose track of time while meditating and two minutes can seem like an eternity when you are just beginning. This can cause you to worry and have thoughts like "Is my time up?" or "Have I meditated long enough?" Those thoughts defeat the purpose of clearing your mind.

To combat this, you may want to set a timer. Use an app on your phone and set it for the amount of time you want to meditate during that session. Be sure to use a gentle tone or set it to vibrate so it doesn't startle you when time is up, then turn off the screen and relax.

With practice, you may eventually find yourself saying, "Wow, that was 10 minutes? I could go longer!" When you are comfortable, skip the timer and allow your meditations to last as long as needed.

Try Another Style of Meditation

If the experience is frustrating for you and you don’t really want to continue, you may find more success with other types of meditation like the karate breathing meditation.

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  1. National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). Meditation: In Depth. Updated January 2019.