Finding the type of meditation that’s right for you can take time, but the benefits will make it worthwhile.

Regular meditation can provide many mental and physical health benefits, but with so many programs and apps available, it can be tricky to know where to start.

Before choosing a specific type of meditation, the first step is deciding whether you’re looking for guided or unguided meditation:

  • Guided meditation. An instructor talks you through the process. This is especially helpful for beginners.
  • Unguided meditation. There’s no instructor, and you’re free to choose your own pace and methods.

Here’s a breakdown of different meditation techniques to help you get started:

Focused breathing involves sitting quietly and focusing on your breath.

“Just by watching the breath, not only will it start to slow, but the pause between the inhales and exhales will start becoming longer and longer,” says Kimberly Snyder, spiritual and meditation teacher and author of “You Are More Than You Think You Are.”

“It is in these gaps where you can start to connect to the deepest parts of yourself. In the gap is peace.”

A 2017 review shows that slow breathing can positively impact your heart, respiratory system, and autonomic nervous system, which controls heart rate and digestion.

How to do it

Here is an adaptation of a meditation practice from Snyder’s book:

  1. Take a comfortable seat, keeping your spine straight.
  2. Observe the natural inhale and exhale of your breath.
  3. Start to pay extra attention to the gaps — the spaces between your inhales and exhales. Notice them start to expand.
  4. Try to keep your body very still and breathe softly.
  5. If your mind wanders, come back to simply observing the breath.

Box breathing can help in those moments when stress takes over and you need an immediate way to relax your mind and body. The beauty of this type of meditation is you can do it anytime, anywhere.

“Box breathing is especially great for those who [deal] with intense, physical responses to anxiety and stress,” says Amanda Huggins, anxiety and mindfulness coach. “The intent of this practice is to stimulate the vagus nerve, which helps to lower the heart rate and bring the body out of the fight-or-flight response.”

How to do it

  1. Inhale for 4 seconds.
  2. Hold the breath for 4 seconds.
  3. Exhale for 4 seconds.
  4. Hold the breath for 4 seconds.

Repeat 12 to 15 times or more as needed, and don’t skimp on the “holds.” Those gentle pause points between inhalations and exhalations help cue the nervous system into relaxing.

Using the power of visualization and deep breathing, anxiety relief meditation can relax the central nervous system through deep breathing.

A visualization meditation that does double duty for anxious-minded folks: not only is it a fantastic way to self-soothe, it offers a safe way to dialogue with the anxious mind,” says Huggins.

How to do it

Here’s a step-by-step meditation recommended by Huggins:

  1. Find a comfortable position.
  2. As you close your eyes, place one hand on your heart and one hand low on your belly. Breathe deeply, and notice how it feels to offer yourself supportive physical touch. Stay here for a few cycles of breath.
  3. With eyes still closed, ask yourself: “Where in my body am I holding this anxiety?” Focus on that part of your body.
  4. In your mind, assign a color, shape, or texture to the anxiety.
  5. Keeping the visual in your mind’s eye, draw the attention back to breath.
  6. Focus now on your exhalations. With every breath out, visualize the anxiety leaving your body.
  7. Ask yourself: “What do I need in this moment?” This is a place to feel into your inner guidance, rather than to think through it.
  8. Stay with the meditative reflection for as long as you need to feel complete.

Transcendental meditation (TM) is taught by certified TM teachers. You typically practice for 15 to 20 minutes twice a day.

“People with a very active mind seem to benefit greatly from TM because it’s not about avoiding thoughts, but rather transcending them,” Jessie Asya Kanzer, author of the forthcoming book “Don’t Just Sit There, DO NOTHING: Healing, Chilling, and Living with the Tao Te Ching,” explains.

How to do it

  1. Find a TM course or TM instructor.
  2. Receive your particular mantra, which is a phrase that you are to repeat in your mind during the meditation.
  3. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed and repeat the mantra until your time is up. Don’t worry about other thoughts that may come in; just focus on your mantra.

This type of meditation involves being present with your thoughts and emotions, helping you to become an observer of your thinking patterns.

“Mindfulness meditation is perfect for folks who have to do a lot of mundane tasks,” says Kanzer. “You can practice this sort of meditation even while doing the dishes, helping yourself embody a state of calm.”

How to do it

  1. Either sit in stillness or practice during a repetitive activity.
  2. Focus on your breath, or on each movement of the activity. Focus on the breath, or focus on the activity with intent.
  3. Repeat several times, or set an alarm for a specific amount of time.

