You've seen the images all over Instagram: serene women, perfectly still, surrounded by chic decor, somehow able to drown out the external noise and soak in a restorative meditation practice. If you've ever looked at these and thought, That could never be me, or struggled in an attempt to recreate such moments on your own, you're not alone. It doesn't come easily to everyone, but with some expert-approved meditation tips, this stress-relieving, age-old practice could become a part of your routine — even if you find the idea of sitting still utterly impossible.
From reducing anxiety to clearer skin, the claims of meditation have led to a surge in the practice's popularity in recent years, with celebrities like Eva Mendes, Jennifer Aniston, and even Oprah praising its transformative powers. But for some, no matter how many apps they've downloaded or articles they've read, they just can't seem to make it a habit. Why? According to Ashley Wray, meditation teacher and founder/CEO of Mala Collective, it could be because being alone with your thoughts can be, well, uncomfortable. "Sitting in silence can bring up things we don’t want to think about, or visions we don’t want to see that maybe we’ve been avoiding," she explains. "But, the more we practice, the more it turns into a beautiful gift of getting to know ourselves. You just have to stay committed in the beginning to build the habit — even through the discomfort."
Additionally, Wray notes that some people's self-judgement can hinder their practice or get in their own way. "I think people often approach meditation with an all-or-nothing mentality," she says. "I like to look at meditation as an opportunity to come back to myself, to watch my thoughts, and find some space between those thoughts. Being able to reconnect to my body and ground into the present moment a far more accessible approach to meditation."
Changing your mentality is just one thing you can do to make meditating feel more within your reach. From simple breathing exercises to creating your own cozy corner, there are a few tricks you may not have thought of that could help you start a habit that sticks. Ahead find tips from Wray and Ava Johanna, a meditation and breathwork teacher and host of The Alchemized Life, that may finally guide you into stillness, plus a few stylish accessories that could help get you in the mood.
Meditation Tip: Create Visual Reminders
"When I have something like a meditation cushion or crystal sitting out in my living room, I am more likely to take a moment to sit and breathe," says Wray. "It inspires me to connect to myself. I notice that the more aesthetically pleasing the item, the more likely I am to leave it out in the open, meaning I have a higher chance of seeing it!" And if creating a meditation conducive zone in your home is something you think could help, Wray recommends other soothing elements like plants, beads, sound bowls, and trinkets to help you set the mood.
Meditation Tip: Make Your Own Mantra
"I am a big fan of affirmations — positive phrases we repeat to ourselves, such as I Am Enough, I Am Strong, I Am Patient, or I Am Love," Wray says. "I use them in my meditation practice, but I also use my affirmation throughout the day — when I’m in line at the grocery store, when I’m on hold, or when taking a walk. It helps us bring mindfulness into our days and normalizes speaking to ourselves with love and kindness."
Meditation Tip: Start Small
Before you write off meditation as something you just don't have time for, know that even a few minutes a day can be beneficial. "Set the alarm on your phone for 5, 8, or 10 minutes," Wray suggests. "Start small and grow from there. The reason for setting the timer is that it allows you to sink into the practice versus checking your phone every few minutes to see how long it’s been. Time has a funny way of expanding when we are in meditation!"
Meditation Tip: Question Your Resistance
If you shift, fidget, or simply can get yourself to sit down when trying to meditate, Johanna suggests taking a moment to question your resistance. "Whenever you notice yourself resisting sitting down or making excuses, challenge the resistance by asking this question: Why am I resisting my own growth?" She says. "Sometimes all it takes to move past the excuses are really good questions that remind us of our intention for why we wanted to start meditating in the first place."
Meditation Tip: Use Your Breath
According to Johanna, breath is a cornerstone of meditation, and some of the simplest breathing exercises could be enough to keep you calm and totally reset your day. And as a bonus — breathing is something you can do anywhere: In your car, at your desk, in line, etc. "Try using a gentle breathwork practice like equal ratio breathing that activates the relaxation response in the body," she suggests. "Breathing in through your nose and out through your nose, you'll inhale for 5, retain your breath at the top for 5, exhale for 5 and hold your breath at the bottom for 5. Aim to do 5 rounds and then bring your breath back into its natural rhythm to shift into your meditation practice."
Meditation Tip: Know That Not Thinking Isn't Realistic
"Often we think of meditation as this 'thoughtless' experience where in order to be 'doing it right' we need to have a completely clear mind," Johanna explains. "However, the goal of meditation is not to be completely thoughtless, but instead to witness the thoughts as they arise and gently let them go. Think of it like watching TV and a commercial break comes on. You don't think of the commercial as the TV show, it's separate and quickly passes by. It's the same as your thoughts. You are not your thoughts, they are momentary and fleeting, and the more often you witness your thoughts then return back to a point of focus like your breath or an affirmation, the better you get at remaining in the present moment."
Meditation Tip: Focus On Gratitude
Focusing on your feelings — like gratitude, for example — can be a way for you to extend the benefits beyond your practice. "This practice activates our RAS (reticular activating system) which serves as a funnel in our brain. The RAS funnels information to support how we already feel or what we already know so for the rest of the day your brain will be looking for more examples to support the feeling of gratitude or love instead of stress and worry. To do this, send love to everyone you can think of while you're meditating, think about things you are grateful for and let those strong emotions overcome your physical body."
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