Meditation has got to be one of the harder habits for me to pick up. Some people are naturally drawn to it and can pick it up quite easily. Me, on the other hand, I had to try so many different types of mediation before I found something that worked!
I signed up for a class at the local Ananda Center of Self Realization, thinking that "this time is going to be IT! I know that I can do this." I paid my $45 for 3 classes. After the second class, I couldn't take one more bit of coaching on how to make the proper OM sound in my head! So I shelved mediation thinking it wasn't for me.
Now I know the science: meditation reduces stress by activating the para-sympathetic nervous system. The one that is responsible for rest and digest. Research has found that mediation promotes a style of thinking that allows new ideas to be generated and creativity to be more present. In fact, neuroscientists have also found that after just 11 hours of meditation (WHOA that sounds like a lot!!) that the subjects had structural changes in the part of the brain that involved focus and self-control! Who doesn't love more focus in our world of distraction?
There's even studies out there that show that meditation has a positive effect on improving anxiety and stress. So much so that research focusing on people who have clinical levels of anxiety saw a 90% reduction reported anxiety levels with a regular mediation practice.
Okay but the trick here is... that I still have to START a meditation practice to begin with. I tried doing a 30 day challenge and that worked for about 5 days. Just until my routine changed on the weekend and I forgot about it. Sound familiar? I even tried different times of the day, scheduling it in my calendar and still I would not be consistent.
The epiphany came when I remembered:
So how do I do most things when I am learning new skills? I break it down into its most simple form so that its much easier to start and build from there. Meditation was a tough nut to crack because its more about building the habit, and less about how you do it that counts. So when I realized it was just another habit, then I applied the following tricks and it finally stuck!
- Habit Stacking - this was key for making this habit stick for me. The concept is that you mix your new habit in with habits you already do. We all do this unconsciously already. For example you may have a morning routine of waking up, brushing your teeth, drinking a glass of water and then starting breakfast. Or in the evening you might wash your face, brush and floss your teeth. Those are independent habits stacked on one another. So for me, I had to stack my meditation in with a routine I did every day without fail. So its now nicely stacked into my wakeup routine: brush my teeth, drink a glass of water, walk the dog and then meditate for 15 minutes. Don't try to just add it at random to your day - there's no other associative habit that will trigger you.
- Find an app/class/recording that you like - I tried so so many of these! Its totally okay to try a ton of them until you finally settle on something you like! I personally love Headspace and it seems to be the one that I can connect to the most on a spiritual and mental level. I also love that the app is free to download and you can do the basic series as many times as you like for free! Don't try to find the perfect class/app, etc. It doesn't exist. Try a few or try a lot! Eventually you will settle on one you like.
- Start with small steps - You don't have to tackle an hour of meditation every day for a full year when you first start!! Thats too much even for me! So start with 2-3 minutes of just quiet time, or with your favorite app/class/recording. Then after you master that for a few days in a row, up the time to 5 minutes. See if you can work up to 10 minutes each day. Don't start with a large goal. Start with the smallest goal you can that make it feel useful.
- Make it a game - See how many days you can do a run streak. Meaning what is your longest period where you don't miss a day of it? Chart it out, or fill in your progress as you color in a picture. Headspace makes it a game automatically by showing you your progress and you get cool messages when you achieve a new streak record.
Do you have a meditation practice? If so, how did you start? If not, do you want to start one? Leave a comment below and let me know!