Years ago, meditation transformed my anxiety.
What was once an unshakeable sense of panic had become calm and reflective like a lake with still water.
As nice as this story is, in retrospect, I often leave out what seems like a small detail: I had a very hard time making meditation a daily habit.
And it turns out, I’m not alone. I’ve surveyed hundreds of meditators and found that the number one thing holding them back is the difficulty in sticking to a consistent meditation practice.
Meditation is not just for relaxation; it’s primary purpose is to develop the capacity to respond skillfully and gracefully to life’s difficulties as well as its joys.
– Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche
So, you read a blog somewhere, heard about the incredible benefits, or maybe even read an entire book on meditation. Whatever it was, it convinced you to try out meditation. Now you’re curious. Or maybe you want to make it a part of your daily life.
There’s only one problem: trying out meditation once and making it a daily habit are two very different things. It can be very difficult to make meditation a daily habit if you don’t know the right steps to take. So, where do you start?
Luckily, there’s a simple technique you can utilize in various different ways to help virtually guarantee you make meditation a daily habit. I call it the Path of Least Resistance, and it’s all about removing the resistance that keeps you from taking the particular action in question (in this case, meditation).
Here are the steps:
1. Set a dedicated meditation schedule
This step sounds simple, but it’s critical. One of the most important steps to making anything a daily habit, especially meditation, is to do it on a set schedule.
Set a daily schedule for your meditation session (preferably early morning to start your day off right) and stick to it no matter what. And if something gets in the way? Make sure to reschedule your session and make it up as soon as possible.
2. Create a dedicated meditation space
It’s important to not just set a dedicated schedule, but to also create a dedicated meditation space.
Creating a dedicated meditation space can be as simple as clearing the corner of a room of clutter and setting down a pillow (you can buy a meditation pillow or fold a bed pillow in half).
Whether it’s an entire room, a corner, or somewhere else the most important thing here is that you remove all possible distractions and place nothing in this space except for what’s necessary.
3. The 60-second jump-start
One of the major mistakes I’ve discovered people make when beginning their meditation practice is in believing that they have to meditate for some specific amount of time.
What ends up happening is you quit before you’ve even begun because the mental inertia you have to overcome in convincing yourself to sit for twenty or thirty minutes can at times be too much to handle.
In order to remove this resistance and create a clear pathway to making meditation a daily habit, sit for just sixty seconds.
Yes, that’s right. Sit for sixty seconds.
That might sound crazy, but it’s not. The most important effort to making meditation a daily habit is simply to sit every day, no matter how long you sit.
Coach.me, the goal-tracking app, reviewed data from users who participated in a meditation course and found that meditators who practiced for just eleven days were over ninety percent more likely to continue in their practice from the twelfth day and on. And these findings weren’t dependent upon any specific length of meditation time.
By sitting for just sixty seconds, you remove a lot of the mental inertia that so often keeps us from taking action and make it easier to convince yourself to sit and meditate.
We’re generally introduced to meditation through a specific method, which is unfortunate because that’s not always the simplest form or the best beginner practice.
Do yourself a favor when working to make meditation a daily habit and keep it simple. After sitting down in a comfortable position, adopt a strong posture and follow these simple instructions to practice mindfulness of breath (mindful breathing) meditation:
- Turn your attention inward. Become aware of your body and of any bodily sensations that arise.
- Become aware of your breathing. Now, turn your attention to your in-breath and out-breath. Follow the length of each in-breath and out-breath from beginning to end.
- Acknowledge that which arises. While following the length of your breath, thoughts, feelings, and sensations will arise and distract you from concentrating on your breathing, and that’s perfectly OK. Imagine yourself projecting a field of awareness which acknowledges everything within a given moment. With that in mind, simply acknowledge what arises and don’t treat it as a distraction or anything negative.
- Return to your breath. Simply return to following your breath just as before.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of this method and really made meditation a daily practice, you can venture out and start trying something new. Until then, stick with something simple and easy that will encourage you to practice.
The only exception is if you’ve happened upon a method of meditation that really excites you. If you can’t wait to sit and meditate, that’s the best kind of motivation, so stick with it.
5. Practice throughout your everyday life
One of the most important things you can do to make meditation a daily habit is to not restrict your practice to the meditation cushion. There are many ways this can be done, but one of the simplest and best to start with is setting a reminder on your phone to practice mindful breathing a few times a day.
Set the reminder to go off every few hours and practice following your breath for just thirty to sixty seconds in just the same way as you would do while sitting in meditation (but it can be done while standing, sitting, lying down- whenever and wherever).
The more you practice mindful breathing throughout each day, the more you’ll support your daily sitting meditation practice.
Making meditation a daily habit can be difficult, but if you follow these steps you’ll make the process simple and straightforward.
Life is short, but meditation can help you make the most of it. Start your practice today and begin feeling the peace and relief that comes from a daily meditation practice.