In the last 10 years, I’ve tried several different types of mediation, from mindful to mantra to a transcendental approach. I wanted to find a sustainable way to feel less restless in my daily life. In the beginning, my mind wandered and I couldn’t sit still for even two minutes. After a few months, I increased my quiet time to 10 minutes, but unnecessary thoughts would interfere. Now, I’ve committed to 22 minutes of transcendental meditation daily and forgive myself when my practice isn’t perfect.
To sink into a meditation habit, the practice should be consistent and continuous. When I meditate daily, I feel the long-term benefits especially in crisis moments or seasons when I feel overwhelmed. If I skip several days of my meditation, I feel a small level of angst and lose the calm in my day-to-day life. That’s why I rely on habits such as writing in my bullet journal or treating my mindfulness like a streak I don’t want to let interrupt.
Because no one habit will work for everyone, I talked to other people who meditate every day for tips on building a consistent and continuous practice.
Take the time to understand what your habits are to begin with.
Sarah Vaynerman, the CEO and founder of Work From Om, wants people to understand the importance of habit formation and what it means for consistent meditation practice. “Good habits are so important to develop because they reduce our cognitive load, allowing us to dedicate more of our limited mental resources to other decisions,” she tells Apartment Therapy. She also likens habits to “those moving walkways in airports,” and notes that when we’re overwhelmed, habits can help us shoulder the load. “They help us get moving and can accelerate our efforts to complete everything else in our day more efficiently,” she says.
To make meditation automatic, Vaynerman includes meditation in her morning habit tracker, where “stacking this habit along with a handful of others sets my day up for success.” When I track my own meditation practice in my BuJo, I never forget to meditate — in part because it feels great to check it off each morning, thereby upping the likelihood that I’ll want to check the habit off the next day, too.
Find a consistent place to meditate.
After her cancer diagnosis, Wade Brill, a professional certified coach, and trained mindfulness facilitator used meditation to manage the stress and anxiety of her illness.
She recommends a consistent place that you go to at the same time of the day. “For instance, a chair in your living room in the mornings after you drink your morning coffee or maybe your car parked outside after your lunchtime walk,” can create a consistent space to support building a meditation habit, she says.
Start with short meditation sessions.
The key to keeping a habit going is to begin with a micro-goal. “It is important to start with short sessions,” says Dr. Tom Ingengo of Charm City Integrative Health. “You can sit for 40 minutes when you start your meditation practice, but it will seem like a chore within days.” He adds that beginning with a long mediation session, “will make your back hurt and your legs will be numb and you’ll decide it just isn’t for you.”
Start small and increase time slowly. Dr. Ingengo also encourages meditators to start with 10 slow breaths and then add to the practice as you feel more comfortable.
Focus on meditating as many days as you can, rather than every single day.
When I miss a day of meditation, I can become discouraged and feel like I’ve failed. But it’s important to keep in mind that one missed day of meditation doesn’t lead to a month of discontinuing the practice.
Anna Cantwell, a mindfulness expert, says, “Focus on meditating MOST days, not every day.” She adds, “When I began meditating, I’d get so thrown off by missing a day or two. Those couple of days don’t matter as much as returning to the practice when you fail to meditate.”
Brill agrees, adding that it can be helpful to think about your reasons for meditating in the first place. “Be clear on your why for wanting to hold a consistent meditation practice so that when you fall out of your practice you know why you want to get back to it,” she says.
Reward yourself to keep the momentum going.
Gennifer Morley, a psychotherapist from Boulder, Co, encourages meditators to reward themselves after mediation. “Say ‘good job’ out loud or some other affirmation when you’re done meditating,” she suggests.
Adding the positive affirmation after you meditate may help you strengthen the habit. “A true habit takes almost no effort at all because we do those behaviors without thinking about them so we don’t need independent ambition to initiate them,” Morley tells Apartment Therapy.
Keep it simple.
Meditation doesn’t need to be complicated or perfect. Jessie Quinn, a creative intuitive with Moodrie, encourages meditators to not fuss about the accessories, or worry about having the “perfect” set-up for your meditation space. “I don’t need anything fancy to meditate and realizing this made meditation more accessible for me,” she says. Her advice is practical: Show up for yourself, get comfortable, close your eyes, and tap into your practice.
Set boundaries with those you live with.
I tell my daughter before I meditate that I am about to practice and she knows I am inaccessible during this time period unless it is an emergency. My daughter knows that my meditation practice is important to me and I shouldn’t be disturbed.
“My husband knows I need at least 10 minutes of meditation every morning before he heads upstairs to go to work and we all get going with our day,” mindfulness meditation coach Ashley Cardini says. “That means during our busy mornings he must be ready by 8 a.m. so he can be with the kids while I meditate. We’ve made it a routine part of our mornings so I make sure I get my time.”
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