4 Expert-Approved Ways to Stop Your Mind From Wandering While Meditating

This is how the pros do it.

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We’ve all been there: You finally carve 20-minutes out of the day to meditate, and then can’t stop thinking about the text message you forgot to respond to, where you should go for dinner, or what’s going to happen at work tomorrow. It’s annoying, and it’s a hard habit to break.
Meditation experts will tell you that there’s really no way to completely stop your mind from becoming distracted by thoughts, and MNDFL coach Lodro Minzler says being open towards your own wandering mind is actually important. “Meditation is about awareness of what your mind does, not just concentration. In busy modern life, that means your mind is going to wander,” he told us. When the inevitable does happen, and you get lost in thought, he says it’s “coming back” to your meditation that’s more more important than never leaving.
With that in mind, we chatted with meditation teachers across the country to find the best four pro tips to help not only stop your mind from wandering mid-mantra, but also bring you back to your meditation seamlessly when it does. Read on – these tricks will change the way you meditate!

Label your thoughts.

Lodro Minzler is a meditation teacher at New Yorks’ MNDFL meditation studio, and recommends that his students categorize and then label their thoughts, to help move on quickly when your mind wanders from your mantra or breath. “One way to keep returning to the object of your meditation is to gently acknowledge any thoughts that arise by labeling them with the word ‘thinking.’ It’s not good thought or bad thought – we refrain from judging ourselves harshly – it’s just ‘thinking,” he explained.
So, your train of thought would sound something like: “You know what I ought to do about that email? I should…Thinking.” Then, you come back to the breath or mantra. “I recommend being extremely gentle with yourself and returning your attention, continuously, to the object of meditation. Thoughts about life, fantasies, strong emotions, discursive, and subtle emotions will continue to come up. In all these cases we look at the thought, acknowledge it, and come back to the breath,” he told us.

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Meditate after exercise.

There’s a reason why meditation and yoga go hand-in-hand: A little light exercise can help boost your meditation practice. “Meditate after you do some brief physical activity such as yoga, pranayama breathing or running,” explains New York-based meditation guru and author Ethan Nichtern. In his experience, these activities can help “make you less distracted when you follow your breath or focus on another meditation technique.” Interesting, and definitely worth a try.

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Get that over-thinking out of the way first.

Why is it that the second you commit to meditating, your mind starts racing? Nichtern says this is a common frustration, and something that can be helped by embracing it head-on when you begin your session. “When you sit down to meditate, actively take a moment to see what is on your mind,” he suggests. After taking a few moments to run through your to-do list or what could be on your mind, set an intention to let it go for the duration of your short meditation session. “Take an attitude that if you fully apply yourself to the meditation technique, you will have a bit more clarity to assess the things you need to work with. Remind yourself that you don’t need to use your meditation session to fix your life,” Nichtern said.
Of course, it’s possible (and actually pretty likely) that the stressors might still come up during your practice, but by taking a moment to validate them and then let them go right at the beginning, you give yourself permission to “remember your anxieties and remember that it is OK to have things on your mind,” before you fully commit to practice.  

Image via iStock
Image via iStock

Stay aware of your anchor.

Meditation teacher Josh Korda says that mind-wandering often happens when we haven’t established a task in concentration meditation, such as counting breaths, scanning the body, or reciting a mantra – things that are known as “anchors.”
Josh says that while we practice concentration, it’s not actually important to keep the mind focused on only one object, but rather the focus should be on keeping your anchor (breath, body sensations, sounds, etc.) in awareness, along with whatever else the mind is drawn towards. So basically, it’s alright alright for the mind to be aware of a memory or worry, so long as it knows whether we’re breathing in or out, continues repeating the mantra, or stays with whatever anchor you’re using.
Now that you’re fully equipped to meditate like a pro, minus the (frustrating distractions!) here are some apps to get you going.

meditation tips
Image via iStock

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