10 Techniques to Help Beginners Overcome Common Meditation Challenges

To help beginners in meditation overcome common challenges, we asked ten experts, including a meditation teacher and a yoga therapist, for their best techniques. Their advice ranges from using mindfulness with sensory objects to engaging in calming activities before meditating. Dive into these ten insightful tips to enhance your meditation practice.

  • Use Mindfulness with Sensory Objects
  • Train Your Mind to Be Present
  • Utilize Your Breath as Focal Point
  • Command Your Body to Relax
  • Practice Stillness Regularly
  • Start with One Minute of Breathing
  • Choose a Meditation Method Based on Sensory Preference
  • Apply the Anchor Technique
  • Try Active Meditation
  • Engage in Calming Activities Before Meditating

1. Use Mindfulness with Sensory Objects

In the beginning, many clients find the practice of mindfulness difficult. They say they can’t concentrate. Learning a different breathing technique is hard, or their brains are on steroids. This is understandable because many of us experience anxiety, depression, and trauma responses daily. Reframing mindfulness and using the concept of being one-minded can be helpful. 

Clients are asked to close their eyes and put a peppermint, a piece of chocolate, or any other candy they choose in their mouths. Holding the candy in their mouths, they are asked not to eat it and notice how it feels, tastes, and smells. Then, they are asked to identify their emotion and where they feel it in their body. Practicing being one-minded as often as it comes to mind is recommended.

Nona Perry,, LMSW, Mental Health Therapist, Mindful Possibilities

2. Train Your Mind to Be Present

With so many competing demands on our attention, it’s easy to be distracted or restless. The good news is that we can train our minds to work with these challenges. 

One simple way is to train yourself to be more present and aware. This can be done as a seated or active practice, like weight lifting, yoga, running, or walking. Bring awareness to an object—like feeling your feet on the ground or hearing sounds in the environment. Rest your attention lightly on the object, “knowing” that you are hearing or walking. Likely, you will get distracted quickly, and the main point is to return to the object repeatedly each time your mind wanders. 

You might notice thoughts in the background, which is not a problem. As long as you know the object, you are training your mind. Once you gain more experience, you can use the source of distraction as the object of awareness. It’s really beautiful how this works!

Stephanie Wagner, Meditation Teacher and Lead Trainer, Healthy Minds Innovations

3. Utilize Your Breath as Focal Point

One technique that can assist a beginner in meditation to address common challenges, like concentration or restlessness, is to begin by checking in with your body as soon as you settle into your meditation position. 

Take a moment to assess if you need to perform a few stretches to relieve neck, shoulder, or back tension. Consider whether you feel rushed, which could hinder your ability to relax. 

Then, utilize your breath as a focal point. Experiment with slowing down and deepening your breath. You might attempt inhaling for five seconds and exhaling for five seconds, repeating this pattern for five to ten breath cycles. The breath is a powerful gateway to relaxing both the body and mind, allowing you to enjoy deeper states of meditation.

Maria Noll-Mayes, Meditation Teacher, Corporate Well-Being Coach, Take5

4. Command Your Body to Relax

Focus on relaxing your body as a first step. The mind will follow the body as it relaxes. You can use a simple technique where you take several minutes and command different body parts to relax. 

For example, you can start softly saying, “Feet, relax. Feet, relax. Feet, relax.” Then, “Legs, relax. Legs, relax. Legs, relax.” And so on. Take your time with it, and give yourself grace in the process. This technique comes from the Max Meditation System™ from the Modern Mystery School.

Dawn Ressel, Certified Healer, Guide, and Meditation Coach. Author., The Light Within

5. Practice Stillness Regularly

Try not to take it so seriously. Find time in your day to sit without distraction and be still. Close your eyes or not, just let your body relax and teach it how to be in this place of quiet. The more you practice, the easier it gets to tap back into that peaceful state.

Alisha Petak, Yoga Therapist, Mindful Balance

6. Start with One Minute of Breathing

It’s common to feel restless when beginning a meditation practice. You’re not alone. A simple beginning step is to set a one-minute timer and pay attention to your breath. 

Find a place where you can welcome stillness. Close your eyes and breathe in nice and full through your belly and chest. Hold for a moment at the top and take a slow exhale. Continue until your timer runs out. Congratulations! You just meditated for a minute. 

Over time, you can increase your timer; eventually, it’ll be easier to welcome stillness into your day!

Emily Silva Hockstra, Author and Coach, Soul’s Adventures

7. Choose a Meditation Method Based on Sensory Preference

This sounds like a common question during the sound bath meditation class.

First, check whether you are more stimulated by external factors like visuals, hearing, smell, or touch that happens outside of you. If so, an exteroceptive meditation method may assist you in focusing faster, like a sound bath or gazing at a candle.

