How to Benefit From Meditation Even If You’re Bad at It

How to Benefit From Meditation Even If You’re Bad at It
Photo: Luna Vandoorne, Shutterstock

Despite constantly hearing about all the benefits, it’s hard to actually get into meditation. Many people who try to meditate feel as if they failed. I’m one of those people. What do you mean you’re supposed to “clear your mind?” That’s where I keep all my thoughts!

At first I chalked it up to that fact that mindfulness meditation wasn’t for me. I assumed I was a special ball of anxiety who could never successfully quiet my mind. Luckily, some of my equally anxious, yet far more enlightened, friends shared with me how to reframe the practice. And let me tell you — meditation is a whole lot more relaxing when you let go of the notion that there’s only one right way to do it. Here’s how you, too, can overcome the mental block of failing at meditation.

Reframe what meditation is “supposed” to feel like

Every time I’ve tried to start meditating, I’ve faced the same conundrum: I think I’m supposed to think about nothing, which of course leads me to think about everything.

The key to getting into meditation is to reframe the practice away from the goal of clearing your mind, and toward the goal of “witnessing” your thoughts. For most of us, the instruction of “don’t think” is futile and stressful. Instead, a more practical approach is to accept and embrace whatever thoughts do come into your head.

The challenge is to sit back and let your thoughts drift in and out without causing a strong emotional reaction. In this sense, Verywell Mind points out that you can use meditation to “choose your actions more wisely,” since you’ll be paying attention to your thoughts without letting rash emotions get in the way.

The takeaway here is that your meditation goal doesn’t need to be to “empty your mind.” So long as you’re focusing on your thoughts and attending to them as objectively as you can, you can count that as your mindfulness practice for the day.

Don’t be discouraged: Meditation is like a muscle

Meditation is more like a workout than it is a quick fix to your stress. And when you first start a new workout regime, you’re going to feel a little sore. The only way to overcome that soreness is to keep at the practice consistently. Look at meditation as a muscle; it might not work at first, but that’s because you haven’t put in the work yet.

Meditation gets easier, but you need to move on from the notion that you’re failing at something. If you’re showing up to listen to your own thoughts, then you should count that as a meditation win.



  • True meditation has NOTHING to do with trying to “empty your mind”, and the act of TRYING to do so means you’re NOT meditating, and you never will by TRYING to do anything. Don’t confuse “meditation” with “meditating ON something”, they’re two entirely different things!

    Meditation is simply the process of silently & EFFORTLESSLY repeating a “mantra”. By doing this you will come to “transcend” thought for periods of time (could be seconds or minutes). If you notice you’re thinking thoughts (and you will), you don’t resist them or try to get rid of them, you just let them go and EFFORTLESSLY start the silent repetition of the mantra again. The lack of thought is a NATURAL outcome and not something you have to TRY to do. I can’t emphasise that enough

    Though not the only one , the TM technique (Transcendental Meditation) is a good place to look for more information if you’re interested in TRULY meditating.

    Various organisations will try to tell you that mantras are meant to be kept secret, and are only able to be given to you by trained instructors. The mantra itself doesn’t actually matter, as long as it’s meaningless to you and not overly complicated.

    Learning through an organisation can be relatively expensive, but you then have help and support with like-minded people around you, so if you can afford it, it’s well worth doing it that way.

    No matter where you decide to learn to meditate, if they try to tell you that you have to “empty your mind of thoughts”, they’re not talking about meditation. So “mindful meditation” or “guided meditation” is NOT really meditation in the true sense of the word. You might feel a little relaxed after doing these practices, but you WON’T get the scientifically proven benefits of meditating correctly.

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