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We've all heard about the endless benefits of meditation: Studies have shown that the practice may help reduce anxiety and depression, relieve insomnia and more. And with so much going on in the world right now, we could all use something that will help us feel calmer. But when it comes to actually sitting down, embracing the silence and focusing on your breath, it can be a hard task to accomplish.
But it's easier than you may think. In fact, meditation is really just about connecting with yourself and your thoughts. If you're struggling to figure out where to start, before sitting down for a meditation, try simply being more mindful in your daily life, said Laurasia Mattingly, a meditation teacher and author of "Meditations on Self-Love."
"Pick an activity and do it with full presence," Mattingly said. "For example, brushing your teeth. Typically when brushing our teeth we're thinking about other things, like what we need to get done. Try [doing it] with full presence: What sensations do you notice? What tastes? What do the bristles feel like when they move across your gums? Really we can apply mindfulness to anything, and that's a beautiful first step."
From there, start to experiment with other forms of meditation. Apps like Headspace and Calm offer guided sessions and courses that will help you ease into the practice. With proper guidance and a few handy tools, you may soon find that making the beneficial practice a regular part of your routine is pretty simple. Below, we rounded up 13 items to help you get started.
If you simply want to be more mindful but aren't ready to sit down for a full meditation just yet, try journaling. Mattingly loves this guided option, which is meant to be used in the morning and night to help you reflect on what you're grateful for and set affirmations for the day. "Practicing daily gratitude has changed the way I approach each day and the way I end each night," she said.
The hardest part for many people is finding time to actually sit down and meditate, said Ben Turshen, a meditation teacher and founder of Access Meditation. "If you wait until you have time to meditate, you may rarely do it," he said. "You have to make the time for it, and the more you plan for it, schedule it, prioritize it, organize around it, the more likely it is that you'll do it." That's why he recommends a daily planner, which will help you map out your day and make sure you leave time for a session.
Creating the right ambiance can be an important part of having a successful meditation session. Mattingly said she likes to have a candle burning in the background. This bestselling option comes in a variety of scents, but we recommend the lavender candle, as studies have shown that the scent can boost mood and lessen anxiety.
Running an essential oil diffuser is another great way to bring the benefits of aromatherapy to your meditation session. This affordable option is palm-sized, so you can easily take it with you from room to room as you find your favorite meditation spot in the house. Fill it with lavender essential oils or other calming scents, like ylang-ylang or sandalwood.
Distractions are aplenty at home, so tune out the noise and zone in on your meditation with the help of these noise-canceling headphones. They feature internal and external microphones that will cancel out a variety of noises to help you maintain your focus. They're Bluetooth-enabled, too, so you can connect to your phone and stream guided meditations or play peaceful music.
When you're just starting to meditate, Mattingly recommends sitting on a chair with your legs and feet on the ground to support your spine. Once you're comfortable, you can move to traditional cushions, like this one. The pillow is made to help keep your spine aligned and help you breathe deeper. Some reviewers say that while it's great for meditation, it can also be used as a posture-supporter for long work days.
For extra support for your knees and butt, try this chic pillow. Not only will it help you find a more comfortable position, but the bright colors and corduroy fabric will look great in any space. When you're not using it for meditation, place it on your couch or bed as a decorative pillow.
Stephanie Mansour, a fitness expert and TODAY contributor, previously told Shop TODAY that one of her 2021 goals was to meditate more. In order to make it happen, she said she rolls out this yoga mat every morning and sits for a five-minute meditation. The durable mat is made from eco-friendly materials and features a marbled pattern on one side.
If comfort is your main concern, try this foam mat, which is extra thick to provide your spine, hips and knees with cushioning. It's easy to clean, too — just wipe it down with soap and water.
While this sound machine is technically meant for sleep, it can be a helpful tool for those just starting to meditate. Drown out outside noise with the six sound options, including white noise, ocean, rain and stream. You can set it to shut off after 15, 30 or 60 minutes, so it can also act as a timer for your session.
This kit from California-based brand Vagabond Goods has everything you need to start meditating. It includes roll-on body oil for aromatherapy, an eye mask to help block out distractions, a USB with a guided meditation and a mala necklace.
Turshen gives all of his students a "do not disturb" sign to hang on their doors. "That's really all they need," he said. "A place to sit comfortably and safely where they can close their eyes without worrying about being interrupted." Take a page from his book and make sure everyone in your house knows that you need an interruption-free space. Bonus: It'll also serve as a way to let your family know when you're on an important meeting or Zoom call.
Curious about how your body is actually reacting to meditation? This smart headband will track and measure your heart rate and brain waves to give you real-time feedback on your body's response. The brain sensors will recognize when your focus is drifting and provide you with sound cues to bring you back to the meditation. You can use the data to track your progress and discover how you're responding to a regular practice over time.
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