With the effects of stress having far-reaching effects on both body and mind, meditation is a much-needed ally in stopping them in their tracks. Here, health and wellbeing expert Chris James provides his top meditation tips.

1. Find a good meditation teacher

Do try to get along to a meditation class taught by an experienced practitioner; you will really benefit by leaning in the company of others. Don’t forget to ask questions and get direct answers from someone who knows the territory.

2. Don’t meditate on a full stomach

I’d recommend meditating before breakfast, that’s a good time. If you’ve just eaten, your body will use energy to digest your food; that means you are more likely to get sleepy in meditation after a heavy meal.

3. Be sensible about posture

Westerners, unless they’ve done a lot of yoga, are naturally not particularly flexible. Generally it’s a case of them not being able to get into a lotus position at all let never mind holding it for 20 minutes. But you don’t need to sit in full lotus to meditate! Kneeling on cushions or sitting on a chair is fine. Be as comfortable and upright as you can.

4. Make some clear time

Choose a moment to meditate when you really do have a bit of undisturbed time and can relax, even if it’s just for five minutes. Turn off your mobile phone and close the door. Do what you can to make it possible to allow yourself to let go of being available to outside demands for a while and take an undisturbed space for yourself.

5. Warm up a little before, chill out a little after

Prepare to sit with some stretches for the hips and easing out of stiff shoulders; give a bit of kindly attention to any tense places. Finish meditating in time for a cup of tea or even just a minute’s gazing out of the window doing nothing before you go on with your day’s activities.

6. Find a quiet place free from distraction

If you decide you’d like to meditate regularly at home, it can really help to sit in the same place in your home each time and to create a bit of a special atmosphere there, perhaps with a candle, some flowers and a picture that really inspires you.

7. Let go of expectations

Have faith in yourself and a sense of humour. There are all kinds of meditation experiences, just as there is a huge spectrum of human experience; from serene to grumpy, ecstatic to bored, blissfully clear to distracted. Don’t judge yourself as having ‘good’ or ‘bad’ meditations. Being aware of whatever is going on is what counts.

8. Celebrate your progress

Meditation is conducive and supportive of positive change in your life, but be gentle with yourself – you may just not get enlightened overnight. Some old habits die hard, but bringing awareness to them and cultivating an increasingly positive emotional attitude towards yourself will help you to achieve great things

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