There are thousands of studies that show mindful meditation has a profoundly positive effect on mental and physical health. Instead of a physical workout, I like to think of it more as a mental one. Which honestly, can be so much more challenging! Through meditation, we’re able to build up areas of our brain and actually rewire it to enhance positive traits like focus and decision making, and diminish the less positive ones like fear and stress. What does this mean, exactly? It means there is a possibility to change your brain for the better in a way that is long-lasting. Mmmk. Sign me up.
Not gonna lie, this one took me awhile to get in the groove of, and I’m very much a novice still. I had tried this out a few times but wasn’t very committed to it, and wasn’t really feeling the benefit of it (shocker!). I kept hearing from so many different sources, all the time, how beneficial it is and truthfully, I was surprised by the number of people who do it consistently and swear by it. I decided to really give it a shot and stick to it, to see if I could experience all these endless benefits I hear so much about. I made a little step-by-step plan for myself that really eased me into making this a habit that would stick. I’d love to hear if you guys practice meditation and how your experience has been!
HOW TO EASE INTO MEDITATION //
Find an amount of time to meditate that’s doable. Even if it’s 5 minutes, it’s still 5 minutes you didn’t do yesterday. I started out at 10 minutes once per day, then upped it to 10 minutes twice per day. It’s now part of my morning and bedtime routine but had I started out at 20 minutes meditation time or more, I probably would have given up. Meditation is different everyday but in the beginning stages of the journey it’s really difficult to challenge your mind to relax and feel like you got anything out of it. For me, 10 minutes was the perfect amount of time, because I didn’t feel anxious like my morning or bedtime was wasting away. After a couple of weeks, I was able to slowly quiet my mind and then come back to reality in that 10 minutes, and ultimately start feeling refreshed. I still have a long way to go but seeing some sort of improvement has me hooked to see just how much better it can really get.
Find a Realistic Time To Meditate
Whether it’s in the morning, during your lunch break, or your way of decompressing after a long day of work, find a time that works for you that’s open to being consistent. It’s not mandatory that you practice at the same time everyday but it does help for developing a long term habit. It was always really challenging for me to find a time that worked every day of the week while I had a corporate job, since my work schedule was forever changing. I still managed to find time everyday of the week that was generally around the same timeframe, or at least in the same phase of my nighttime routine (after my shower, before I crawl into bed). I’ve found that once in the morning and once at the end of the day is prime for me. I feel like I start the day on a positive note and then end it in the same manner. If you had to choose one, I’d do it at the end of the day. I’ve found it easier to get in the groove when I’m exhausted, making it easier for my mind to relax.
Use an App
There are so many good meditation apps out there and most offer a handful of beginner material for free. I use Headspace (which is where I got a lot of the facts for this post) and I’ve heard great things about Calm, Insight Timer and Simple Habit. I love Headspace for their straightforward meditations and tools. It focuses less on spirituality and more on neuroscience, but not in a weird or boring way. It made it so much easier for me to actually want to do it because of all the science and research that backed it up.
Do it everyday
Even if you’re not feeling it one day, or you think you’re just going to struggle through it – do it. Commit to doing it everyday, even if you feel like you got absolutely nothing out of it. It’s a slow process but meditation is meant to slowly retrain your mind so that you can more easily understand your emotions from a better perspective. Think of all of the engrained habits, reactions and thoughts you’ve had your entire life – it takes time to get through those and learn how to witness thoughts and emotions from a distance, like watching cars on a highway instead of playing in the traffic. Most people don’t see any sort of noticeable difference after just the first couple of weeks but if you keep practicing, it will get easier and easier. Promise.
This should make it a little easier to hold yourself accountable for executing on your specific goal. I’d take a minute once I was done with my meditation to tick it off my list in the notes on my phone. Although it sounds like it may be an unnecessary step, I felt a small piece of accomplishment as those tick marks increased throughout the week, and when I hadn’t missed one.
This one is big for me! I’ve been learning self-discipline and depriving myself of rewards unless I feel like I’ve really earned it. I got a little generous in ‘treating myself’ for accomplishments that weren’t really anything to feel that proud of. It was actually starting to really hinder my success, since I’d feel a false sense of accomplishment far too often. I wanted to stay on track with that mentality but still allow myself to reap the benefits of sticking to it, so I set up a weekly reward system. If I meditated once per day, for 10 minutes, for an entire week, then I’d allow myself to watch a show before bed one day that week. The may not seem like much, but I’ve significantly limited the amount of TV/movie time I indulge in, so now a 1 hour show is such a treat for myself haha. Don’t be too strict but also don’t be so lax that you develop a sense of false accomplishment because you’ll never form new habits this way.