How to Start Your New Meditation Habit - And Make It Stick
by WITHIN Cofounder Hannah Knapp
With just a few days left before New Years, it’s natural to be thinking about new habits for 2018. What if you put meditation at the top of your list of new habits you want to develop? Here’s why it’s worth it to double down on meditation, and how to get started.
Why is meditation a good habit to get into?
You’d be hard-pressed to come up with a single other new habit that has the potential to have more positive impact on your life. The scientific research on mindfulness meditation in particular is kind of astonishing: rewiring your brain to spend less time stressed out, and more time thinking clearly, has benefits that go way beyond lessening anxiety and sharpening focus (although it does that, too!). As your body spends less time in stress mode, your immune system gets a boost, making it easier for you to fight off illness and get better quickly when you do get sick.
When you’re less stressed out, you also experience a deeper appreciation for life, getting in touch with what really matters to you. As you do, it becomes easier to find the motivation to change the parts of your life that just aren’t in line with what you want your life to be about, and let go of the habits that aren’t serving you.
How do I make meditation a new habit?
When it comes to making anything a regular habit, including meditation, there are three things I’ve found really help you stick with it:
Tie what you want to do to something you’re already doing. Rather than saying to yourself, “Meditating first thing in the morning is a good idea. I’ll set my alarm to get up 20 minutes earlier and that will make sure I do it every day” - and then sleeping late after day 3 - instead you say to yourself, “What do I already do every day, that I can add meditation into?” For example, if you commute, could you meditate while you’re on the train or the bus? You’re definitely going to do your commute (at least 5 days a week...), so when you find yourself sitting there, it’ll be that much easier to fit in your meditation. Or, if you’re a night owl, you could make meditation part of your wind-down routine: after you watch that last show or spend those last minutes online, sit for 10 minutes and then get into pajamas and go to bed. Or, if you do happen to be an early riser, fit the meditation in-between other parts of your morning routine.
Put it in your calendar. We are much more likely to do things that we’ve scheduled, than things we just say we’ll do. Use this to your advantage and put your daily meditation into your calendar.
Track your progress. When you use Insight Timer to track your meditation sessions, or just an old-fashioned tick-mark on a paper calendar for every day you do it, seeing how many days in a row you’ve stuck with your habit is super motivating for continuing with it. Give yourself rewards for hitting certain milestones: a week of sitting every day, or a certain amount of time spent meditating. You can amplify this effect by having an “accountability buddy”: sharing your goals with someone else and letting them know how you’re doing. They can help you get back on the wagon if you fall off, and provide motivation to keep going.
At WITHIN, we love helping people start and develop their meditation practices. Having a meditation class that you commit to going to in advance, as part of your workday, taps into the power of all three of those habit-forming tips. This January, we’re offering you an even easier way to start and sustain your meditation habit: the #MindfulStart meditation challenge. Join us!