You leave old habits behind by starting out with the thought, ‘I release the need for this in my life’. — Wayne Dyer
Not feeling the effects of meditation after a single 10 minute session? Why not turn your practice into a long-lasting habit that will make it easier to notice the subtle, yet significant, changes happening in your life.
This post is a friendly guide on how to meditate daily for beginners, by the time you’re done understanding the research behind meditation, and experimenting with short-session meditations — your meditation habit will become easier to maintain.
Much of what we do in life can be traced back to some form of a habit. Think about your day, how it began and what you did first thing after waking up. Brushing your teeth, taking a shower, preparing breakfast and a cup of coffee — these are all habits that we develop for a comfortable life, and meditation can become a healthy dose of much needed relaxation first thing in the morning.
Charles Duhigg, who wrote The Power of Habit, has a beautiful explanation of what makes a habit form: Habits emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort.
How would we apply this to meditation?
Since meditation is all about relaxation and calming your nervous system, we can see how starting your day with a little bit of meditation could help to bring about clarity and peace of mind for starting your day on the right foot.
It’s easy to dismiss meditation and say that you don’t have the required time for it, but that’s just another excuse to be comfortable with how your hectic life passes by with each rising sun.
The irony lies in the fact that meditation is actually helping us save time, due to our practice of relaxation the mind’s function becomes much more peaceful, and in turn allows for more meaningful thoughts and ideas to pass through it.
Take for example being provoked at your workplace, oftentimes over nothing, you automatically enter into a “fight or flight” mode which can leave you stressed, depleted, and resentful towards other people — all at the expense of spending your own energy.
This example has little to do with your workplace though, it’s more about the way we interact with life on daily basis, are we really happy and mindful of our life experience in a way that promotes healthy growth? Stress is nothing but a misunderstanding, a miscommunication. Meditation promotes healthy attentiveness to all life situations so that they can be resolved effortlessly, without the interference of dense emotions.
I started to become frustrated with my own work recently, and wrote about the change of mindset I had to make in order to dedicate myself more to things that I enjoy doing, things that I know are helping me to grow and flourish in life. Meditation does an excellent job at helping us understand the connection between our minds and emotions, and how balancing both is essential for a healthy and functional mind.
Why meditation is good for you?
First and foremost, in order to do something in life there has to be a good reason for it, otherwise we would all be running around doing the same exact things. When it comes to meditation, some are attracted to it because of natural curiosity, while others might have read and studied scientific journals that show the potential meditation has on the human brain.
Recent research conducted by David Creswell from Carnegie Mellon University shows that mindfulness meditation has substantial effects on health, specifically in the field of neurobiology, which was shown in this study that meditation can be effective in improving health, reducing aging, and promoting the brain’s ability to cope with stress.
The brain scans showed that mindfulness meditation training increased the functional connectivity of the participants’ resting default mode network in areas important to attention and executive control, namely the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Participants who received the relaxation training did not show these brain changes.
This study is just one of the many that are being concluded each year, in the last 2 years alone there have been great discoveries in how meditation affects cognitive thinking, and even changes the structure of the brain over a period of time.
- Meditation not only reduces stress, here’s how it changes your brain
- Meditation study shows changes associated with awareness, stress
- Long-term meditators self-induce high-amplitude gamma synchrony during mental practice
In my humble opinion, nothing beats personal experience. Scientific research is there to help us as human beings better understand the structure of our bodies, the real deal happens on your meditation cushion each morning, or whenever your preferred time of meditation might be.
What to expect from your meditation practice?
These are my personal observations of how meditation can change your life in as little as 4 weeks of doing a regular practice. Take the process of forming this new habit seriously, and there will be noticeable changes happening in your life.
- Stress reduction — during a meditation session your body and mind has a chance to completely relax and surrender into the present moment, this promotes natural healing for your nervous system, whilst calming down the mind and the craziness happening in there!
- Increase in awareness — enjoy being more aware of your thoughts, your thought patterns and how they govern your life experiences, with a little bit of practice (and patience!) you can learn to change those patterns to more positive ones.
- Creative freedom — do you remember as a teenager, sitting with a cup of tea next to a window watching the rain wash away the all the dirt? It wasn’t uncommon to come up with creative ideas during those moments of serenity, because unknowingly (or knowingly) you were meditating and creating a space for creative ideas to form. Meditation helps to promote the frequency of such serene moments, drastically!
And this is me touching only the very tip of the iceberg. You can read some more of my personal experiences with meditation here.
How to turn meditation into a habit?
Habits create neurological cravings. As we associate cues with certain rewards, a subconscious craving emerges in our brain that starts the habit loop spinning.
Think back to your morning routine, and ask yourself what is the one reason for you to make a cup of coffee each morning, even take a shower? You enjoy drinking coffee because it helps you to get started with your day, remember meditation doesn’t stop you from enjoying this wonderful elixir, and you love to take a shower because it makes you feel clean, fresh and prepared for the day.
Of course at first, you need more than just the mindset of wanting to create a new habit, you need to get to that point of neurological craving — the point where you’re beginning to reap rewards for your efforts to form this new habit. Coffee reward might be instantaneous, but with meditation it might take a little while longer, although subtle changes begin to happen within the first couple of sessions already; it all depends on how you define progress.
Since it’s so easy to fail to progress with forming a new habit, you’ve to be extra mindful of how you approach this process of learning something new — jumping into the deep end on day one will leave you feeling unaccomplished, depleted even.
Starting with short meditation sessions is the way to go.
How much is short? Ideally, you want to begin anywhere from 5 minutes and upwards.
This way you can really start to listen to your mind and body reactions to you sitting still and simply relaxing. Gradually, once the habit starts to form, you will want to sit for longer periods as you start to reap the vast rewards that your practice is bringing into your life.
If you’re unsure of the right meditation technique for you, you can refer back to an older post that of mine in which I share meditation techniques that worked really well for me, eventually you will find the type of meditation that works best for you.
It’s worth noting that meditation is a mental exercise, it challenges your ability to quiet your own mind, and unless you’re being serious about creating a better life for yourself through the process of becoming more relaxed with your surroundings, you will continue to fall back into the rabbit hole of doing things the old way.
Within a few weeks you could experience a profound shift in your thinking, some even experience a shift in their consciousness, but it’s naive to expect such a change happen within a couple of short sessions. Be mindful of your practice and things will begin to improve.
Your comments, feedback and questions are most welcome in the comment section below; feel free to ask for clarification or advice on how to make your meditation habit stick.