How to Turn Your Meditation Practice into a Habit
A regular meditation practice comes with all sorts of positive physical, mental and emotional benefits - better sleep, increased focus and clarity, less anxiety, happier thoughts, a calmer nervous system and the list goes on and on. There’s basically no downside to regular meditation, so the question is really not about whether or not you should take up the practice, it’s about how to develop the habit so that it sticks.
Practicing daily meditation is like learning and developing any new skill, and just like learning a new skill it can get frustrating. You may lose patience and want to just forget the whole thing. Similar to going for a morning run, committing to a weekly gym session or learning a new language or picking up a new instrument it takes discipline, motivation and repetition.
You don’t go to the gym once and expect to have gained a six pack in your first session and you don’t take one piano lesson and play like Mozart (unless maybe you’re Mozart).
The bottom line is that if you want to make meditation a natural part of your life you have to commit to making it a daily habit. Even with the best intentions you can abandon your practice, life just gets in the way or you skip a day and then two and before you know it meditating was something you did once six months ago.
Don’t let that happen! The following guidelines will help you to make meditation a habit you can stick to!
1. Pick a regular time to meditate (the morning is best)
The morning is the best time to meditate because you’re yet to get into the details of your day, it’s the perfect time to set yourself up in the right frame of mind for whatever lies ahead. Practice meditating as soon as you wake up every day for a week and see if this time works for you.
2. Meditate for a short period of time
You don’t have to sit for hours and hours in silence to meditate effectively. Even daily short meditations of 5 minutes can provide you with benefits if you are in a rush. But 10 -20 minutes a day is ideal. The best thing to do is not put pressure on yourself but to enjoy the time you do spend meditating.
3. The Headspace Streak
Meditation program Headspace uses a motivational streak system, whereby you can check your progress each day that you have meditated and maintain a streak. This can be a great way to chart your practice and stick at it, plus you get to feel a little smug as your streak increases.
4. Find another Focus
If sitting to meditate is proving challenging for you, find time to quietly focus on other tasks throughout your day. Make the decision to just switch off from technology for 5 minutes and simply focus on your breathing, and/or the sounds around you. Listen to the wind, a dripping tap or watch a bird outside the window. When you make any effort at all to simply just sit and be, it is a form of meditation. This practice can help get you back on track for regular meditation.
5. Don’t try to be Perfect
Sometimes we can get caught up in trying to “do it right” and with meditation that just isn’t the way to be. You are not trying to stop your thoughts, you are simply bringing yourself to become more aware of your thoughts. We all have busy minds and it is entirely normal at first to be alarmed at the amount of distracting thoughts we have when meditating. You are training your mind and that takes time, nooone is perfect straight away and maybe not ever. The best way to think of meditation is as a daily routine of observing your mind, whatever state it is in on any given day.
6. Try out different types of meditation and see which is for you.
Everyone’s different and you might find it easier to create a habit when there’s variety built into your meditation routine. You can begin with some simple guided meditations or dip your toe into the waters of more advanced meditation techniques such as brain entrainment, chakra or body scanning or chanting meditations. It’s probably best to develop a habit of sitting to meditate first so that you become accustomed to the practice of being still, quiet and focusing your mind.
If you can follow the steps above, find a regular time of day to practice and remember that meditation is a personal process and a learning curve - you’ll be more likely to stick to it. Remember that it is not about struggling to achieve anything, meditation is simply bringing your mind to a state of present moment awareness.