Why Meditate? And 5 Ways to Turn it into a Long-lasting Habit
It was a disaster.
The onset began when I was 23. I had just lost the two most important women in my life. My mom and my girlfriend.
It was ruining me mentally and physically.
On the other side, I had a lot of good going for me.
I was a qualified industrious boy who didn’t hate his job. I had a supportive family and friends I could rely on. My drug and alcohol consumption was limited to occasional parties. I even followed a strict diet.
Despite all that, I was a terrible case.
Moving from one day to another was unusual. Like I was a cat trying to throw up a hairball. Time seemed to drag on and nothing made me feel better about this awful furball in my throat.
When I tried to look for an answer on the Internet, therapy was the only thing that made sense - that stood a chance to move me out of my constant anxiety. So, I booked an affordable old lady on Practo. But a few days before the appointment, I found something else.
I was mindlessly scrolling on a subreddit related to psychotherapy. One of the comments mentioned how a user got out his own version of hell through meditation.
My 23-year-old self didn’t think meditation was something for a normal office-going chap. And even if it was, it wasn’t there to get us out of anxiety around personal loss.
All I knew was bald monks used meditation. Primarily to prolong the number of hours they could sit without numbing their butt cheeks.
I had doubts, clearly. At the back of my head, I could see how meditation would fail too, as everything else had failed.
But I was willing to try it.
When I checked for free resources to learn meditation, I found the Headspace app.
The introductory videos were easy to understand and prepared me for my first beginner lessons.
To my surprise, within the first month, the anxiety subsided to a manageable level.
Just the simple process of focusing on my senses, the weight of my body and then doing a body scan helped me with my constant hovering clouds of fear.
A few months later, I managed to pull myself out of my little hell.
I didn’t use the appointment with a therapist, which I do think would have been a great addon to my meditation practice. Anywho.
Like any habit, I could notice how meditation didn’t work, at least in the beginning states, unless I did it every day.
As Tom Waits puts it, ‘The way you do anything is the way you do everything.’
So, the trick is to do it regularly.
If you’re planning to start meditation, here are some tips on how to make it a daily habit.
Complete Your Introductory lessons
Introductory lessons on meditation are not important, at all. You will gain the benefits of it as long as you meditate.
But how would you bring yourself to practice it every day?
Motivation will only take you so far. Especially in the beginning.
If you do not know what you’re doing and how meditation helps with the thing you’re struggling with, you may gradually lose the drive.
It may feel like it’s not working. It’s useless, like everything else you have tried.
The answer is, get closer to its mechanics. How it works and why it works.
The Headspace app has a “Technique and Support” section. It has the major techniques that the app uses and the physical and mental obstacles that you might face during the course.
It’s a great place to start.
Set the Intention
Setting an intention at the beginning of your practice could change the tenor of your journey.
You bring your mind, your thoughts and focus them on an intention, a guiding principle on how you want to live, be and show up in an area of your life. Be it your relationship or work.
You should ask yourself what matters the most. In a way, it is the first step to embody what you want from your life.
Also, try setting your intentions in a positive framework. Instead of saying, “I want to stop wasting my life.” Say “I want to be more efficient at my job.”
Done right, Intentions have a magical power to them.
The trick is to keep revisiting your intention as often as possible. So your body and mind know what you desire.
It’s not important to sit for hours in silence to receive the benefits. The idea is to revisit your meditation practice daily, or as often as possible.
You’re more likely to stick with the practice when you start small. With a realistic goal. Like 10 minutes. Or even 5 minutes.
Never stretch yourself so thin that you can’t return the next day.
Missing a day shouldn’t force you to start shaking your finger at the sky, complaining about how everything is lost.
If you miss a day, or more, because life is busy, meditate in the next possible room of time you can make for yourself.
There is no point in going hard on yourself.
Make it the first thing after you get up
People come in all types of faces and stages. Some people prefer mornings, the others prefer evenings. Or even nights.
Whatever the case, try starting your day with meditation. If you have a night job and wake up in the evening, do it then, before you eat.
On good days you can experiment with longer sessions, but it’s not a necessity. You will be there when it’s time.
The other way is to rely on convenience. If you have a specific time during which you’re free every day, like your lunch break, for example, you can insert your practice there.
There are no hard rules here. Just show up as often as possible. As often as you need it.
Streak is Your Friend
You want to commit yourself to meditate every day. Most meditation apps have the streak counter built-in, the little badges that mark your progress. The counter creates a positive feedback loop. The further you’re in your streak, the better the chances that you will stick to your daily practice.
Personally, keeping track of my streak is what made me consistent. It was a powerful motivator.
The other method to count your streak is to put a cross on a calendar. You can use an app or a physical datebook. It doesn’t make a difference.
During difficult times, always remember, the streak counter is your best friend.
This article starts with “it was a disaster.” True. It all started with a disaster. But it gets better.
The last 4 years of meditation has made me less distracted, less reactive to my surrounding. Today I am more composed. More inclined to pick difficult tasks.
Meditation has turned me inwards. It has shown me how peace and chaos are impermanent states of living.
And these are only a few benefits I have received from my mediation practice.
I am still learning. And there is a lot more to learn on this journey.
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