Have you ever been in a class or listening to an audiobook or podcast, and the speaker says, “okay, now we are going to go into a guided meditation.” And then before you know it, you are being told to visualize yourself in a forest by a babbling brook while weird chimes play in the background?

This was my very first experience with meditation, and can I just say, I hated it! I thought, “if this is meditation, it’s not for me.”

Of course, that sort of guided meditation may work wonders for some people. But if you find that listening to someone speak in an artificially calm tone while telling you exactly how to think and feel makes you feel more unsettled than anything else, then perhaps a self-guided practice may be a better fit.

The benefits of meditation are many, and include increased clarity and focus, reduced tension and anxiety, and a better mood to name a few. Reap these benefits in just 5 minutes (without feeling totally weirded out by the guided meditation audio) by following the steps below:

  • Find a quiet space where you can sit for a few minutes without being disturbed.
  • Set a timer (cell phone timers work great!) for 5 minutes.
  • Sit comfortably with your back straight and your legs folded, and close your eyes.
  • Breathe deeply.
  • Focus on the counts of your breath (inhale for 4, exhale for 4) or simply inhale, exhale.
  • Try to keep your mind on your breath. Notice when your mind wanders, and simply think to yourself, “I acknowledge that I am distracted, and now I am bringing my thoughts back to my breath.”
  • Continue to breathe deeply, bringing your thoughts back to your breath, until your timer goes off.

Voila! You’ve just meditated!

Just a note: the most important tip I’ve ever received about meditation is to not be discouraged if I cannot get my mind quiet. Our minds wander, it’s just what they do! The practice of mindfulness meditation allows us to be aware of our minds wandering and refocus our attention again and again. So don’t give up if you find you are distracted . . . it’s the practice that counts 🙂