When I first started dabbling in meditation I didn’t really tell anyone. It seemed kind of out there and certainly wasn’t as mainstream as it is now! Several years later I’m happy to recommend it to anyone and everyone.
I’m certainly no expert, but I have managed to develop a fairly consistent practice of taking time to meditate daily. Here are a few tips that helped me make meditation a habit.
I started with just a couple minutes a day. While there are definitely some people who do well jumping into new things in a big way, for the majority of us, baby steps are a much more reliable path to success. Even as little as two minutes a day can start you on a path to a new healthy habit.
Use a timer with an alarm so that you aren’t distracted by checking the clock during your meditation session. Your perception of time passing while meditating can be deceptive. If my mind is racing with thoughts, it can seem like twenty minutes have passed when in reality it has been two! There are a lot of great meditation apps that will time your session, but the simple timer on your phone works too. Just make sure to set a low key alarm sound to keep the atmosphere relaxing.
Find a Teacher
Meditation can be very simple – you really just need to sit there and focus on your breathing. You can start right now! Personally, I wanted more guidance when I was first starting out and there are so many great resources to learn more about the practice of meditation. Find the type of teacher that works for you – an online or in-person class, a book, a guided meditation app or even just a google search for some info. I would highly recommend the Calm and Headspace apps for beginners. Both offer a great free introduction to meditation.
A trick that can help with establishing a new habit, is to stack it onto another habit that is already part of your routine. This provides a trigger for remembering to do the new habit. So plan to do your meditation right after something else that you already do every day. Some good options are first thing in the morning, right before bed, after brushing your teeth, after your workout, or while your coffee is brewing. At first you may need an extra reminder like setting a phone notification or sticking a note to the bathroom mirror.
Let Go of Expectations
I’m a sucker for starting new habits. I’ll read about some new wellness practice and get all excited about how it is going to change my life. And while many of the habits I’ve picked up over the years have changed my life, these things take time! Meditation is an especially good example of this. I’ve been practicing meditation for a few years now and it can often still feel like I’m sitting there just worrying for twenty minutes. The thing is that this is fine! One of the hardest things about this practice is to let go of expectations – there’s no right way, there’s no failure, it will seem like nothing is happening, you’ll think you’re bad at it, but just trying is enough.
Try a 30 Day Challenge
Another classic motivation trick is the thirty day challenge (or whatever time frame you like). I love a thirty day challenge! This won’t be the best technique for all personality types, but it certainly works for me. So you come up with your goal, let’s say meditate for five minutes each day for thirty days, then figure out how you want to track it. I like to do the ‘don’t break the chain’ type of tracking where you use a calendar or planner and cross off each day as you do the habit (maybe use some old school gold star stickers on your wall calendar?). The key is to have this somewhere that you will see it every day – if you’re anything like me, you will find a way to fit in the habit so you don’t break the streak!
Find Your Style
When you hear the word meditation what comes to mind? A super yogi seated in full lotus position on one of those special cushions in a calming yet stylish dedicated meditation space complete with incense, crystals, a buddha statue and a stunning view of nature? No? Maybe that’s just me… The thing is meditation comes in many forms and there is probably one that will work for you. Can’t sit cross legged? Try lying down or sitting in a chair. Hate concentrating on your breathing? Try a guided body scan. Struggling to sit still? Try walking meditation or mindful movement like yoga or tai chi. Meditation can happen sitting, walking, standing, alone, in a group, guided, unguided, eyes open, eyes closed, and in a huge variety of styles and traditions.
Remember the Why
Like any new habit, there will be days when you are tempted to skip it – things get busy, you forget, you’re tired, lazy, stressed. This is when you probably need it most! So remind yourself why you are trying to gain this meditation habit in the first place. Remember that meditation improves mental clarity, ability to focus, compassion, kindness, immune system function, decision making, memory and creativity. It reduces stress, anxiety, negative thoughts, depression pain and anger. That is a pretty incredible list of wellness benefits! I find that more often than not, I feel immediately better once I take the time to meditate – although I should probably be letting go of those expectations (see number 5…).
Do you meditate? Any tips for making it a habit?