Stuck on what to think about when meditating? We got you.

A person thinking while meditating.

What to think about when meditating?

What you think about when you meditate depends on what you want out of your meditation practice.

If you’re just starting out, concentrate on taking deep breaths. A common practice is to channel positive emotions on a deep breath in, and expel negative emotions on a deep breath out.

As you work meditation into your daily routine, consider testing some of the practices in this article. You can even incorporate some physical self-care items for during or after your practice to maximize mindfulness! As you continue to practice meditation, you will continue to gain awareness about what works best for you.

The Present Moment

Focusing on the present moment when meditating can lead to a beautiful meditation experience.

Think about how your body feels. How do the tips of your fingertips feel? What do the bottoms of your feet feel like?

Focus on the sounds around you. Maybe you hear a bird in the distance, or a child playing. How do these sounds make you feel emotionally?

Becoming aware of the moment you are in is commonly considered great way to meditate. It’s a quick way to get rid of some psychological distress, and you will walk away with a fresh mind.

Introduction to Body Scan meditation

Another great thought when you meditate is to visualize a body scan. This is a very popular form of meditation and can make a big difference in your stress levels.

To begin, relax and get comfortable. You can sit, but most people prefer to lay down for this meditation.

Now imagine scanning your body, starting with your toes. Relax your toes, and become mindful of the sensation in them. It may feel like heat, coolness, or even a tingling or buzzing sensation. Slowly move the “scan” up your foot, completely relaxing every muscle on the way up, and continue to notice the sensations.

Continue onto your ankle, up your lower leg, to your torso and arms, and finally to your head. This is a great way to get in touch with your body.

An Excellent Tool for Sleep

A person sleeping after a meditation session.

Body scan meditation practice is an amazing sleep hack! If you are feeling anxiety or just want to calm down, take a few moments to do a body scan. Chances are you’ll be asleep before the scan even reaches your shoulders.

For me, this meditation practice is on my to do list every night! Not only does it improve sleep, but I’ve found it’s a very practical way to incorporate meditation into my daily life.

(Here’s another hint: Don’t meditate with demons in mind when you’re trying to sleep 🙂

Reflect on your Past Week

Another idea you can focus on during your meditation is your past week.

If there are negative thoughts about how your past week went, be sure to forgive yourself! It’s very normal to have regretful feelings about the past. Meditation can certainly calm your nerves and relieve some anxiety.

The following 3-step verbal meditation helps me when I reflect on a bad week:

  1. “I forgive myself for the past.”

  2. “I Commit to making positive changes in my life moving forward.”

  3. “I am letting go of what I can no longer control.”

Remember, we all have rough weeks. Don’t sweat the little things and focus on moving forward.

On the contrary, if you had a great week, feel free to focus on the things that went well during your mindfulness meditation! What did you do during the week that was different than normal? How can you continue positive growth?

Personally, when I’m done reflecting, I like to gently return to the present and finish my meditation session with some mindfulness meditation.

Visualize your Future

Quite the contrary to reflecting on the past week, is forward meditation towards the future! Here are some steps that I recommend when paving yourself a clear path for a successful future:

  • First, relax and get comfortable. Take some deep breaths.

  • Close your eyes and picture yourself on the beach. You see a person walking towards you.

  • As they near closer, you realize that person is you, 12 months from now.

  • Ask yourself, what do they look like? How do they carry themselves?

  • What is their occupation? How do they compare to the person you are right now?

  • What do you need to do to get to where they are right now?

As a visual-oriented person, visualizing myself in the future allows me to focus on my path forward. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that all the things we do in life matter. Regular meditation with a focus on your future self can have several benefits.

For visualization meditation, I often recommend guided meditations, which I will touch on in the next section.

Guided Meditation for Beginners

For those who may be uncomfortable with meditation on their own or plateauing in their meditation practice, guided meditation could be a great place to turn.

Guided meditations are led by a meditation teacher who leads the way when you meditate. Meditation teachers are people who are often further along their spiritual journey. They are very skilled at consciously directing your meditation in a positive direction.

This can help beginners with paying attention for longer periods of time. It can also prevent the mind from wandering. Also, if you have any sort of thoughts arise, you can speak through them with your teacher.

Do I need to have a Meditation Teacher?

A man leading a guided meditation.

You don’t need a teacher to meditate! However, a meditation teacher can greatly enhance your meditation practices and experiences.

There are also several effective apps or podcasts out there which you can use to guide you through your meditation.

Common Meditation for Everyday Life

If you are looking to improve your mental health, it is important to commit to a meditative routine. Commit to just a couple minutes per day to start (to prevent mind wander) and build from there.

If you are struggling with what to think about, consider some ideas from this article or follow a regimen on a regular schedule.

