Okay, so you have probably heard that meditation is good for you – and there’s quite a stack of evidence that it is. Maybe you have even felt the positive effects yourself. But try as you might, you can’t seem to make it part of your routine.
I have been there. I don’t know how many times I decided to start meditating, only to have it fizzle out after a couple days. I swore it simply wasn’t for me, that I was fine without it. But now that I meditate in some form every day, I can’t imagine living without it. Even a 1 minute meditation grounds me, centers me, and refreshes me. And in this crazy life, who doesn’t need that?
So what changed for me to finally make it stick? I condensed the answer into these 5 unique tips to get over the hump and start meditating regularly. And the first step is to expand how you think about meditation.
Want to Start Meditating?
5 tips to help you start meditating regularly – and stick with it
1. Get over your preconceptions about meditation. Many of us think of meditation as a long, thoughtless state of connection with the divine – and it can be. But in trying to live up to that standard, we get overwhelmed and decide that mediation isn’t for us. Maybe it even leads to self-criticism about why we can’t meditate like we want to or like we should be able to. Instead of blissful feelings, we end up feeling guilty!
So the first tip is to be gentle with yourself and be open. Meditation takes many different forms – even one deep breath in and out is super helpful – and you can find a way that works for you. And on a related note of expectations and guilt…
2. Set reasonable goals. I remember deciding for the first, and second, and third time that I was going to start meditating regularly. And each time, I would set a goal of 1 hour per day. But that is a lofty goal to start with, especially when research has shown that even 10 minutes per day has a wide ranging list of benefits for your physical and mental health. So when you go to start meditating, start small. You can always amp it up or simply keep going when the timer goes off.
But does that short of a time really make a difference? Absolutely, says mindfulness expert and former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe. Most of the recent research indicates that when it comes to meditation, short, frequent sessions are better than longer, less frequent sessions. So that means 10 minutes a day, every day of the week, is likely to be better than 60 minutes, once per week. And according to Puddicombe, “this bite-size approach helps us to discover stability of awareness in our everyday lives, rather than just an isolated practice that we do and then leave behind.” He founded a business, Headspace, that is based on this premise that even a few minutes of meditation per day can help you live a happier, healthier life. For more on this, I highly recommend his TED talk, All It Takes Is 10 Mindful Minutes.
So why not start small – with 10 minutes or less every day for a week – and see how you feel?
But hold up. Maybe you are thinking, “You don’t get it. The problem is that I don’t have extra time to meditate, even 10 minutes!” And it’s true that most of us are living crazy busy lives. But the next tip is for you.
“And the beauty of it is that even though it need only take about 10 minutes per day, it impacts our entire life” @andypuddicombeClick to tweet
3. Make boredom into something beautiful. You can’t be bored at times throughout your day and “not have enough time to meditate” (I am quoting myself there). Sometimes the clearest opportunities I find to start meditating are when I would otherwise be bored or frustrated. I mean, what is there to lose? Here’s a perfect example.
Sitting in traffic is mind-numb-ingly frustrating. But it is also the perfect opportunity to meditate. Why focus on how far the red brake lights go in the distance when you could focus on your own deep breaths for a minute? Why be frustrated when you could find some reason to be excited?
This is a classic example of how we use a tool called the change map to make every day life just a little bit better. Take a look at this diagram. You see the red line at the top, that moves from frustration to excitement? That is emotional intelligence – the ability to recognize and name your emotions (“I am frustrated because there is traffic.”) and then respond appropriately (“What can I do to make the most out of this situation?”) It’s simple but powerful stuff – and the more you practice, the better you get. Just count to 3 while you take a deep breath in, and count to 3 as you slowly breathe out. I swear this has helped me arrive at home in a better mental state than if there had not been traffic. Imagine that! Traffic for the win!
Sometimes what we need in order to start meditating is to hone our ability to recognize when we have an opportunity to meditate, and take advantage of it.
So next time you feel yourself getting bored or frustrated, go through this process of naming your emotions and taking full advantage of the opportunity at hand!
If you want to master this process of living with greater awareness and making choices more deliberately, there are plenty of ways to get involved. A great place to start is this article, Get Started with Emotional Intelligence.
4. Meditate on the move. For some people, the act of sitting completely still is one of the biggest hurdles to meditation – but have you ever heard of walking meditation? It’s actually become my favorite way to meditate.
If you want to try it out, here’s what I recommend. Next time you are walking somewhere, slow down. Then if you are like me, slow down again, and again. Walk so slowly that you have great balance – so great that if someone came and nudged you, you would stay upright. And then focus on your breath. It’s that simple – walk really slowly and take slow, deep breaths. But for me, as a really active, high energy person, it’s perfect. To be able to move at all, and focus on my steps as I breath, helps to calm my mind.
5. Do guided meditations. When you are trying to start meditating, it’s often really helpful to have a guide to walk you through the process. And I have some really good news: it’s easier than it’s ever been to find some really amazing guided meditations. Not only do many yoga studios offer meditation classes, but, you guessed it, there’s an app for that. Two amazing and super accessible guides are Andy Puddicombe, the founder of the Headspace app, and Tara Brach, who offers a bunch of free meditations on her website. My partner loves Tara Brach’s meditations, specifically the RAIN of Self-Compassion.
So why not give some of these guided meditations a try, and see which one you like best? They are free, so there’s really nothing to lose.
Tara Brach is an amazing teacher and meditation guide – check out her website today https://www.tarabrach.com/Click to tweet
Start with Six Seconds
The simplest form of meditation is to focus on your breath and count. Take a deep breath in, counting to 3 along the way. 1 – 2 – 3, and when you get to 3, hold your breath for a just a moment. Then release and count to 3 as you breathe out. And of course feel free to repeat. But even that one deep breath, wherever it is, can really help you reset.
What exactly is emotional intelligence? It’s the ability to recognize and respond appropriately to your own and others’ emotions. At Six Seconds, we believe emotions are valuable signals that help us survive and thrive. When we learn how to use them, emotions help us make more effective decisions, connect with others, find and follow purpose — and lead a more whole-hearted life. Learning how to use emotions is challenging but rewarding work – and we’re here to help.
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