Anytime is a good time to practice mindfulness! Some people find that when they’re starting a new practice or habit, it helps to choose the same time every day. We recommend you try that — maybe when you wake up, when you go to sleep, or after dinner every day, for example.

The positive effects of a mindfulness meditation practice are usually, for most people, subtle at first. Which means, it can be hard to notice immediate benefits for the first few weeks of a consecutive practice. After that first month, however, if you keep up a consistent practice, you will likely start to notice positive changes, like improved focus, the ability to be less reactive and handle a stressful or upsetting situation with more calm and clarity, and finding more things to be grateful for each day. Again, these positive effects are usually subtle at first, but if you pay attention you will likely start to notice these changes increase as your practice stays consistent. Also, you might start to notice what happens if you miss a day or two, maybe some of those positive effects fade. Keeping up a consistent daily meditation practice, as much as you can, is key to reaping the positive health effect rewards.

A little extra sleep is never a bad thing! Sometimes, falling asleep during your practice is your body’s way of telling you what it needs, and this happens to almost all meditators at some point! To help you not fall asleep during your practice, try sitting up on a pillow or cushion placed on the ground or sitting in a well supported chair, crossed legged, with your hands on your thighs, palms facing up or down, and you’ll likely avoid the issue of falling asleep. For those who actually need help falling asleep, try a yoga nidra or a body scan practice, as they are actually super helpful when you are having trouble falling asleep at night.

This experience can happen for some people and can sometimes be uncomfortable and make you want to stop. And you can — you can pause or stop your practice at any time, for any reason. You get to choose. If the feeling is so strong that you feel like you can’t deal with it, it might be helpful to bring it up to a trusted adult. A counselor or therapist can help guide you through those feelings. A lot of times we store intense emotions or experiences in our body and when we sit still and quiet for long enough, we sort of give our body a chance to process these things and allow them to come to the front of our minds. It can be helpful to just watch these emotions and feelings as they come up, without trying to change them, and often, you’ll find they pass or you might learn something about yourself that helps you let go of that feeling or emotion and move forward from it.

It is totally normal to feel awkward your first few times learning any new skill, and this can definitely be true for a mindfulness meditation practice too. Usually the more you practice something, the more comfortable you become, and this also holds true when developing a mindfulness practice. One thing that can help with those feelings is finding a quiet place, alone, with no distractions, that you feel most comfortable in. This can allow you to practice without worrying about anyone or anything else. Alternatively, if you are more social or like learning new skills under the guidance of a teacher, you can join a class or find a group of friends to practice with. In this scenario, you may feel less alone with everyone in the same boat practicing together. If you are interested in learning more about group mindfulness classes or retreats, check out Inward Bound Mindfulness Education (iBme)!

Your mind racing or wandering is totally normal, and is such a common occurrence that it has its own term called, “monkey mind.” Monkey mind is a term that means a mind that is unsettled, restless, or confused. Think of a wild monkey bouncing around or swinging from tree to tree. That is kind of what can happen inside our brains when we get really quiet and still.

When you first start your practice, this is likely to happen much more often than not, and there are a few things you can do about it. One is to find an anchor — something to stabilize (focus) your thoughts when you get distracted during a meditation. Your anchor can be your breath moving in and out of your body, the sounds you hear around you, or the feeling of your body touching your seat. When you notice your mind beginning to wander, gently bring your attention back to your anchor. This becomes the practice. When you have thoughts such as, “when is the timer going to go off? Is this a waste of my time? What should I eat for lunch?” gently remind yourself that your practice is an investment in improving your health and how well your body functions, and return your attention to your anchor. Each day you practice, you help regulate or bring back to balance your nervous system (your nervous system controls your whole body, from breathing to feeling to walking) which in turn makes you more able to handle anything that comes your way throughout the day.

It’s very common to feel like you don’t have any free time available in the day to sit and be still, but the important thing to remember is that by doing this practice you are essentially giving yourself a gift. Mindfulness practice can actually enhance your ability to be more focused and productive throughout the day. It could also help you handle strong feelings like stress or anxiety, or experiences like a difficult interaction with a family member or friend, with much more flexibility and calm.

When you complete each mindfulness practice you have actually balanced your nervous system (this controls everything our bodies do, from walking to feeling emotion), and potentially created new pathways in your brain (how brain cells talk to each other) that can enhance your performance and ability to handle stress. These positive effects alone will likely save you time by helping you move through stressful or difficult situations and experiences without dwelling on them or having physical effects like stomach aches or headaches. It is using your time to invest in yourself, helping you become your best self, and each day improving on that goal.

The best way to begin a mindfulness practice is to start with something short, such as practicing for one minute. Then, gradually build yourself up from there, to a longer practice. It is helpful to limit the number of distractions when you practice, so put away the phone, turn off your music, and pick a room in your house that tends to be more quiet. But, you really can practice anywhere, even the most noisy room in the house!

Once you have your location picked out, set a small goal, like starting with just one minute.

  • Week 1: Start each day with a moment of gratitude, picking one thing you are grateful for, while you breathe in and out. Use a guided practice (you can find them for free on BLOOM’s Healthy Mind practices section, or download a free app like Stop, Breathe, Think, Plum Village, Insight Timer, or Liberate) and gradually move towards a two minute practice by the end of the first week.
  • Week 2: From two minute long practices by the end of week one, give yourself the goal of completing a five minute practice by the end of week two. You can keep using the guided practices, or experiment on your own. Try going for a mindful walk or enjoying mindful eating during this week.
  • Week 3: During week three, sustain your five minute practice with the aim (intention) to practice every day. If you haven’t yet tried mindful movement or mindful eating, try those! If you have, add mindful seeing or mindful tune in with your body.
  • Week 4: Congratulations, you’re forming a really positive habit! Try the rest of the practices like a morning routine or a longer gratitude practice. Keep practicing from 1-5 minutes per day.
  • Ongoing: Allow yourself to celebrate your work in bringing this healthy practice into your life. Even if it’s just for one minute, try to practice every day no matter what. Mindful showering, mindful toothbrushing, mindful texting — see how many activities you can bring mindfulness to and watch the benefits increase in your life!