New year, new you? Start fresh and learn to meditate this month. New Year’s resolutions are a tradition of creating goals for ourselves in the coming year. Common resolutions include making a lateral move professionally, making a character change, or a lifestyle change. Most resolutions, even professional ones, are lifestyle modifications we make to have a healthier and more productive existence.

Achieving a healthy lifestyle is about more than eating right and exercising. A healthy lifestyle is the result of developing a number of healthy habits. Habits like maintaining a routine, getting enough sleep, and ensuring that our minds are stimulated.

You need to stay focused to accomplish your goals. Making time in your daily routine for mindful meditation is a great way to stay focused and productive throughout the year. In addition to being more productive, studies have shown that meditating for a little as 12 minutes a day can decrease levels of anxiety as well as increase immune function and overall happiness and well-being.

How to Start a Meditation Practice

Everything You Need to Start Meditating

Something to sit on. Comfort is be the most important consideration for choosing something to sit on since you will need to be comfortable for an extended period of time. While a ‘meditation cushion’ is the most popular choice, a simple firm chair with a straight back is better for those who suffer from lower back pain. Posture is critical in meditation so regardless of whether or not you are sitting on a cushion, chair, or bench, you must refrain from slouching.

A timer. All smartphones are equipped with a timer. You will need a timer to measure how long you have been sitting and alert you when your time is done. This is a simple way to train your brain and slowly extend the length of your sessions.

5 Simple Steps to Start a Mindful Meditation Practice

1. Aim for short but consistent sessions.

Have you heard the phrase ‘it’s a marathon, not a sprint’? Your first goal in your meditation practice is for your practice to become a habit and then a lifelong habit. In order for meditation to become a habit, you need to practice every day without burning yourself out. Start small. Set your timer for three minutes with the goal of meditating every day for one month. Once you have accomplished this goal, extend the practice by a minute or two as you feel comfortable.

2. Choose the right time of day for you.

Some people like to wake up and meditate before they do anything else. Others prefer to meditate during their lunch break to refocus during a busy day. Some like to meditate at night before bed to quiet the mind. Experiment with different times until you find the time of day that works best for you and your routine.

How to Start a Meditation Practice

Maintaining good posture during your practice makes it easier to focus on your breath.

3. Sit and sit up.

Posture is very important in meditation. Keep your back straight and your chest upright. Don’t worry about what to do with your hands, open or close your eyes, and cross your legs however you want, but always keep your back straight. Maintaining good posture during your practice makes it easier to focus on your breath.

4. Meditate on your breath.

If you are new to meditation, count your breath as you meditate. Count each in-breath and out-breath with the same number. For example, your mind will focus on “one” — breathe in — “one” — breathe out. “Two” — breathe in — “two” — breathe out. If your mind wanders and you lose count, that’s okay! Simply start over. You are not competing with anyone, even yourself. The purpose of counting is to train your mind to focus on your breath. That is all.

5. Accept that your mind will wander.

“Monkey mind” is a common affliction of the human condition. Our minds bounce quickly from one thought to the next, sometimes spiraling us into negative thought patterns. When your mind wanders and follows a thought away from your practice, gently guide your mind back to focus on your breath. The point of your practice is to be aware of the mind’s movements and patterns, so acknowledging your thoughts is part of the process.

Get started with your meditation practice today by following along with this 3-minute guided meditation video. To learn more about AVS Mindfulness and the release of our instructional mindfulness meditation app, visit us at avsmindfulness.com.