Meditation is a method for calming the mind and body by focusing your attention on something. There are numerous types of meditation (e.g., transcendental, mindfulness, relaxation response), but I will just go over a few different practices, which is all you need to help you relax during the day so you can sleep at night.
How to do it:
Step 1: Sit and get comfortable.
Start by sitting in a comfortable position. It’s ideal if it’s quiet, though it’s not required, as you can meditate even if there’s noise (like in an airport).
Close your eyes and let your body relax. Loosen any tight clothing. Do a quick scan of your body and let go of any places you are holding or tensing. Then, focus your attention on your breathing, taking a few deep, slow breaths, exhaling slowly, letting your body relax each time you exhale.
Step 2: Choose a focus.
There are several ways to focus your mind during meditation.
- Focus on your breathing—As you sit quietly and comfortably, notice your breathing, as the air goes in and out of your nose or mouth, or the sound of your breath.
- Repeat a word—Choose a word and repeat it in your mind, effortlessly and silently on the exhale, as you continue breathing naturally and easily. Some common words to use: peace, relax, calm, serene, silent. It doesn’t matter what word. The purpose is to focus your mind on one simple thing in order to let go of everything else.
- Focus on an enjoyable or relaxing place—a beach, a mountain retreat, a favorite vacation spot, a beautiful location in nature.
- Focus on your senses—Notice what you hear, smell and feel. What noises do you hear inside and outside? What is the temperature in the room, or do you feel a breeze if outside? Just notice and be aware of these sensations; do not think about them or judge them.
As you focus on one of the above, continue to breathe easily and naturally.
Step 3: If your mind wanders, gently bring it back.
If your mind wanders (and it will) to other things (thoughts, worries, noises, bodily sensations), gently bring your attention back to your chosen focus. This is a normal part of meditation and happens to everyone, especially during the first part of the meditation when your mind may need to settle down. It’s the way the mind works, so don’t get frustrated or think you’re doing it wrong. Just keep bringing your attention back to your focus, whenever you notice a shift to something else.
Step 4: Don’t try to relax.
Your body and mind will relax on their own when they’re ready. Don’t try to force it. If you do, it will have the opposite effect (which is also the case when you “try” to go to sleep). Instead, just let the relaxation happen in its own time. Either way, you will still get benefits.
Step 5: Meditate for 10-20 minutes a day.
Meditate once a day for about 10-20 minutes (or longer if you want). Choose a time that you can do it consistently, like first thing in the morning or in the evening.