Then, if you are more interoceptive, start with a standing position for a body scan instead of sitting down. Whether you want to feel your heartbeat or breathing, start with short practice and persistence rather than a long duration of meditation.

Remember, there is no good or bad meditation!

Candace Cheung, Director and Co Founder, Crystal Bowl Of Light

8. Apply the Anchor Technique

In my experience, I’ve often recommended the “Anchor Technique” for meditation beginners. The core idea is to use your breath as an anchor. 

It’s natural for the mind to wander when meditating, especially when struggling with restlessness or concentration challenges. By focusing intently on the rhythm of your breathing, you establish a point of return for your attention. When you notice your thoughts drifting, gently redirect your focus to your breath. 

This consistent practice grounds your attention and trains the mind to become more attuned to its distractions. Over time, this technique leads to improved concentration and a notably calmer mind during your meditation sessions.

Bayu Prihandito, Psychology Expert, Life Coach, Founder, Life Architekture

9. Try Active Meditation

If you’re starting to meditate but struggle with feelings of restlessness, active meditation could be the solution. Active meditation is meditation that is performed while doing a physical activity. Examples include meditating while walking, folding laundry, or doing the dishes. 

This keeps your body busy while you work on staying present, being more mindful, and focusing your attention. You can become more aware of your body and the sensations you feel in each body part. By focusing on the present activity and how your body feels, you can better concentrate and avoid wayward thoughts.

Brandt Passalacqua, Founder, Director, and Lead Teacher, Breathing Deeply 

10. Engage in Calming Activities Before Meditating

Making a list of activities that naturally induce a calm, meditative state for you can be a great way to prepare for meditation, especially if you struggle with restlessness. For example, cooking, painting, walking in nature, playing an instrument, gardening, or doing yoga helps ground you.

Set aside time before meditating to mindfully engage in one of these calming activities. Pay attention to the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and how your body feels. Let yourself become fully immersed in the experience. Then, when you transition to sitting in stillness, see if you can access some of that peaceful energy. Having a “meditative warm-up” helps stabilize and focus the mind, making it easier to concentrate during meditation. 

Over time, you may naturally carry that calm mindset into your practice. Experiment with different contemplative activities before meditation and see which ones work best to center you.

Mona Kirstein, Ph.D., Digital Strategist, Holistic Coach and Consultant, The Wholehearted Path

Expert Tips and How to Put Them Into Practice

Amplify Mindfulness with Everyday Items

  • What the experts say: Nona Perry recommends using sensory objects like peppermint or chocolate to help anchor your attention.
  • How to put it into practice: Keep some sensory items near your meditation space. Before you meditate, engage your senses—smell, taste, or touch the object and allow your focus to anchor on it.

Be Present, in the Moment

  • What the experts say: Stephanie Wagner emphasizes the beauty of training your mind to focus on a single object.
  • How to put it into practice: During daily activities like walking or even doing dishes, bring awareness to your actions. Feel the sensation of your feet hitting the ground or the water running over your hands. Gradually, this awareness will seep into your seated meditation practice.

Be a Breath Whisperer

  • What the experts say: Maria Noll-Mayes suggests using your breath as a focal point.
  • How to put it into practice: Spend the first minute of your meditation focusing solely on your breath. Deepen your inhales and exhales, feeling each one nourish your body and calm your mind.

Command Central: Relax!

  • What the experts say: Dawn Ressel emphasizes the importance of physically relaxing.
  • How to put it into practice: Try “body scanning” before diving into your meditation. Mentally walk through each body part, asking it to relax.

Tap into the Power of Stillness

  • What the experts say: Alisha Petak suggests finding time to simply “be.”
  • How to put it into practice: Incorporate moments of stillness into your day—maybe five minutes of just sitting and observing your thoughts, without judgment.

Our Advice for Overcoming Common Challenges

Start Small but Consistent

If you’re just starting, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. It’s okay to start with just a minute or two of meditation and gradually increase the time as you become more comfortable.

Mix It Up

Don’t feel confined to one technique or style. Experiment with various types of meditation—perhaps try a guided session one day and a silent mindfulness practice another.

Embrace Distractions

You’re not failing if you get distracted. The moment you notice a distraction is a moment of mindfulness. Use it as an opportunity to return to your focal point.

Keep a Meditation Journal

Logging your experiences can provide valuable insights into your meditation journey. Jot down how you felt before and after each session or any thoughts that came up during the practice.

The Bottom Line

Meditation is a personal journey with many paths. Whether you’re just starting or looking to deepen your practice, these expert tips and our own advice offer practical ways to help you overcome common challenges. Happy meditating! 🌱

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