As the name suggests, you practice this meditation while walking.

“It’s a form of active meditation and wonderful for people who want to combine movement and nature with their practice,” Kanzer explains.

How to do it

  1. Find a path that you want to use for your meditation. Consider starting with a short route.
  2. Begin walking on this path. Slow and steady is key.
  3. Focus on the physical feeling of each step, and perhaps let your steps fall into a rhythm with your breath.
  4. Consider starting small, such as 5 minutes, then increasing this time as you get used to the practice.

Trauma-informed meditation involves grounding and self-regulation exercises to relax the nervous system. This can help those dealing with trauma to feel safe in their bodies.

The goal is to connect to your senses and the present moment. This helps create a sense of safety and security.

Trauma is held in both the body and mind. For many people who have experienced trauma, focusing on the breath or the body can actually have the opposite effect than intended — it can cause feelings of anxiety or panic, and can activate intrusive memories or feelings.

If focusing on your breath or body is challenging, you can choose to focus on something that feels calming to you instead, such as:

  • practicing being present with a natural object, such as a tree or plant
  • noticing how a smooth pebble feels in your hand
  • focusing on relaxing music or binaural beats

When your attention wanders, gently bring it back to what you’re focusing on.

It helps to meditate in a quiet, safe space — one where you feel comfortable, and where your mind and body can be receptive to healing. If you can, keep this space free from triggers. Something as simple as a smell or texture can activate an intrusive thought or memory.

For guided trauma-informed mindfulness, you can try David Treleaven’s free webinar on trauma and mindfulness. Treleaven is a somatic therapist who specializes in trauma-sensitive mindfulness.

Mantras are simple yet powerful, helping you reframe your thinking to be more helpful or productive.

“‘I am’ mantras are a choose-your-own-adventure type of meditation: you can alter your mantra in response to how you’re feeling each day,” says Huggins.

Mantra meditation is about replacing the “I’m not good enough” inner dialogue with “I am enough.” This type of meditation is especially useful for those who feel the need to increase their self-love and self-compassion.

How to do it

Huggins provides an example of mantra meditation:

  1. Before you meditate, check in with yourself:
    • How have I been feeling lately?
    • How am I feeling in this moment?
    • What do I need?
  2. Choose a word or two that capture the feeling or emotion you’d like to focus on.
  3. Set a timer for as long or as short as you’d like. Consider starting with at least 5 minutes.
  4. Find a comfortable position. Close your eyes and give yourself a few minutes to rest in relaxation, then bring attention to your breath.
  5. On your inhales, repeat to yourself (out loud or in your mind): “I am…”
  6. On your exhales, repeat the word or phrase that you chose:
    • I am enough.
    • I am allowed to make mistakes.
    • I am grateful.
    • I am powerful.
  7. As you slowly draw in and release each breath, practice cultivating the feeling or experience of your statement.
  8. When your timer goes off, give yourself a moment or two to pause in gentle reflection as you return to your body.
  9. If any significant feelings or awareness came up, jot them down in your journal before jumping back into your day.

This meditation allows you to sneak in moments of peace throughout the day — perfect for those with busy schedules, or on the days when it’s hard to find time to meditate.

“What I’ve realized throughout my own trials and tribulations — in meditation and in life — is that the all-or-nothing approach doesn’t work for a lot of people, myself included,” says Kanzer. “That being said, I also know that stillness is key for connecting with yourself, de-stressing, and improving your life.”

How to do it

  1. Pause. Stop whatever you’re doing and just pause.
  2. Breathe. Even if all you have time for is a deep inhale and a slow exhale, that’s a very potent moment.
  3. Repeat this type of momentary break throughout the day, as often as needed.

Connecting with nature has many mental health benefits, such as improving your mood, relieving stress, and reducing depression.

How to do it

“You may not have time for a walk but you can look up at the sky for a moment as you walk out of the house, and you can watch a tree branch or a shrub or a leaf moving with the wind,” says Kanzer. “Doing so reminds us that a natural ebb and flow is available to us as well.”

Repeat this type of momentary break throughout the day, as often as needed.

Meditation isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. This is why it’s important to get clear on what you hope to get out of your meditation practice and try out different methods until you find the one that meets your needs.

Also, you can mix and match meditations depending on your schedule or what you’re currently going through. For example, if you’re traveling, you may want to try box breathing or nature-inspired meditation. If you want something longer that forces you to go deeper, transcendental meditation might be the way to go.