Plenty of people have praised meditation as a great way to relieve stress. But now we have the evidence to back up that claim. A recent academic article found that meditation “attenuates anxiety through mechanisms involved in the regulation of self-referential thought processes.” In other words, by calming yourself with meditation, you can beat your anxiety. Meditation is a great tool that everyone should figure out, especially college students trying to handle one of the most stressful tasks around: finding a career. Your heartbeat skipped just reading that, didn’t it?

Here’s how to get started on improving your well-being.

Commit to a Schedule

It’s like exercise. You need to work at it on a daily basis to get anywhere. It’s exactly like exercise, really, because it’s the same principle, just applied to your neural paths instead of your cardiovascular ones. You need to train yourself to respond to outside stimulus with an inner precision.

I would recommend ten minutes a day, seven days a week. Some people swear by an hour and a half every day, but that’s way too much time for me. But whatever you do, make it daily. Even just skipping the weekend can put a serious dent in meditation’s effectiveness.

And like exercise, you won’t see the results immediately. You’ll need to stick with it for at least a month before it’ll help you. In today’s ADHD information age, that’s not easy. But if you’ve ever dealt with severe anxiety, you’ll know it’s the healthiest move.

Find a Quiet Place

The big thing about meditation is finding peace. Your mind will try to fight that peace, because it enjoys constantly thinking about things. Once it’s forced to rest regularly, it’s going to realize that rest is cool, and it’ll be better prepared to rest during the normal day, giving you less stress. But to get peace, you’ll need to help your brain along.

Find a place without noise or activity. Right after waking up usually works, as long as you aren’t too tired. Maybe work out first. You’ll also want to set a timer, since your mind will look for every chance to occupy itself, and it’s tempting to wonder how long you’ve been meditating. With a timer going, you’ll know just when your time is up.

Focus on One Thing

A misconception about meditation is that you have to completely clear your mind of everything. Literally not thinking of anything is practically impossible, so you’ll just feel like a failure if you try that. The trick is to focus on one thing. Your breathing pattern is a good choice, since it’s more of a physical feeling. By continuously concentrating on your breathing, long after you’ve picked over everything relevant about it, you’ll be able to reach a state of pure meditation. Some people prefer to picture a single object in their mind’s eye, like an apple or a door knob. Whatever you decide to focus on, keep it in mind for your entire meditation period.

Practice

You’ll probably still feel like a failure for the first dozen times you try it. That’s the only reason this practice isn’t widely accepted as the obvious path to a healthy mind – it’s tough to stick with. But give it a shot. I double dog dare you.

Related: Improving Grades with Meditation

Image: Kathrine Hala