The last post, “Building a Meditation Habit: Part One,” covered four things you can do to build your meditation habit right out of the gate from planning and identifying a trigger to making your space visible and practicing consistently for only two minutes.
Meditation Habit Tips: 5 – 8
This post will cover four additional things to help your practice become more habitual. These require a little more time and thought—especially as your practice moves toward a consistent direction—but are worth the effort.
5.) Understand the Intention Behind Your Practice.
If you continue struggling to meditate regularly and keep getting frustrated with a lack of progress, take a step back and reflect upon the reason you’re meditating (or want to meditate).
Why are you meditating? What do you hope to get out of your practice? Are you practicing just because you think you should? Are you practicing to improve something?
While there might be some uncertainty behind the reason you’ve chosen to take up a meditative practice, there’s likely an underlying reason. Once you’ve found a reason, take things a step further.
For instance, if you’re meditating to feel more relaxed, you’re likely seeking this outcome because you’ve been feeling stressed lately. So your desire to meditate comes with the want to relieve stress. But why are you stressed? While we all feel stress, there was likely a situation or event recently that made you more aware of it enough to want to do something about it.
The deeper you can go, the better you can uncover and understand the intention behind your practice. Make note of this and revisit it whenever you feel a lack of desire to do the work. Without having something to come back to, it’s difficult to return.
6.) Find a Technique that Works For You.
If you’ve been practicing off and on for a while but feel like nothing seems to stick, look back on the techniques you’ve been practicing.
Have you been practicing a single technique? It’s good to spend time on a single technique to get familiar with how to practice and go deeper into it. But it’s possible that if that one technique isn’t working for you, it might be time to try something else.
Note: Everyone is different. Ultimately, the duration of time you determine as being an “honest attempt” is up to you. I usually like to stick with a technique for at least a couple of weeks. This gives me time to see what it’s like to continue to practice after the novelty of trying something new wears off. It’s also a decent period to settle into the technique and touch on unique experiences.
Have you been bouncing around between different techniques? With a never-ending number of techniques out there today like those on meditation apps, it’s easy to go from one technique to another. But be wary about bouncing around too much. You should explore different techniques and see what’s right for you. But, as mentioned above, it’s good to give a technique an honest attempt to better understand it and explore the various experiences that come with it. Today, it’s so easy to bounce from one thing to the next. Meditation gives us the space to break that cycle and slow down.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to meditation. What works for some does not work for others. Give new techniques both a chance and an honest attempt. Once you find one or more that work well with you, you can add it (or them) to your toolbox as techniques you know will help you as you continue to build your practice.
7.) Hold Yourself Accountable.
Meditation requires effort and self-discipline. If you struggle with getting yourself to practice every day, some additional motivation may help.
One way you can do this is by building your habit with a loved one, friend, or group of people. This support network will help to influence and motivate your practice.
Another way is by telling others that you’re building a practice or even sharing your experience with friends. By putting it out there, you’re making a verbal commitment to yourself—one that you’ll want to uphold whenever asked how your practice is going.
Both of the options above are a great way to share your practice with others and open up opportunities to discuss meditation outside of practice—keeping it top of mind and alive outside of just a quiet, solo practice.
But if sharing your practice with others seems uncomfortable, that’s okay. Not everyone is comfortable talking about meditation. If you prefer to keep your practice to yourself, reward yourself for practicing consistently or write about your experiences. For some, writing can be an excellent way to process anything you come across in your practice and develop a log of experiences that you can look back on and see how far you’ve come.
By practicing self-discipline, that skill translates over into your life and makes you more disciplined and self-sufficient in general.
8.) Track Your Progress.
Last, but not least, you might benefit from a visual that displays your progress as you build your habit. There are several ways to track your progress, too.
If you’d like to keep your progress visible, you can use a calendar to mark the days you practiced. This way, once you see a consistent link of X marks, for example, it might influence you to not want to break that chain. You can also do something similar on a calendar on your phone or computer, or even create a progress sheet on a device to log when you practice.
Another option is through a meditation app. Apps like Insight Timer, for example, keep track of a variety of metrics. This is a great option if you’re a data nerd like me. It tracks the number of consecutive days, minutes, milestones both overall and broken down into days, weeks, and months.
Whichever method you select to keep track of your progress, being able to see the number of consecutive days (and even the fluctuation in duration) can be a powerful motivator for keeping your practice moving ahead.
Keep It Up!
On the surface, meditation can seem like a sizable commitment. At least, that’s how it felt to me as I was starting out. My default response for adding more things to my plate was saying I was “too busy.” (I still catch myself saying this today, but I try not to say it as often.) When glancing at the bigger picture with personal and professional priorities, yes, it’s easy to say that you’re busy. But when you zoom in and observe all the times when you’re not busy, you’ll see there’s plenty of time to meditate. And meditation is usually a better option than what most of us do in our free time (e.g. mindlessly scrolling through our phones, binge watching series, etc.)
Hopefully, something within these two posts has sparked a few ideas or generated some motivation to take your practice to the next level.
As you continue to move forward, remember to take it easy on yourself. If you slip up or miss a day, don’t judge or take it out on yourself. Acknowledge that you slipped up and pick things back up in the next session. Begin again. In meditation, that’s one of the fundamental things we learn to do.
And be patient. It takes time to build a habit. But once you get on a solid streak, it’s harder to stop.
Finally, have fun. You’re likely meditating at home, not in a monastery. You’re choosing to set consistent periods of time aside for yourself to deepen the connection to yourself so you can share it with others. Life’s serious enough. Enjoy your practice. This is your time.