I am by no means a meditation expert. A month ago, I barely meditated past 3 minutes and struggled to do it every day. I joined a Wellness Cohort in October through a company called Blaque. Blaque is a space for movement. They are creating the first fitness space designed for the black community both online and in person. The accountability of the group has helped me make meditation a daily practice. In this cohort, we meet once a week to do a group workout and discuss how our weeks went. We also set three intentions for each week that involve movement (aka exercise), nutrition, and self-care. My self-care goal is to meditate daily for at least 7 minutes.

I was a meditation skeptic at first. I was aware of the benefits of meditation, but it didn’t compel me enough to work to get better at it. However, now I can honestly say doing it for at least 10 minutes daily has helped me focus better, feel calmer, reduce brain chatter, and overall boosted my mood.

In addition to the support from the Blaque Wellness Cohort, I’m currently reading Think Like A Monk by Jay Shetty and it’s transforming the way I think about meditation. I’ve always been an advocate for it but learning from a former monk has been very intriguing. Here are my personal tips for embarking on your meditation journey:

1. Start small

Start by getting into a comfortable position and select your meditation of choice. There’s a free app called Aura, that lets you do 3-minute meditations. They have some great ones on there and lots to choose from. They’re short and impressive. Implement this into your morning routine for a couple days consistently. Then when you feel ready try 5 minutes, then 7 then 10 minutes. Eventually you’ll be able to do 20 minutes a day or more if you do it gradually. Jay Shetty recommends meditating daily for 20 minutes or longer to truly reap the benefits.

2. Focus on the breath as much as you can

Have you ever thought about why many people find it difficult to meditate? It’s because they suck at focusing. Meditating is ultimately the practice of focusing. Meditating consistently will enhance your ability to focus, decrease stress, and it will foster creative thoughts, and help you control your mind and emotions better. When you’re meditating the audio often tells you to focus on the breath.

That’s tough. How I have gotten better at is by acknowledging thoughts as they come into my head. When thoughts start to consume my mind, I say to myself “It’s ok for thoughts to pop into my head, now focus back on the breath.” Then I literally think to myself “Inhale, exhale” and focus on that thought to remain present.

3. Try different breath work methods

Controlling your breath is an immediate way to steady yourself and shift your energy. When I want to fall asleep quicker, I breathe in for a count of four seconds then exhale for more then four seconds. I count in my head and repeat this method until I knock out. Focusing on the counting helps me control the thoughts that pop into my head.

Two other breath work techniques I like are:

For energy and focus: Breathe in through your nose for a count of four, then exhale quickly through your nose for less than a second. Repeat this 10 times.

For relaxing yourself: Breathe in for a count of four, hold for four seconds, then exhale for a count of 4 through your mouth. When I’m stressed or feeling anxious, I use this one.

4. Find a meditation method that works for you

I love guided meditations. Some people prefer setting a timer and sitting in silence reciting a mantra to themselves. Or some people like to do visualization meditations. I recommend finding a playlist on YouTube, or downloading an app like Headspace, Aura, or Calm. Personally, using Calm has helped me meditate for up to 20 minutes per day consistently for the last month, so I highly recommend it. I paid for a subscription and I’m glad I did because when I invest money into things, I’m way more likely to commit.

5. Journal

Journaling throughout my journey has helped me track my progress with meditation. I’m the type of person that loves to track my progress otherwise I get discouraged from a lack of results. Some apps like Calm, keep track of how many minutes you meditate and your streaks of consistency.