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Clearing the mental clutter with meditation is a sure way to ground yourself in a more positive outlook for the rest of the year.

By now, you’ve heard all about how a regular meditation practice can relieve stress, reduce anxiety and depression, and even help you sleep better. But you may be intimidated by the idea of creating a zen space and carving out enough time in your day for the peace and quiet necessary for meditation.

If the word “meditation” conjures up a mental picture of a monk high on a mountaintop fasting for days at a time and following a vow of silence, it’s no wonder you’re reluctant to give meditation a try.

The reality is that meditating can take as little as five minutes a day, can be free-flowing or follow a guided audio sequence, and can be truly customized however you see fit.

If you’re ready to refresh your daily routine with a self-awareness practice, use one of these beginner’s meditation techniques this week.

Guided Meditation
If you want to dabble in meditation but aren’t able to focus on your own, you may just need to begin with a guide. Guided meditation audio and videos abound on YouTube, Google, and even podcasts.

I recommend choosing one that is 5-10 minutes in length and is narrated by a person whose voice you find soothing and not distracting.

Breathing
For this meditation technique you need nothing more than your own breath and a quiet space. Deep breathing exercises can be as simple as inhaling for the count of three, pausing for a moment, and exhaling for the count of four. This simple breath control stimulates the vagus nerve which calms down the nervous system’s stress response.

Mantra
This may be one of the most familiar meditation techniques to you even if you’ve never tried it before. A mantra is a short phrase that embodies positivity and growth, such as “I live my life as a kind and whole-hearted adventurer,” which is then repeated over and over throughout the practice. The mantra can be said aloud or in the mind, and repeating the same statement helps to keep the mind from wandering to other thoughts.

Cultivating Compassion
This is a daily practice among some Buddhist monks that is centered on cultivating compassion for yourself and others. The technique is to simply close your eyes to remove distraction, and then envision negative past experiences that had an effect on you. Now shift your perspective on each of those events to one of compassion for everyone involved, and see how the event takes on a new light.

Start with just one or two experiences in your first session to avoid overwhelming yourself with the feelings from too many experiences at once.

Visualization
This simple meditation technique uses a mental image, such as an open hand, a floating cloud, or a placid lake to focus the mind and clear out any other thoughts. If you notice other unwanted thoughts beginning to crowd your mind, visualize your chosen image again to draw your focus back.

The bottom line?

Your meditation practice will be whatever you make of it.

If you’d rather meditate by writing the same phrase down over and over on a blank sheet of paper instead of stating your mantra to yourself, go for it!

If you want to meditate while listening to music rather than in total silence, feel free!

Go ahead and customize your meditation practice to suit your needs and environment.

Hopefully you’ve learned something new about meditation that you can carry into your daily routine. Remember that it isn’t the length or quantity of your meditation sessions but the quality of them that matters the most!

Turn off your phone, dim the lights, and shift your focus inward. The results may just surprise you.

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