How to make a Daily Meditation Habit Stick!
Back in April I embarked on a new journey of bullet journaling to help organize my life, and start and track new healthy habits. Along with drinking 64 oz of water, and sleeping for at least 8 hours, I added daily meditation to the list of habits I wanted to establish. There's so much information out there to support the benefits of meditation, and as a yoga teacher, I feel I should practice what I preach. I've started out on the quest for daily meditation many times before (with the Oprah and Deepak Chopra free meditation challenges) , but I was never able to make it stick. This time I feel I finally cracked the code, and I wanted to share how I did it.
Psychology tells us that the most effective way to establish a new habit is to use cognitive restructuring's three step formula. There must be a cue, a routine, and a reward. Read this great article to learn more about this!
The cue is something that sets you off for your routine (which is your new habit). The cue could be a time of day, and when that time of day comes, it triggers you to begin your new routine. After the routine there must be a reward. Your brain loves rewards, and that's what will strengthen this new cognitive loop. A reward could be: an enjoyable behavior that comes after the routine (social media break, going for a walk, etc), an enjoyable treat (coffee, a snack, etc) and eventually, your reward comes from simply repeating this new activity daily because the brain loves repetition so much.
My cue: I decided that morning would be the best time for me to attempt this new practice. First thing in the morning wouldn't work for me because I have two pets and they have high needs in the morning! I usually wake up, walk the dog, feed the dog and cat, and then start making my own breakfast. I figured that the best time to meditate would be after I ate breakfast and before I started tackling the day. This time of day also works for me because most of my classes are at night so I usually have mornings free. I decided to do it after I ate since I didn't want to be distracted by hunger pangs as I tried to concentrate. I deliberately picked a time of day that would set me up for success.
However, we all have irregular schedules at times, and for that reason, I made a non-negotiable rule that if I have to get in my meditation every single day, even if that means doing it right before bed. Here's what my plan of attack looked like:
My routine: I first set a simple goal of a daily 5 minute meditation. After about a week, 5 minutes felt doable, so I increased to 7, and eventually to 10, and now I try to do 12. My meditation practice is super simple. I used to get overwhelmed with the idea of meditation, but really all it boils down to is just sitting with yourself, and just being with yourself and your breath. I have a couple different ways I go about it:
1. I set a timer on my watch or my iPhone and then I close my eyes and start to breath. I sit comfortably in a chair without crossing my legs, and I hold my hands lightly in my lap with the palms facing up. I notice my breaths, and mentally say to myself "I inhale" and "I exhale" with each breath. Any time my mind starts to wander (which is literally every 4 seconds) I bring my focus back to my breath.
2. I find a guided meditation on youtube for the length of time I want to do, and the theme I'd like to achieve (prosperity, abundance, gratitude, acceptance, etc), repeat steps above to get comfortable, and just listen and follow along. Here's a few I enjoy.
My reward: After I complete my daily meditation, I get to color in a square in my bullet journal's habit tracker sheet. If you are Type A like me, you can relate to how satisfying it is! It's basically like crossing something off your to-do list, which definitely comes with a certain level of satisfaction.
This has been working for me for 50+ days now, which is a PR (personal record) for me! The two biggest game changers were establishing the cue, routine, and reward, and also taking the pressure off myself to make the meditation "perfect." If one day's meditation is only 5 minutes instead of 10, I still consider that a success. I also took away all expectations of the meditation, and focused on just letting it be. It's crazy how busy we get, and just taking at least 5 minutes every day to be still and silent can have huge impacts on your life. You may have heard the zen proverb, “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” So, if you want your daily meditation habit to stick, follow these three steps and you will be on your way to enlightenment (haha, jk)!
1. Find a cue that works for your life
2. Establish your new meditation routine. It's way simpler than you think. Take the pressure off of yourself, and just carve out time to sit and be silent.
3. Reward your good behavior! The fun part :)
If you have a daily meditation practice I'd love to hear about it!