Meditation comes with such a long list of benefits that it's no wonder the world is glomming onto it. "Incorporating a regular meditation practice into your life can boost your mood, improve your relationships, drive creativity, improve memory, and bring more joy, gratitude, and love to your life," says Olivia Bowser, CEO and founder of Liberate, a mental wellness studio, and certified mindfulness and meditation teacher in Los Angeles.
Meditation can also stabilize your stress, as numerous studies show that regular meditators have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their brains versus non-meditators. When the mind or body is stressed or in fear, your body will release cortisol. In the short term, elevated cortisol levels are necessary to help the body focus through temporary emergencies, but long term, excess, lingering cortisol levels can wreak havoc on body systems, harming memory, immunity, blood pressure, and many more. Yet "meditation is one of the best practices to calm the nervous system and give cortisol an outlet for release," Bowser says. "By returning to the present moment, meditators give their body and mind a chance to disengage from the body's natural fight-or-flight response and gain resiliency in the face of heightened anxiety."
The question is, though, where are you going to meditate? While you can meditate anywhere, even while you're walking, it's helpful to create a calm and comfortable environment for meditation. This could be your bed, chair, or a corner of your home dedicated to meditation (cue the genius meditation closet from the 2020 Real Simple Home!). While you don't need a specific at-home meditation space per se, it can help make your meditation more special and personalized, and even help enforce the habit.
Want help figuring out where to meditate? Here Bowser offers a few inspired suggestions for carving out a designated meditation nook at home.
Know that any space works. Whether that’s your bed (if you’re doing it right before bed, that is), the shower, or your desk, there’s no wrong location as long as you can create the environment to support focus and relaxation.
Pick a spot where you won’t be disrupted: You don’t want to lose your meditative state so ideally your space will be removed from distractions, including kids, devices, and intrusive noises. (You can always grab some noise-canceling headphones if true seclusion is truly impossible.)
Clear Any Clutter
Clutter isn’t only distracting, it also may not be representative of the energy you’re striving to cultivate, Bowser says. Wherever you decide to practice, make sure it’s tidy before you begin.
Aim for Comfort—but Not Too Much
You should feel as aware and attentive as you are relaxed. If you’re new to meditation, you may feel comfortable lying on a yoga mat. But unless you’re specifically practicing meditation to promote sleep, avoid lying in bed as you may drift off, Bowser says. If you want to energize your body and boost your focus, the ideal meditation position is to be seated in a chair with your feet flat on the floor to feel grounded and awake.
Engage Your Senses
Activate your senses. “Tuning into the present senses can help cultivate more joy and focus throughout the practice,” Bowser says. For instance, consider a candle for light, a plant for sight, a blanket for touch, tea for taste, and meditation music or an audio guide for sound. Bowser, for instance, always lights a candle when she meditates indoors to help her stay present throughout the practice.
Keep It Minimal
Remember, less is more. You don’t need a lot of anything—or even anything fancy—to make a meditation space special. “Find a few things that not only support your meditation, but that make you look forward to meditating there every day,” Bowser says.