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Meditating can conjure up some extreme images for many people, but it doesn't have to be practiced atop a mountain during a sunset. Learn why, what, and how in this week's episode of How to Adult.

1: Set a Timer
2: Take Your Seat
3: Notice What Your Legs are Doing
4: Straighten Your Upper Body
5: Rest Your Hands
6: Set Your Gaze
7: Feel Your Breath
8: Practice Observing
9: Practice Pausing
10: Finish, and Continue with Your Day

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Meditating! It's a word that can conjure up extreme images for many people. But, in reality, it's a technique with a long history that's practiced by people all over the world today. And is accessible to anyone who wants to learn.

It can also be a great way to improve your mental and even physical health. We'll get to the how of meditating in a second, but let's start with the why.

Meditation has been practiced for millennia. Most notably in Hindu and Buddhist traditions and can be understood as one part of a larger cultural, social, and spiritual whole.

In recent years, as versions of this practice became popularized in the West, the benefits of meditation have become something of a hot topic in scientific research as well. What we're finding is that meditating can make you feel better and calmer, etc. while you're doing it, but it's positive effects on your health also last far beyond your individual meditation sessions.

As Psychiatric Research Magazine put it, "[meditation is] associated with changes in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning & memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, & perspective taking." 

In other words, with the practice of just a few minutes a day, after just a couple months meditation literally changes and strengthens those parts of your brain that contribute to your mental well-being.

And those are just some of the mental effects.

According to the Mayo Clinic, meditation also can help people manage symptoms of physical conditions such as asthma, heart disease, high blood pressure, chronic pain, & sleep problems.

We're not implying that it should take the place of traditional therapy or medicine. And you may want to talk to your health care provider about the pros and cons of meditation in your particular case. 

But in general, meditation can definitely be a positive contribution to your greater health.

So what exactly is meditation?

Well, it's kind of an umbrella term for different techniques that have the goal of achieving a greater sense of inner peace. There are numerous ways to meditate, but the kind of meditation we'll be covering today is super simple and accessible and has arguable been the most rigorously tested in the West: Mindfulness Meditation.

Mindfulness Meditation was popularized by the mindfulness-based stress reduction courses created by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn.

To quote the good doctor, "Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose in the present moment, non-judgmentally. It's about knowing what is on your mind."

Put another way, mindfulness isn't about doing away with all thoughts, but about having a calmer, more compassionate relationship with the thoughts you have. So, how exactly does it work?

First, it's best to do it daily. And when starting out, you may want to begin with a modest amount of time. Such as 10-20 minutes. There are also aps such as Headspace that you can use to guide you through your mindfulness session.

But if you want to go it alone, that's also totally cool. Here's how you can do it. To paraphrase a guy from

One: set a timer for how long you'd like to meditate.

Two: take a seat. It doesn't have to be anything special, just a stable, solid seat.

Three: notice what your legs are do. If you're on a cushion, cross your legs comfortably in front of you. If on a chair, it's good if the bottoms of your feet are touching the floor.

Four: straighten, but don't stiffen your upper body.

Five: let your hands drop onto the tops of your legs.

Six: drop your chin a little and let your gaze fall gently downward. You may close your eyes, though it's not necessary. If you keep them open, maintain a nice, soft gaze in front of you.

Seven: feel your breath as it goes out and in, the air moving through your nose and mouth, the rising and falling of your belly and your chest. With each breath, mentally note: breathing in... and breathing out.

Eight: inevitably your attention will leave your breath and wander to other places. This is normal. Instead of wrestling with or engaging with those thoughts, practice observing without needing to react. Just sit and pay attention. Then gently come back to your breath over and over again without judgment or expectation.

Nine: practice pausing before making any physical adjustments such a scratching an itch. When you do move, do so with conscious intention. Align space between what you think and what you do.

Ten: when your time is up, gently lift your gaze or open your eyes. Take a moment to notice your environment; sounds, sights, how your body and mind feel. Decide how you'd like to continue on with your day.

And that's all we have for you today! If you have any meditation tips, please let us know in the comment section below. We'd love to hear from you!

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