Meditation is a commitment you make to yourself; a committment to live with more ease, clarity, and health!
Practiced daily, meditation deepens and becomes more comfortable and useful. My whole day just seems to go better when I make the space for my meditation practice.
Often my students ask me what it takes to establish a consistent meditation practice. They know that it would improve the quality of their life, but have trouble committing to meditating every day.
Meditation is like any habit. It takes discipline to establish a practice before it sticks. Starting small, practicing at relatively the same time every day, finding teachers and styles that work for you, and creating a dedicated space for meditation will help to move your mind toward keeping this personal commitment.
It Takes Time
New habits take longer than we think to stick. In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London explored how long it takes for people to form habits. In this study, Lally and her research team examined the habits of 96 people over 12 weeks. Each participant chose one new habit they wanted to cultivate for the 12 weeks. Throughout the study, each person reported every day on whether or not they did the behavior and how automatic the action felt.
There was a wide variety in the habits self-selected by participants. Some people chose simpler habits such as “drinking a glass of water each day at lunchtime.” Others chose more challenging tasks like “running for 15 minutes a day.” After 12 weeks, the researchers analyzed the data. They wanted to determine how long it took each person in the study to go from starting a new habit to automatically doing it.
Lally and her team found that on average, it takes more than two months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact. (1)
In other words, realistically, it will probably take you anywhere from two months to eight months to build a new behavior like meditation into your life.
It Isn’t All or Nothing
Interestingly, the researchers in the study above also found that “missing one opportunity to perform the behavior did not materially affect the habit formation process.” In other words, it doesn’t matter if you mess up now and then. Building better habits is not an all-or-nothing process. (1)
Be gentle with yourself if you miss a meditation and recommit!
I have come to believe that the most significant mistake people make at the beginning is making the duration of practice unattainable. When we are first learning to meditate it’s important not to sit for too long. We don't want our meditation to feel daunting and challenging to integrate into our everyday life. With time, we can start to slowly increase our time meditating just as we might do with physical exercise when we're getting in shape.
New-be meditators will often try to commit to 30 minutes a day right out of the gate. I believe 10 minutes a day is a perfect starting point. In the beginning, shorter sits help to establish the habit of meditation and making the time and space for our practice. Remember, consistency and commitment are the keys to cultivating any new habit; and with meditation, it is quality over quantity. Even one minute of intentional, mindful attention can make a massive shift in our state.
Schedule it Into Your Life
“Mindfulness isn't difficult, we just need to remember to do it.”
Making sure that we make the space and time to meditate daily is key to making it stick. We often feel like we don’t have enough time to practice self-care, but with practice, we will get into the habit of “making the time” because of its impact on our overall health.
Here are some ideas on where to find space to practice:
When you wake up
When you arrive at work before diving into the day
Right before you leave work
Take some time to experiment scheduling your meditation during different times of the day and see what works best for you. Maybe you're an early morning meditator, or perhaps you are better suited to meditate before bed or in the middle of the day to refresh your energy and intention.
The key is actually to plan it! Pick a time and write it into your calendar, schedule it in your phone, or make a part of your morning or evening ritual. You can even use reminders or an alarm on your phone or smart-watch to help you remember to practice.
Explore Teachers and Styles of Meditation
Just as there are many different reasons why people meditate, there are many different kinds of meditation.
Meditation isn’t a one-size-fits-all practice. I’ve found that people resonate with different styles and teachers differently and sometimes it takes time to find a form and one or more teachers that you feel deeply connected to.
I recommend trying a particular meditation teacher or style several times. Sometimes we have an aversion to new things, and if we immediately dismiss a method or teacher, we might miss out on valuable experiences.
Popular meditation styles you can explore include:
Affirmation or mantra repetition
Chanting and sounding practices
Breath-based meditation practices
Free apps like Insight Timer make it easy to experiment with these different styles and teachers until you find the right fit. You can also check out other meditation apps, YouTube, or this blog for practice recordings.
Create a Meditation Space:
Creating a special space for your meditation practice can encourage your practice. With time this area will absorb the vibrations of your training, and your body can move into relaxation just by entering the sacred space you create.
If you'd prefer to sit in a chair, it's essential that your feet are comfortably reaching the floor. One option is to sit forward towards the front edge of the chair seat. Alternatively, you can sit back and use the back of the chair for support and if your feet don't touch the floor, place books or a bolster under them.
If you'd like to explore sitting on the floor, you can use bolsters, pillows, blankets, or any other props to support you. You can also place your back against the wall for support.
You can also fill your space with inspirational objects such as photos, sacred books, candles, incense, a diffuser, or anything else that speaks to your soul without making this space too stimulating or cluttered.
By practicing the above techniques, you will see your meditation practice move from, “I know I should meditate,” to “I do meditate.”
I hope that once you achieve a consistent meditation practice, your health, peace, and happiness will expand.
1. Clear, James. “How Long Does It Take to Form a Habit? Backed by Science.” James Clear, 13 July 2018, jamesclear.com/new-habit.