Check back here for our recommendations for some of our favorite guided meditations!

Mantra Meditation

Using a mantra can help focus your mind during your meditative practice. This mantra is your focal point.

Mantras are used because of the perpetual belief in the power of spoken words. They can be short words that you choose, or you can select one from our list:

  • “I love myself”

  • “I am the Universe and the Universe is me”

  • “I follow my bliss”

  • “Mother Nature flows within me”

  • “The power of intentions lies within me”

You can also just go with the classic “Om” that you see in TV and in the movies. Just something repetitive that will focus your mind in a positive direction.

Do I have to Practice Formal Meditation?

There are several benefits to formal meditative practices, but don’t feel like you have to make your meditation formal. Some people feel that when they meditate with more formal intentions, their focus is better.

Some key differences between Formal and Informal meditation practices include:

Formal

  • Set aside period of time where the sole intention is to meditate

  • Generally a longer period of time than informal

  • Typically done in a calm, still setting. Person will normally sit or lay down

  • Can also be done with motion, i.e. yoga

Informal

  • Meditation is usually done in the background while you do something else

  • If your sole purpose is to meditate, it is for a short burst (30 seconds or less)

Both of these forms of practice can work. Just make sure to find what works best for you, or try to work both into your routine!

Brush Up on Breathing Techniques

A person practicing breathing techniques.

Focus on some of these breathing techniques next time you meditate! Not only can breathing improve your meditative session, but it is scientifically proven to do the following:

  • Calm the nervous system

  • Soothe anxiety

  • Increase awareness

When meditating, if you aren’t sure what to focus on, then your breath is a great place to start. When I meditate I am always sure to check in on my breath during my practice.

Even if you aren’t meditating, taking a moment to breathe can drastically reduce stress. Stopping to take a breath every now and then has definitely improved my life!

Beginner Mindfulness Meditation Practices

Practicing mindfulness can have drastic positive impacts on mental health and the nervous system. It can also greatly impact several other parts of the human body. To practice effective mindfulness, consider trying the following steps:

  1. Set aside some time to calm down and meditate

  2. Gently bring your eyes to a close and sense the environment around you. What feelings do you have at the moment? Focus on your breath.

  3. If intrusive thoughts or judgement arises, let them pass. Gently return yourself to the present.

  4. Be kind to yourself, and don’t forget to forgive yourself if you do get carried away in thought.

And that’s all there is to it! Essentially, the practice of mindfulness implores you to focus on the moment and the world around you. If your mind wanders, smoothly bring yourself back to the present!

This type of meditating will do wonders to your mental health. It brings several benefits and is one of the greatest ways to get in touch with your physical and spiritual body.

Why it’s Hard to “Simply Focus”

As a human being, it is natural to get carried away for a few seconds with intrusive thoughts when practicing mindfulness. We are naturally programmed as a part of life to get carried away in moments and forget we are even meditating.

The idea that we can sit for hours and hours and focus on one thing is preposterous! Especially in the world we live in today, where technology is constantly distracting us, shortening our attention spans.

What to do if your Mind Wanders?

As your mind will naturally wander off, it is important to be kind to yourself and just continue returning to the current moment.

You may have to do this several times in a single session. It is completely OK!

Ways to get rid of Intrusive Thoughts

A man experiencing intrusive thoughts.

While you may never completely get rid of these thoughts, this is a great way to minimize them popping up.

  • When you begin meditating, tell yourself your goal.

  • Figure out a focal point during your session that will allow you to reach this goal.

  • Do your best to stay with the focus you decided on.

  • Don’t stress out if your mind goes in a different direction!

As long as you forgive your mind each time it wanders and continue to meditate, over time you will find yourself being able to lock in for longer and longer sessions.

Maximize your Meditation Session

Here are some friendly reminders that will help you maximize your meditative practices.

  • Remember to never take it too seriously.

  • Always have fun!

  • Mix up your location from time to time.

  • Try different relaxing sounds or music.

  • Minimize distractions if you can.

  • Incorporate the body. Maybe try some yoga!

If you aren’t already, try some of these tricks and watch your anxiety melt away!

Remember, Meditation Takes Practice

We all have different feelings towards meditating. Nobody was perfect at anything their first time! When starting out, it’s all about trial and error to figure out what works best for you.

For instance, maybe a certain room in your house allows you to concentrate better and makes you a better meditator. Or maybe you have to practice at a certain time so that you don’t get interrupted when your neighbor gets home in their souped-up car.

You don’t have to go above and beyond. Maybe meditating in the same way that the Buddhist monks did isn’t right up your alley. Perhaps something more modern, like focusing on how you can be the best soccer mom on the team, is more suited towards your liking.

At the end of the day, you’re doing this for yourself, so make sure to personalize it to yourself!

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