With today’s hectic lifestyle and so many different responsibilities pulling us in all sorts of directions, how can one keep him or herself centered and clear minded? The answer is meditation. Meditation is an easy practice which anyone can do at home with just a little bit of discipline, and the benefits of meditating regularly can manifest both physically and mentally.

The first statement I usually hear when speaking with someone about meditating is, “I don’t have enough time to meditate 20, 30 or more minutes a day.” The solution to that is start a bit lower. Just like physical exercise helps the body, meditation is exercise to help the mind. And when you begin a new physical exercise program after not exercising at all, you want to start slowly to avoid wearing out quickly and becoming discouraged.

The same holds true for meditation. Simply start with 5 minutes a day. Find a quiet space in your dwelling where you won’t be distracted by family, pets, and other obligations. Hang a Do Not Disturb sign outside your door if that will help. Turn the lights off, sit in a chair, and then close your eyes. First begin by taking a few deep breaths to clear out any tension in your body. Next begin breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth.

You may find thoughts pop up in your mind about the day, or things that you have to do. That’s okay. Many people think the objective of meditation is to have a mind completely blank and clear of all thoughts. That’s a misperception. The objective with meditation is to not become attached to those thoughts and then start having a conversation in your head like we all typically do. When thoughts do arise, bring your attention back to your breath. You can even think to yourself “in” with each in breath and “out” with each out breath to keep focused.

As physical exercise strengthens the body, you will find meditation has strengthened your mind. You may begin feeling calmer and have a greater sense of peace. You may also find that you are able to handle stressful situations more clearly with an increased focus to guide you through difficult times. One physical benefit of meditation is that it may help lower your blood pressure since you are more relaxed and less tense. As well, being less tense may relieve some muscle aches and pains.

All it takes is just 5 minutes a day to start meditating to begin enjoying its benefits. And once you start, you may soon find that you like it so much that you look forward to doing it daily. When you feel ready, begin increasing the length of meditation several more minutes every few days. And in no time at all, you’ll find that a half hour or more has passed, with you feeling a lot less stressed and more peaceful.